The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Walter Heun
Mr. Walter Heun
Born in 1962, is living and working in Munich. Between 1985 and 1989 Walter Heun was Director of Tanztage Munchen, Dance Energy, and Tanztendenz Munchen. In 1990 he initiated and centrally coordinated the nation wide festival BRDance, is co-founder and presenter of Tanzplattform Deutschland (Dance Platform Germany) since 1994, and he founded and still is Director of Tanzwerkstatt Europa in Munich. He organized the Swiss Contemporary Dance platform in 2000.
He has been dedicated to the performing arts since 1987 as initiator, member and artistic director of several international institutions and networks of contemporary dance such as European Network for the Research of Contemporary Dance Production and the Dance Network Europe (1994-2000). In 1990 he founded his own production firm called Joint Adventures. In 1991 he founded Nationales Performance Netz (NPN), he conceived and directed Luzerntanz - choreographic centre at the Luzernertheater, Lucerne (CH).
Tanzplattform Deutschland
Presenter Interview
Working to build an infrastructure for contemporary dance in Germany. Speaking with the founder of Tanzplattform Deutschland 
Since the earliest days of German contemporary dance in 1980s, Walter Heun has been working from his base in Munich, beginning as the director of Tanztendenz Munchen and later initiated and coordinated the nationwide festival BRDance. He is also founder and leader of Tanzplattform Deutschland market and festival and serves as an important presenter of contemporary dance as leader of the production company Joint Adventures. In this interview, Mr. Heun speaks about building infrastructure for dance community in Germany.
(Interviewer: Akiko Tachiki)

While your speech at the symposium of the Dance Triennale Tokyo, it was quite interesting when you introduced yourself as an artist’s first friend, a producer, a festival director, a communicator and also an educator. You have been in charge of various type of job in the dance field. Could you tell us about your career from your first encounter of dance?
When I was a schoolboy, I was already interested in the jazz dance classes that the girls had at our school. But the boys were not allowed to participate. After school, we got together a group of ten boys and rehearsed two dance pieces to perform to an audience of 800 people and it was a big success. After my time in the military, I looked for a dance studio and began taking classes. At that time I studied theater at university because they had seminars on film—originally, I was much more interested in film, not dance—but then I began taking seminars on dance as well. I finished my studies at university on the topic of dance. I wrote a thesis on the Elizabeth Duncan School, which was the first education center for contemporary dance that existed.

In the mid 1980s when you started your career in dance, it was a dramatic period in German contemporary dance. Historically speaking, European contemporary dance was rising, and the German modern dance era was cut off at the end the 80s.
Yes. I did feel it was the end of the German modern dance such as Tanztheater. Even though there are still very good productions that come from German Tanztheater, I feel that as an art form the German Tanztheater had come to a kind of climax at the end of the 80s. There were some new artists who started doing some very unusual things at the time. I was involved with the development of these new forms. I got a job as a dance producer or promoter by sitting at a bar with some dancers who were complaining and I got a piece of paper and wrote down what became a several pages concept for the city of Munich. So we founded a group with a collective of five or six choreographers, and one of the leading figures of DANCE ENERGY was Micha Purucker. I was the manager of it.

That’s how you started getting commissions from the city of Munich and building the dance community there. What was the policy of Munich city in those days?
In 1985 the situation in Munich was that they gave a subsidy for dance only about 18,000 euros in total and there were two companies then—each got a subsidy of 9,000 euros, which is ridiculous. The city came to them and said “There is this money, please come up with an idea of what you can do with it.” So the companies started working together and they said let’s create a festival of only local productions. We participated as a company in the organization, and Micha Purucker of Dance Energy was one of the leading figures of this four-week festival. All of our shows were sold out, but we only got one review in the newspapers. The next year I proposed to the dance community that I would take over the organizational execution of the festival. We strengthened it a bit, gave it a bit more quality, and cut out a few presentations. And it was only three weeks but we got a lot more press coverage and a sponsor for it. This was the first step for collaboration within the local dance community. By selling out these shows all the time, we had the advantage of going to the city and saying, “We can do much better work if we are collaborating continuously. Give us a space and we will found an organization where all the companies collaborate, and we will of course need a little more funding.”
As a result of it, in 1987 we raised the public funding for dance by a factor of 10, and we also obtained a 1,000 square meter studio space where all the local companies could produce. It still exists—it’s called TANZTENDENZ MÜNCHEN, and I was the managing director for six years.

This was really a new development, wasn’t it?
Yes. The idea was “collaboration,” then we get together and go to the politicians and say, “We can do even better if you give us more money, if we get the facilities to collaborate…” It’s not only the artistic collective idea but also the practical ones. I looked at the needs that emerged from the artists, and then I looked to the possibilities of the policy and the funding system. So I tried to bring both together by applying some pressure to get it done.

Why Munich? Is that because you live there?
I have been living in Munich since 1972, actually it could have been any other city. But Munich is both a lively place and my local. I was lucky because there was a person in the city’s cultural office who had an interest in dance, so she helped us establish the community, and find political majorities for what we needed.

Tel us about your job at the Tanztendenz Munchen?
The organization Tanztendenz Munchen is not just a production house for local companies. My job as director was also to organize tours for the five choreographers who were sharing this center. At that time I recognized that if there’s no one interested in inviting companies from Germany, I had to come at it from a different angle. What I did in 1989, after running Tanztendenz Munchen for two years, was that I organized the local festival TANZTAGE Munich festival again at the Gasteig, a big 600-seat cultural center in Munich. It was all productions that had already been shown in Munich—there was only one premiere and we sold out every night. This was quite impressive for the city. Then we decided what we did locally, we would now do on a national level. This was the festival of BRDance, 1990. It was a play on words— Bundes Republic Deutschland (BRDance), meaning Federal Republic of Germany (laughs). It happened to be the first time ever since the Second World War that contemporary German dance was seen all over Germany. I traveled for a year across Germany to prepare for the event, and met all the producers. I convinced them to meet in Frankfurt, and I got 19 of them to participate in the festival. We were 19 co-presenters in 15 cities. We did 120 showcases in 15 cities, only with contemporary dance. What we provided was central coordination and finding a sponsor. We raised funding to pay for all the posters, brochures, etc. We produced a publication solely about contemporary dance in Germany in 1990. I initiated this as managing director of Tanztendenz Munchen, and then I founded a new company called Joint Adventures. The BRDance festival was my first project with Joint Adventures.
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