Business and Entrepreneurship
A Woman Creates the Space for Business and Art
What is happening in Europe?
By. Megan Curet
Performance, be it in the form of physical theater, visual art or dance, is often overlooked. Dancers are generally uninformed on the business perspectives in art; they are unaware of the opportunities awaiting them apart from the stage and studios. Each performer’s career varies with time, ability and age. But is it that final bow from the stage, a call to abandon art as a whole? Some artists tend to think not. Looking beyond the stage lights and onto the greater picture, many artists remain committed to the longevity of their art form, working towards a stronger impact. One such female dance artist is Marcela Giesche. Marcela is actively expanding dance’s accessibility through her work at Lake Studios Berlin.
Marcela graduated in 2006 with a BFA in Dance from Ohio State University and then went on to train at Codarts, Rotterdam. She has since been a freelance dancer and choreographer working with diverse dance companies and directors across Europe such as Neuer Tanz (VA Wölfl), Thomas Ostermeier, and Deja Donne, amongst others. Some of her own work includes “Sacre” (premiered at HAU, Berlin), “left I – right I” (w. Sonya Levin), “Selfportrait 24”, and “exFolia” (w. Andy Moor/Yannis Kyriakides). She continues her own movement research and choreographic practices through her creation, performance, and teaching in Berlin, and expands her programs internationally. Marcela founded Lake Studios Berlin: a shared living and dance production space geared for movement research and dance residencies. She currently serves as the artistic director of Lake Studios Berlin.
The lush venue is situated near one of Berlin’s larger lakes. Lake Studios Berlin houses two beautiful studios, which glow from natural lighting. Artists have access to various amenities including a library, communal kitchen, and outdoor patio. I even enjoyed a back garden, where berries and herbs are grown! When not in the studios, artists often find the permanent and visiting residents outside, conversing over coffee. This unique environment stimulates each visiting artist. It allows their creations and practices to truly deepen and expand.
Most interested in how to create the balance between professions and practice, I asked Marcela out to lunch. Expecting a short sit-down Q&A chat, our conversation quickly became one of the most organic discussions I’ve had with another artist. Marcela chose every word carefully, engaged herself in every description, and allowed vulnerability in all aspects. We discussed the benefits of owning the nurturing femme ability in business. We concluded that the woman’s capacity for nurture opens doors for force, rather than fragility. It is no wonder that Lake Studios Berlin grew into such a reputable artistic haven for international creators.
How to create a business, while maintaining a dance career? How does “doing both” shift the perception of where the dance career ends, and where it begins? Marcela, precisely and poetically, offers her insight.
TiLLT: How did the idea and concept to form Lake Studios come to fruition?
MG: Wow that’s a big story, but I think one of the main goals to having a space, is that the space is a resource and it puts you in a very different position. People now come to you asking for something, so it is a very different power dynamic, which was very surprising for me to feel after I started the space. Of course that is not the reason why I started the space, but before that I would always be looking for a space...a space in a residency, a space in a theater, a space in a class, and going for that. And now it is coming to me, and that is when I realize that the space is the other part of the dance. There is the space, the body and positive matter but the space needs to be there to receive it.
The other really important part about owning such a space is that the space becomes part of your day. I had to consider what that would represent. What would be the daily confrontation of the possibilities, in owning this space? How could this impact my practice, to always have access to a space to concentrate? I compare it to the accessibility that a painter or sculptor has with their craft. They have a space with no rules. It is just them and their blank canvas. They have the constant power to decide how they want that blank canvas to frame their work. I feel that dancers deserve that daily accessibility.
TiLLT: Was it difficult to then maneuver the ideas of finance meeting art in your daily life?
MG: Yes. There is definitely a greater responsibility because you have to get like five thousand euros a month. But somehow I feel like I found a really good balance, in many ways. First of all, I think that this particular space is very close to a big city that is attractive to a lot of people and it’s a huge support. There isn’t a place like this where people can come and live for a month and enjoy the feeling of being at home, while making work, performing and living very close to the city’s center. But I also think that the way I set up this space took a lot of listening. I listened to what people needed, and I listened to what I needed with respect to balancing stability/fluidity.
It required me to find a balance between so many different types of artists: permanent residents, and short-term residents. Inevitably it created this network. This network was beneficial in terms of finances; it allows support to constantly grow. It branches out into many things, and in a sense I also find this to be a very female quality. To branch out, embrace. To listen while getting support from many small things and places, rather than just focusing on one small thing. So in the beginning, I did this with the business. I varied the rent prices, depending on each artist and what they could afford. I was sensitive to people’s circumstances. Some couldn’t afford the space and time so I would then make a deal with fees and exchange for work and help with the space. So I received the income, while helping others get what they need to make their work.
TiLLT: Four years later, how has owning a growing arts business and space shaped your own practice as an artist?
MG: Well, I have had to actually combine the two, because there isn’t always enough time. But things arrange and systematize themselves. For example, my classes have benefited a lot from not preparing things but actually sourcing from the manual labor it has taken to build this place from scratch. Because it is so much about the body, structure, construction and its dynamic. In the end, it was really helpful to my practice to go into movement from that perspective.
TiLLT: What advice do you have for the young artist who is coming to you and asking, “What can come next for me? I want to survive and maintain myself but create an impact?”
MG: Oh that’s a hard one; give me a second to think. For me, it’s a lot about understanding language. The fact that the world forms you through the words that you learn, and it divides things in certain ways. But these divisions are artificial. Everything is interconnected. Realizing this idea allows artists to be present, and really sense their surroundings. It allows artists to stay in this state of constant sensing, both physical and mental.
It’s important to maintain your inspirations and know that you are creating the boxes around things. You are the one creating these divisions, and where you want them. So think through that, in order to develop a concept and make new work. Fluid thinking helps artists understand everything around you. It is not necessarily these “words” but it is still connected in another sense. You create your frame. It is important to make these connections between the outside world and this studio space that we create to feel safe. I feel once you find that balance, you can take what you know anywhere with you in the world whether on or off the stage.