The mobility of European artists and culture professionals is a topic that has been written about and investigated for many years. As a result, it has long been known that information can be difficult to access, and that support schemes and opportunities are unevenly distributed within our sector at both European and international levels. Covid-19 and the lockdowns, curfews and closed borders that have come with it have deeply impacted international cultural mobility, with most on-site cultural activities shut down. New forms of transnational cultural project have taken place online but offer only a very partial replacement for what existed before the pandemic. Nonetheless, we have seen many forms of virtual cultural mobility arise, and felt the need to study more precisely the changing nature of working practices and mobility flows in the European dance field.
In the last year, most dance artists and professionals haven’t been able to train, get inspiration, work, study or be mobile. The impact on their careers has been unprecedented. Most transnational projects have been cancelled or postponed, contributing to a general disruption of the value chain.
Within and beyond the European Dance Network (EDN) membership, there have been many debates on the value of international mobility and physical encounters, as well as on digital practices – their limitations and challenges alongside their joys and opportunities. Several artistic statements and policy papers have insisted on a more value-driven cultural mobility that takes into account ethics, environmental sustainability, and inclusion. While acknowledging that cultural mobility has suffered from a wide range of problems in the past – ranging from unequal access to funding to unnecessary administrative burdens – several voices have observed that ‘virtual mobility’ could open new pathways and answer pressing needs in relation to issues such as diversity, inclusion, access, and the need for more balanced power relations. Is the digital shift providing all that it seems to promise?
As part of its ‘Fit for the Future’ series of publications, EDN commissioned this piece from the cultural mobility information network On the Move and its team of researchers Milica Ilic, Marie Le Sourd and John Ellingsworth. The aim has been to collect some of the existing evidence, giving an overview of European dance mobility before the crisis, as well as to investigate the latest trends and needs through an analysis of current activity. This initial research then allows us to formulate recommendations for decision makers and dance stakeholders.