ON THE BLOG: Robbie Synge, Aerowaves choreographer

Robbie Synge was one of the selected Twenty16 artists for Aerowaves: a Creative Europe Platform that supports new and emerging choreographers. Here he discusses how the experience has burst his “geographical bubble” and boosted his career, and gives tips for future applicants.

You were an artist selected for last year’s Twenty16. What was it like?

"I made a solo called Douglas that had been shown a few times in the UK and Ireland prior to my Aerowaves application, but I hadn't really worked further afield in Europe. Following the Spring Forward event in Pilsen in April 2016, I was invited to perform in Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic and Latvia – most of these through the Aerowaves network.

"It can feel like we operate in a series of geographical bubbles, and this was one way of bursting a few of mine. It was an eye-opener to experience the way different venues and festivals are run around Europe, with varying budgets and resources. It’s all about broadening your perspective on others’ work and interests and in reflecting on your own work. Any opportunity to take work to a new place is also a chance to build a lasting relationship with a new venue that might lead to more in time.

"It can feel like we operate in a series of geographical bubbles and this was one way of bursting a few of mine"

"Aerowaves has undoubtedly helped me enormously. It can become exhausting trying to convince venues to show your work. It seems like an efficient platform to participate in because your work is seen by and promoted to many partners – there’s no need to push it.

"The work really begins when you are approached by a venue, generally as a result of the Spring Forward event early in the year."

What impact do you think Twenty16 has had on your career and future opportunities? 

"I’ve experienced clear and tangible benefits to being part of the Aerowaves platform. Much of 2016 was spent organising and going to different European countries to perform.

"I’m currently gearing up to go to Seoul, a result of the promoter there seeing Douglas in an Aerowaves performance. So it really has the potential to extend awareness beyond Europe, and I understand that the network is developing more connections with East Asia for the future.

"I was particularly pleased to be have taken another developing work of mine Julie & Robbie to Lisbon in 2017 - a result of a festival there seeing some promotional materials about the project at the Spring Forward event. So it’s an opportunity to share your broader practice with organisations around Europe and beyond.

"I think it’s hard to deny the importance of relationships in developing opportunities to research and create work and have encounters with new audiences.

"So much is about trust and understanding, and these are things that are difficult to achieve online and at distance. This means meeting a promoter or an organisation and visiting their place.

"I find even the short conversations, in person, important for getting to understand each other’s values and interests."

What tips would you give to artists who are thinking of applying to Aerowaves?

"The application is very straightforward. You need a video of your performance and there are stipulations about the duration. There’s not much more to it. I think it’s worth submitting work that doesn’t happen on a theatre stage as well.

"I would say that the economics of Aerowaves are worth being aware of and, to be fair, it is quite explicit on the website. Different organisations are going to offer you different fees, and the scale can be very broad. Most of us are independent, ‘emerging’, etc. We don’t have support structures in place but may feel we need the opportunity.

"Any opportunity to take work to a new place is also a chance to build a lasting relationship" 

"A gig might involve 30+ emails and a lot of admin time. It’s good exposure and perhaps an investment. That can be uncomfortable. It’s the artist’s call whether or not to accept an invitation and to consider other financial support, of course.

"I think the economics therefore encourage minimal people and materials on the road. My ‘solo’ actually involves three people plus some heavy luggage. There’s not much left if you want to look after your collaborators. Saying that, if you’re able and comfortable with finding financial support elsewhere to make this easier, that would be worth considering."

When should artists apply to opportunities like Aerowaves Twenty? 

"I think it’s a good idea to apply if you have something ready that you are happy with. Speaking to those who are familiar with the network, for example Bush Hartshorn at Dance Base in Scotland, might be worthwhile. It's also worth communicating with The Place, London, who tend to be part of the selection process and may be able to advocate for your work.

"It's a relatively quick and straightforward process of application, so I don’t think there’s anything to lose by doing it. There is something to be said for sharing your work on screen with promoters that wouldn't otherwise know about you or your work. If you have something on video and feel like applying, I'd encourage an application and take it from there.

"I do think that promoters seeing live work live is crucial and that it’s difficult to get anywhere if people aren't seeing it in front of them. It’s competitive. I’m not sure what, if anything, works best on screen among hundreds of applications. It opens questions to me about what kind of work is best suited to the application and therefore Aerowaves."

Robbie is also one of four artists selected from Scotland to take part in the next PUSH lab, which and focuses on the subject of overprotection of children. The Lab takes  8-17 September in Belgium. PUSH is a Creative Europe supported Cooperation Project, led by Imaginate festival in Scotland with partners in Belgium, Ireland, Norway and Denmark.

Aerowaves has had its Creative Europe support renewed in the 2017 European Platform results

Image: Douglas (c) Sara Teresa