A friend invited me to join her for an introductory Bollywood Dance workshop last week – I did not need much persuading. Bollywood dancing is something I had been wanting to explore for a while, and the ImPulsTanz Workshops provided a great opportunity. And almost as a “bonus” after 5 days of sweating it out in temperatures above 30 centigrades, I got to attend a behind-the scenes instawalk organized by Instagramers Vienna and kindly hosted by ImPulsTanz. Thanks a lot guys!
ImPulsTanz is a large international festival of contemporary dance, with performances at different venues, workshops, a research programme and even a social programme. It has been happening in Vienna for more than 30 years. One more reason to stick around Vienna for the summer! So much happening in the city…
Where it´s happening: the historic Arsenal – spaces for remembrance, but also for art and research
So far I knew about the Arsenal only because of the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Museum of Army History), which has a very good motto: “Wars belong in the museum” – if only!
Among other exhibitions, the history of the Habsburg Monarchy from the end of the 16th century to 1918 and the fate of Austria after the collapse of the monarchy until 1945 are shown in this oldest museum building in the city. The focus is on the role of the army and Austria´s military past on the high seas.
The building that now houses the HGM was built between 1850 and 1856 as the centerpiece of the Arsenal, according to plans by Ludwig Foerster and Theophil Hansen, anticipating the style of the Vienna Ringstrasse. Its architecture is typical for historicism, in this case using Moorish-Byzantine and Neo-Gothic elements as the prevailing styles. The Arsenal was conceived as a military bastion by young emperor Franz-Josef: In case a coup d’etat were to occur, and the government needed to evacuate to safety, this was to be the safe haven. Nevertheless, its design was evidently meant to go beyond functionality, to add an impressive and beautiful complex to the city. The artistic interior design was completed sixteen years after the exterior and includes frescoes and statues depicting important military commanders and battles. In 1891 it was opened as an “Army Museum” for the first time. It has had a long and conflictive history since then until 1945. The entire Arsenal complex consists of 31 “objects” (buildings). Some 177 million bricks were used for its construction. Besides the Army Museum, the Arsenal has housed an imperial Artillery Cadet School, a weapon factory and weapons depot, a repair facility for tanks of the National Socialist Waffen-SS and military barracks.
The Arsenal today
The Arsenal complex is largely intact in its original form (what was destroyed in World War II has been restored), except for workshop buildings inside, which were added later, including from 1959 to 1963 the stage props and sets storage rooms of the Bundestheater. The Vienna State Opera and the Burgtheater use extensive concrete storage spaces here. (Check out the slide-show here to see some of the props I discovered.)
In addition to the workshop spaces and the theatre fundus, the Arsenal complex contains an interesting hodge-podge of research and technology facilities, including some research buildings used by several universities, plus some public and not-for-profit as well as business research institutions. The largest Austrian fossil-fueled heating plant, belonging to Wien Energie, is also located here, supplying district heating to up to 70,000 households. A small part of the complex is still being used by the Austrian army as barracks.
Terence Lewis has been holding introductory and advanced Indian dance workshops during IpulsTanz for 12 years now.
I feel very lucky to have had the chance to take part in one, and I plan to come back for more next year. Terence is not only a great dancer, as is his team mate Ravinder, but also really nice and fun. We all learned a lot about Indian dance, not only some moves, but also about the cultural aspects behind different dance styles. On the last day, by Terence´s request, all participants dressed in bright colours (“no black please”), and I arrived a bit early and was able to capture the intermediate workshop participants dancing (see slide show).
Admittedly, this type of dancing is very challenging for us Westerners, because traditional Kathak footwork and Mudras (hand gestures) are quite complicated and very different from Western dance moves. Combining it all with dramatic expressions is – well – nigh impossible for a bloody beginner like me. But no matter, taking part in this was not about perfection, but about exploration and getting to know a fascinating aspect of Indian culture. I also took a short video of the intermediate workshop group.
As it turns out, Terence is quite famous in India. I am embarrassed to say that I did not know this when I signed up for the workshop. He runs a premier dance training school, the Terence Lewis Academy, and is also a judge at TV dance contest shows in India, as well as a Bollywood movie choreographer. Well, I´ve never met a nicer and more down to earth famous person!
Rhythm is a Dancer
At the end of the instawalk on 4 August, we got to watch – in a steaming hot and packed workshop hall – some very energetic dancers performing in a contest. The challenge for the dancers was to show skill, style, and a good degree of craziness spontaneously and for only one minute at a time – because the DJ put on all kinds of music without the dancers knowing ahead of time what it would be. Amazing talent there, and sometimes very quirky music!
(Sources: Websites of the Heeresgeschichtliche Museum, ImPulsTanz, Terence Lewis, and Wikipedia)
ImPulsTanz 2018 started on 12 July and runs through 12 August 2018. There may still be time to go see some of the final performances.
More info about ImPulsTanz: ImPulsTanz Website