An annual performance programme featuring more than 50 productions at the city’s principal venues, over 200 workshops and research projects plus the music programme Soçial combine to make ImPulsTanz one of the most important festivals of contemporary dance and performance worldwide.
In 1984, cultural manager Karl Regensburger and the world-famous dancer and choreographer Ismael Ivo (†) launched the International Dance Weeks Vienna in Austria’s cultural metropolis of Vienna. 20 workshops for all levels were taught by six teachers, including such renowned artists as Joe Alegado, Germaine Acogny and Cristina Caprioli, during the Summer Dance Weeks at the University Sports Center ‘Schmelz’, which sparked a new dance culture in Vienna. The Winter Dance Weeks were added in 1985 and continued on until 1998.
At the suggestion of Austrian playwright George Tabori, who also offered his theatre Der Kreis (today’s Schauspielhaus Wien) as a venue, the increasingly successful workshop festival – the Dance Weeks – was expanded to include a performance programme. The ImPulsTanz – Vienna International Dance Festival took place for the first time in 1988, featuring works by Marie Chouinard, Ko Murobushi (†) and Mark Tompkins. Names that are closely associated with ImPulsTanz to this day.
Dedicated to the promotion of contemporary dance, the festival launched ImPulsTanz Research in 1990, a series of work projects and research projects for professional dancers and choreographers. Susanne Linke, Nina Martin, Mary Overlie (†) and Karine Saporta served as project mentors in the first year. Outstanding artists from the international scene not only showed their works but also taught advanced dancers and young choreographers or they themselves attended workshops held by their colleagues. This was followed by the danceWEB scholarship programme in 1996, offering around 60 dance professionals from over 40 countries further education, research and networking opportunities in Vienna during ImPulsTanz. Quite a few danceWEBers are among the most well-known artists in their genre today, and artistic structures have been forming around danceWEB alumni all over the world. The programme is supervised by mentors changing each year, which have previously included Wim Vandekeybus, Frédéric Gies, Anne Juren, Annie Dorsen, Mette Ingvartsen, Florentina Holzinger, Meg Stuart, Tino Sehgal, Ivo Dimchev, Chris Haring, DD Dorvillier, Trajal Harrel, Mark Tompkins, Mathilde Monnier, Jennifer Lacey and Philipp Gehmacher.
The ImPulsTanz Festival has gradually developed into the unique ‘melting pot’ that inspires the festival’s special atmosphere to this day: dance enthusiasts and international dance greats meet not only in the theatres but also in the studios, at the workshops and at the festival parties.
In 2000, ImPulsTanz and the Vienna Festival joined forces to produce the tanz2000.at festival, featuring a multitude of exhibitions, guest performances, commissioned works, labs, research projects and workshops between May and August 2000.
Also in 2000, the workshop programme found a new home at Arsenal – in the Bundestheater workshops and the rehearsal stages of Burgtheater Wien (now ART FOR ART). In 2001, ImPulsTanz took another step outside: for the first time, the festival opened with an outdoor event in the main courtyard of the then brand new MuseumsQuartier Wien, choreographed by Austrian choreographer Christine Gaigg. In subsequent years, celebrated shows and productions by Roysten Abel, Wim Vandekeybus, Terence Lewis, Trajal Harrel, Florentina Holzinger and the musician Peaches featuring Keith Hennessy also took place there – outdoors and free of charge.
In 2001, ImPulsTanz expanded further by establishing the [8:tension] Young Choreographers’ Series, inviting a new generation of choreographers and performance artists to show their work as part of the festival programme, exchange ideas and take advantage of several weeks of work and research residencies. In an effort to increase the younger generation’s visibility and promote them, the Prix Jardin d’Europe – European Prize for Emerging Choreography was established as part of the EU network project Jardin d’Europe (now Life Long Burning), which is associated with the festival and partnered with organisations in 10 countries from Sweden to Bulgaria. In 2018, the prize was renamed ImPulsTanz – Young Choreographers’ Award. Comprising a cash prize and an artistic residency, the award has become an important tool to promote young dancers in Europe and beyond. Established artists such as Akram Khan, Olivier Dubois, Irina Müller, Ann Liv Young, Jule Flierl, Florentina Holzinger, Ligia Lewis, Dana Michel and many others presented their early works as part of the [8:tension] series, introducing a wide audience to new aesthetics.
The music segment ImPulsTanz Soçial enjoys increasing popularity as well. First launched in 2005, the ImPulsTanz Festival Lounge – still in the Oval Hall of MuseumsQuartier back then, now at home in Burgtheater’s Vestibül or at Kursalon Vienna – has since become a fixture in Vienna’s festival summer. On top of that, the legendary ImPulsTanz parties take place twice during each festival, with music by shooting stars such as GNUČČI, FVLCRVM, Lou Asril, UNIIQU3, Dorian Concept, Mavi Phoenix, Cecile Believe, Catnapp, Austrian Apparel, Sofa Surfers, Sixtus Preiss, Cody ChesnuTT, DJ Kormac, Amadinda Sound System and many others.
ImPulsTanz focuses not only on international dance but also on the work of artists living in Austria. With this in mind, the festival played host to the Choreographic Platform Austria* in 2012. In addition to countless stage works, 21 pieces were presented in the specially curated and designed Austrian Pavilion, which served as an artistic production site in the former Gschwandner Ballroom in Ottakring, the 16th district of Vienna.
ImPulsTanz has been promoting the dialogue between choreography and the visual arts since 2013. To this end, the festival has initiated collaborations with mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Leopold Museum, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltmuseum Wien, Belvedere 21 and the Vienna Secession, among others.
Earlier as well as more recent works of dance-historical significance have a firmly established place at ImPulsTanz: the dedicated programme segment [ImPulsTanz Classic] was launched in 2014.
The danceWEB programme has been expanded to include the choreographic training programme ATLAS – create your dance trails, held annually since 2014. It is specifically aimed at artists with initial choreographic experience. Moreover, Team up! and ImPacT (both aimed at groups) were included in the varied training and further education programme of ImPulsTanz in 2021. The programme is complemented by a changing offer of teacher training courses.
In an effort to intensify the dialogue between contemporary dance and the visual arts, ImPulsTanz and Tino Sehgal developed the five-week workshop and research series visual arts X dance in 2016. Teachers included such greats as Hans Ulrich Obrist, Jennifer Lacey, Klaus Biesenbach and Maria Hassabi. The series has since been continued in the form of a separate workshop department. But ImPulsTanz keeps extending its interests to include other disciplines of art. For this purpose, the music X dance department was added to the workshop programme in 2018.
The Public Moves series was launched in 2017, quickly becoming an audience favourite. A wide variety of dance classes are held daily and free of charge by ImPulsTanz teachers at various outdoor locations. In 2020 and 2021, Public Moves was co-hosted by Kultursommer Wien.
Another extremely popular free offer was implemented for the first time in 2018: the Freestyle Dance Contest. Dancers of all styles, levels and ages meet to dance for the main prize – a residency at ImPulsTanz.
In 2012, ImPulsTanz was awarded the Bank Austria Art Prize, Austria’s most generously endowed art prize.
ImPulsTanz was also awarded the Cultural Event Poster Prize three years in a row (2010 to 2012) and received the Erasmus+ Education Award in 2019.
In 2021, Karl Regensburger and Ismael Ivo (†) were awarded the first ever Austrian Art Prize for the Performing Arts.