For one month every summer, Vienna’s ImPulsTanz festival can make you believe that contemporary dance is important enough to take over a whole city. Festival posters are everywhere, you bump into people carrying the festival tote bag at each corner, and in the evening, it feels like everyone is going to or coming from one of the countless events. When you attend one of these events yourself, it can give you the feeling of belonging to a pretty cool community. To sum it up: it’s a special time of the year for dance lovers.
With 155 performances, 185 workshops and thousands of participants, the 2021 edition of ImPulsTanz felt like a new beginning after last year’s pandemic-related hiatus. Of course, it was a bit different from before: there were safety measurements to keep, some performances could only take place with modifications, and most importantly, this was the first festival without one of the founders of ImPulsTanz, Brazilian choreographer Ismael Ivo, who died of Covid-19 in April 2021.
Most of the performances in this year’s line-up were created before the pandemic, as the festival made a pledge to show all the works that had been invited to the cancelled 2020 edition during the next three years. It was a wide and diverse programme, the imprint of the issues that have concerned dance makers in the previous couple of years – mostly before the turbulence of the pandemic, but already in rapidly changing times. In this article, I try to give an overview of some of these issues through the seven performances that I was able to see during my seven days at the festival.