a state of dance
founded by michael klien and davide terlingo
edited by jeffrey gormly (editor [at] choreograph [dot] net)

The Dagda - an open studio format for dance practice

by Michael Kliën



Dagdas (named after the Celtic god of fertility), Open Studios / Open Spaces for Dance constitute themselves by being dedicated, self-regulated spaces for simultaneous dance practice, research and social interaction. These spaces generally contain a clearly marked, or identified, dance area, surrounded by a number of other areas that are informally separated. These spaces might include: library, kitchen, sofas, a large communal working table, video, basic lighting grid, lounge, etc. The Open Studio can be operated on a membership basis or be completely open to the public. Open Studios would usually have windows and good natural light.

Core principle of a Dagda is for all its members/users to understand that the space is one of negotiation. Rules are usually grown out of need and circumstance and need to be communicated to all other potential users of the space. Every year rules might be ‘reset’ to its basic setup, to enable new voices to be accommodated. Monthly meetings take place to discuss issues arising and a pre-agreed quorum is necessary to introduce new rules and measures (ie: to contain food areas, level of noise, decide on shoe-free zones, etc.)

In ideal circumstances individuals have 24/7 access to the space, as different times of the day develop their own dynamics. All programming of the space is done directly by its members via one large Blackboard, for which the central dance area can be reserved for a pre-agreed maximum of x hours at a time for the maximum of x days in advance, during a specific period of time (ie 10AM-6PM, Mon-Sat). Depending on the specific demand for space, additional limitation might be suggested and longer periods fixed in which the Daghdha is open for all (not indifferent from swimming pools), generally enabling people to find a niche for their own personal practice.

A Dagda supports numerous activities through its setup. Additional activities in the Open Studio can include classes that are organised by its members on a trading basis. No money should be exchanged in an Open Studio situation. Additionally the Open Studio might include regular Feedback-Sessions, Discussions, Roundtables, Reading-groups, Performances, etc. All activities are developed and driven by its members and open to the public depending on organizational logistics.


Dance in Western Society has always been shaped by an array of assumptions that have become engrained into our bodies and in our manner of producing works of dance. One of these historical narratives has done dance no favours: the genius who gives physical Gestalt to his unique imagination, isolated from the world he projects onto an impersonal void; a god-like figure, who in the confinement of his studio produces beacons for civilizations to come. The Open Studio proposes a radically different gesture, and thereby manner of production and thinking about dance. It wants to eliminate dance as a far-removed practice and introduce it to a communal situation. What if dance is produced within the very fabric of life? What if dance is shared? What if a space is supported in which things are still possible, for people to gather in their own dance? What if dancers and choreographers alike have the courage to bring their shameful body to the fore? To share their not knowing, their failures and ridiculous beginnings in an environment that supports their innermost human personal thoughts in movement, to be courageously ‘not hidden away’ in a public space.
The context in which Art is produced does matter; it resonates with an inherent quality. We have produced dance in the confines of traditional studios for centuries. In artistic offerings today, there is often only a faint memory of ‘dancing’, as in its instances of performance dance turns into stone, a deer staring into the headlights of its audience. To situate the personal practice of dance, as well as the choreographic act in a wider social situation, to simultaneously witness and be witnessed, to learn and teach, to enable and surge is the true radical change needed for our practice to come, to dance in the heart of society once more: not locked away in a dark room, allowed to rear its unsettling head at 8PM, but radiantly present, as a primal, communal force of life.

The Dagda presents the soil for things to happen, it creates the conditions for people to organize themselves. It provides space for a respectful, diverse practice of dance and creates a level ground for people to work in and around dance on a daily basis, engulfing themselves into what a shared site can offer. A Dagda is a deeply political, democratic space enabling its members to be part of shaping and re-shaping its constitution and thereby dance.

“It is for the dance to become fire for the village to gather around, to share modes of being that we all know, hidden in the figments of our flesh.” TYRONE O’ROS


Open Studios have diverse origins, from street-dance groups rehearsing in Parisian Metro-stations to an artistic living room cum dance-floor in the offices of the Londoner performance collective Barriedale Operahouse (1996-2000).

In 2005 Daghdha Dance Company (Limerick, Ireland) under the direction of Michael Kliën established its home Daghdha Space, St.John’s Church as a dedicated space that cultivated, enabled and supported dance-practice, discourse and social interaction. ‘Daghdha’ presented the first publically funded and purpose built ‘Open Studio’, a deceivingly simple frame to support individual as well as collective practice. Over six years Daghdha Space was home to more than 60 artists working in dance and hundreds of formal and informal events took place during this period. The setup enabled numerous artists to develop their personal practice away from pressures of production related logistics, allowing them unfold their own dances in their own time. After its closure in 2011, the reference Dagda was proposed to signify the specific, democratic format of an Open Studio.

slide-show Daghdha-Space: Link


published 12 June 12  /  no comments yet



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