At ImPulsTanz, the floor can be yours. At Vienna’s festival for contemporary dance, watch productions from all over the world or take a chance to perfect your pirouette at one of its workshops.

Contemporary dance for many is still considered a peripheral art, marginalized for its ambiguity and intangibility of form. Yet peering inside reveals a world bursting with intrigue, and furthermore, inviting you to participate. For one month a year Vienna plays host to the largest contemporary dance festival in Europe, the extremities of the continent tilting skyward as dancers and spectators flock in.

A Viennese institution, over the course of 33 years Impulstanz has premiered works from dance pioneers like Alain Platel, Anna Teresa de Keersmaker and Marie Chouinard, playing a key role in introducing contemporary dance to the world at large. From its humble beginnings at the Universitätssportzentrum to last year’s iteration where over 50 productions and 200 workshops took place right across the city, Impulstanz has welcomed more than 5,000 participants and 30,000 spectators from Europe and beyond.

Come Together

Its prominence comes in great part from its inclusivity. In the words of founding member Ismael Ivo, “Dance is like a bridge,” acting as “a meeting point between many-varied people.” Connecting disparate parts is a recurring motif throughout the program, showcasing an art form full of life.

Aside from some of the most genre- and agenda-blending works to be seen, Impulstanz also provides the largest selection of dance workshops on the continent, serving all ages and skill levels from toe-dipping amateurs to heel-hardened veterans. Covering styles from Japanese Butoh to Afro-Haitian Dance, Parkour and Twerking, these courses include initiatives for engaging socially vulnerable children and people with disabilities.

Now in its second year, The Humane Body – Ways of Seeing Dance is a research project conducted with theatres across Europe, aiming to engage the blind and partially sighted in dance – both as an audience and performers. Impulstanz lends its support throughout workshops, shows and talks.

A Toe in the Ocean

A good way in to the seemingly impenetrable world of contemporary dance is contact improvisation: Artists Sonja Browne and Inge Kaindlstorfer run an introductory workshop that initiates simple interplay between two or more people. The aim is to discover how you enjoy moving and what kind of rhythms you generate with others. Somatic movement therapist and physiological counselor Dieter Rehberg also hosts a similar workshop tailored to over 55s.

If you’d rather find your rhythm in your own space, there is “One’s Own Dance,” run by the founder of Brazil’s Movementarte Institute, Flora Bitancourt. Welcoming disabled and able-bodied people alike, the workshop is a tour through a multitude of styles including traditional Brazilian, aiming to show “the power of dance as a means of social transformation.”

For something a little more up-tempo, you can find the open Afro-Fusion class, or perhaps try your hand (or behind) at the “Twerkshop”. Like Funkadelic put it, Free your mind and your ass will follow.

impulstanz
Dada Masilo, Giselle. // © John Hogg

I Like the Way You Move

A focus this year is on the life and work of contemporary dance legend Jan Fabre, who will premiere his new solo piece I am a Mistake, as well as a new ensemble piece Belgian Rules/Belgium Rules, as well as a multimedia retrospective on 40 years of his work at Leopold Museum, entitled STIGMATA.

Other highlights include South African choreographer Dada Masilo; At 29, the Johannesburg-born choreographer is already widely acclaimed for her company’s imaginative interpretations of classic pieces like Romeo and Juliet or Carmen, reworked into a strikingly unique kinetic language that synthesizes her classic ballet training and African heritage, seamlessly traversing between Zulu stomping and balletic poise. They’ll perform versions of Swan Lake and a new adaptation of the classic French ballet, Giselle.

Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus (who incidentally had his first major dance role under Fabre) returns with his internationally renowned company Ultima Vez to perform their latest work, Mockumentary of a Contemporary Saviour. Set within a post-apocalyptic bunker, seven wildly divergent people have been selected to continue the human race, providing the framework for a discourse on modern belief systems. Both frenetic and tense, Vandekeybus teamed up with author and director Bart Meuleman to expand the narrative potential.

The Viennese Dance Company Ich Bin O.K. has inclusivity at its root; a fusion of able and disabled bodies and dance styles, they create a spirited performance under the name “Getrennt-Vereint” (Separated-Unified).

Elsewhere, Roland Rauschmeier & Alex Bailey return after a successful run at Vienna’s Brut to delve into the dark realms of social morality and male desire with both humor and sincerity in Consumption as a Cause of Coming into Being.

At the Odeon, the popular Austrian artist Doris Uhlich performs Seismic Night with wheelchair-user Michael Turinsky, engaging riotously with machines and one-upping each other with mechanical extensions, collapsing stereotypes and growing closer through interaction.

And over six days at the Mumok, supreme talent and workaholic Ivo Dimchev will aim to fuse seven of his favourite creative outlets as he premieres his new eight-hour exhibition-cum-performance laboratory – with singing, painting and composing. This is a rare insight into the creative process of a fascinating artist.

After days full of perfecting routines and watching jaw-dropping shows, the long, hot summer evenings culminate with parties at the Impulstanz lounge at Burggtheater, where the twinkle-toed can encounter the knock-kneed, and two left feet can find two right ones. The multifarious language of brains and bodies heat the melting pot, and all can shake their tail-feathers in revelry.

Jul 13– Aug 13, various locations. impulstanz.com