Playing a role in society: Opera, Dance and Intercultural Dialogue - Platform for Intercultural Europe at RESEO Conference in Stuttgart

1st/3rd March 2012,
Stuttgart, Germany
- conference

Reseo logoThe annual meeting of the European Network for Opera and Dance Education, RESEO, was hosted by the Staatstheater Stuttgart for a rich programme of practical workshops, debate and ‘production spaces’. Platform for Intercultural Europe Secretary General, Sabine Frank, introduced the participants to the work on Intercultural Dialogue at EU level. She explained the work of the Expert Group on “Inclusive and Accessible Culture, Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue” in the context of the Open Method of Coordination in the field of culture, as well as the complementary Structured Dialogue with civil society.

Participants expressed some dismay at the role of “pompier social” (social rescue service) assigned to cultural institutions. A delegate from Sweden interpreted the fact that the intercultural opening of cultural institutions is now a topic at European level as “politicians with a guilty conscience (about failing on immigrant integration) turning to cultural institutions”. A British delegate retorted that there was a case of “directors of cultural institutions with a guilty conscience turning to their education departments”.

The conference programme featured some impressive examples of intercultural outreach work by the Royal Opera House Education in Thurrock, London, the Staatsoper Berlin (the participative project ‘Charlottengrad’), the Staatstheater Stuttgart (e.g. production of plays ‘Medea’ and ‘Rage’ with development of citizens actors) and others. Practitioners shared difficulties and frustrations, which would not make it into the public presentations of their work. The meeting served the classical network function of ‘reducing pain by sharing it’.

Stretched resources: While education and outreach departments have been established by nearly all public opera and dance institutions in Europe during the past decade, these departments rarely count more than two permanent members of staff, who have to cover the outreach to population segments sprung from immigration besides education programmes with schools, involvement in urban regeneration projects etc. Education and outreach departments are carried by highly motivated individuals who tend to have a hard time fitting their work in with their houses’ other priorities such as artistic quality. The intercultural opening of public opera and dance institutions rarely extends to a diversified representation in the institutions’ staff and governing bodies.

A step change, as some avowed, could only be brought about by big investments and by writing an obligation to reach out and increase cultural participation into the public service remits of institutions.

While the big challenge of making opera and dance institutions relevant to populations at large remains, they tend to prove their commitment to intercultural dialogue by reference to the international compositions of ballet troops and orchestras and to the fact that “artistic works are the heart of interculturality”. Yet intercultural dialogue in the arts is a far cry from intercultural dialogue through the arts. The role of the arts in multicultural society remains to be fully assumed.



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