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  • Writer's pictureSyreeta Hector

"Vienna Really?"

(In 2015, I travelled to Vienna, Austria in order to participate in the internationally recognized summer dance festival called, "Impulstanz."At the time, I had thought it would be fun to document my daily feelings, and knew that this documentation would be great for a final report. After this initial post that had been read over 800 times, I was harassed over facebook and in person about the opinions that I was putting forward. Additionally, people at the festival did not want to talk about it in fear of performance opportunities which are rare in the best of times. Now, I look back at this material and see that it has influenced the work that I create right now.......)

"Vienna Really?"

I would love to say that so far, all of my all of time in Vienna has been enjoyable, but that would be a lie. Besides the general dance politics of who knows who, and whom is teaching what, there is other controversy. Racial controversy. This issue was directly in my front of my face when I went to the ImPulsTanz dance party, July 31st. The Viennese artists that were DJing were painted black. They were in blackface.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. This isn’t a thing that people do in Canada. Given the history of White people painting themselves Black is simply unheard of in this day…..At least I thought so… After the performers were done their set, I creepily followed them around for a few minutes pondering how I would start a conversation with them. Was the black paint intentional? Why not pink or purple paint? What would be my lead in comment for a conversation with them? How could I say that even though I was not born in the nineteenth century when this was prominent, I definitely feel a visceral feeling towards what is unintentionally or intentionally being said. 

After a few moments, I realized that maybe they are white supremacists, and I thought I don’t want to get beat up, or even killed so I decided against speaking with them. After this incident, I feel very uneasy about this festival. Isn’t  ImPulsTanz supposed to promote diversity, and accessibility? Now, no one is talking about what happened that night. I think that it is safe to say that the situation is being swept under the ImPulsTanz rug. Any visible minority that I have spoken to about this will have a conversation with me in a whisper voice, or not discuss it at all. Perhaps they are scared that they won’t be asked back. Or perhaps it takes them directly back to when they were called the N word, or some other racial slur in the first grade… or maybe that is just me. But shouldn’t we be talking about this? Shouldn’t we be having a dialogue about what is too far, or what is the right way to provoke an audience?This is an issue. How can we ever get “over” these issues if we don’t talk about them?

“Today, ImPulsTanz stands for performances, workshops, research projects as well as for the soçial programme, which became with the festival lounge and parties a fixed highlight in Vienna’s summer nightlife."

August 2015

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