Pictures from RepNet's joint production, during the dance festival in Oldenburg, Germany in April 2011.
RepNet is a network consisting of five dance companies in Northern Europe. Instead of viewing each other as potential competitors, the companies have chosen to cooperate and exchange experiences.
Text by: Madeleine Nygrund Photo by: RepNet
The cooperation between the five dance companies Skånes Dansteater (Sweden), Carte Blanche (Norway), Iceland Dance Company (Iceland), North West - Tanzcompagnie Oldenburg / Tanztheater Bremen (Germany) and Scottish Dance Theatre (UK) began in 2008. During a dinner, the basis for the cooperation was outlined. All five companies are repertoire companies, which means they do not use only one choreographer, but instead they use a variety of choreographers. Since the RepNet companies engage in similar activities, they are, in fact, each other's competitors, at least on the international market, but that did not stop their cooperation.
− We discovered that there is more that speaks in favour of collaboration than against it. Our working conditions are the same, even though we operate in different countries. By being open to each other and exchanging experiences, we have stimulated each other and developed at our home grounds and at the same time, we tied the ties between us stronger, says Åsa Söderberg, Artistic director and Chief of staff at Skånes Dansteater.
The cooperation has taken place on many levels. The company managers have met and discussed their experiences and problems, but also the dancers, marketers and technical staff have cooperated. Åsa Söderberg highlights the training of the rehearsal leaders as a very valuable part of the collaboration. The rehearsal leader is the dancers' daily supervisor, but also the person who makes sure that the choreography is followed when the choreographer has gone home.
− The rehearsal leaders are very lonely in their companies. There is no formal education for rehearsal leaders, although it is a very important function. Instead, they are all self-taught. By bringing together the five rehearsal leaders, we could give them an education, which does not exist anywhere else, says Åsa Söderberg.
The company marketers, on their part, conducted a joint audience research. The same questions were put to the audience in the five countries and the responses were later analyzed. Among other things, the research revealed an interesting detail about what other leisure-time activities the dance audience is interested in.
− Gardening was number one, which we thought was quite interesting. Should we therefore advertise in gardening magazines? Åsa Söderberg asks herself and laughs.
The first year of cooperation within RepNet was all about networking and sharing experiences. The Dance Theatres quickly knew that they wanted to continue to work together. In April 2011, RepNet was the theme of the dance festival in Oldenburg, Germany. The companies presented themselves together and they also set up a joint production. The dancers met for the very first time in Oldenburg. However, prior to the festival, they had built up the choreography together by posting videos with the movements on the internet.
After RepNet was founded, many other dance companies have been in touch and asked if they can join the cooperation as well, but according to Åsa Söderberg, there is a risk that the informal and intimate atmosphere will be lost if the group becomes too large.
− We have gotten to know each other in depth and I do not think that you do that if you are a larger group. Moreover, it is already now difficult to find dates that fit all five companies.
Instead, Söderberg encourages interested dance theatres to start their own networks. The RepNet companies can help out by telling about their experiences.
RepNet has received support through the Mobility Programme under the module Short-term network funding and through the Culture and Art Programme under the module Production-based activities.