ImpulsTanz: A World of Energy

Vienna’s annual celebration of movement, the largest in Europe, is, after 27 years, struggling to maintain its identity

Students learn the vocabulary of motion interacting at dance workshops | Photo: David Bergé

Every summer, Vienna becomes the centre of the dance world for one month between mid-July and mid-August when ImPulsTanz brings the world of contemporary dance to Vienna. Every day of the week there are two or three world-class performances during the long summer evenings, followed by parties late into the night. This year, there are even midnight performances in the Wild Walk series, with shows starting at 11:30pm.

If you know where to look, ImPulsTanz takes over the entire city, with workshops at the Arsenal and performances at the AkademieTheater, Burgtheater, Casino, Museumsquartier, and Schauspielhaus, with parties at each of the venues and a daily lounge with improvised dancing at Burgtheater. You can rent a pink bicycle for just ‚ €5/day and take dance lessons from world-renowned performers and choreographers for just €130/week in splendid open halls.

A one of a kind sort of festival, ImPulsTanz includes

performances, professional workshops, critical talks, book launches, dance classes for the public, and the occasional film. One of the most important parts of ImPulsTanz is “DanceWeb,” which brings young dancers from all over the world to Vienna to interact with each other and be exposed to leaders of contemporary dance. Dancers from South America, Europe, North America and Africa all come together forming a diverse conglomerate of youth broadening their horizons and forming lifelong relationships

This is the 27th year of ImPulsTanz, and the festival is somewhat struggling to maintain its identity. In its first twenty years, ImPulsTanz was a celebration of movement and the body. Artistic director Karl Regensburger traversed Europe in search of the latest and greatest new creators of movements hoping to bring them back to Vienna.

ImPulsTanz will eventually need a new visionary leader to take over from Regensburger, finding a new generation of worthy choreographers to render legendary. In all my years of attendance, I haven’t seen anyone come close to matching his energy level. Like many visionary leaders, Regensburger likes to control his show and has acquired a reputation for displaying a fearsome temper – replacing him will not be easy. If he passes the reins to the wrong person, the results will be catastrophic for ImPulsTanz and for overall European contemporary dance.

In the last seven years, as the conceptual movement took hold first in France, then in Austria, and now all over Europe, talk and theatre has largely replaced dance. The festival now seems a bit schizophrenic, with conceptualist minimalists mingling with hardcore dancers and choreographers, making it difficult to find a common language or common values. ImPulsTanz co-artistic director Ismael Ivo recently met with William Forsythe, Juri Kylian and Bill T. Jones. The legendary choreographers all agreed that dance had reached the end of a road; there is no clear vision forward anymore.

Historically, ImPulsTanz has seen numerous appearances from great dance choreographers like Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker, Wim Vanderkeybus/Ultima Vez, Maria Chouinard and Alain Platel, all of whom bring productions again this year; the famous Jan Fabre, Trisha Brown, Juri Kylian, and William Forsythe have also been occasional guests. The generation of brilliant choreographers and dancers with whom ImPulsTanz has built its reputation is aging quickly; and there doesn’t seem to be any replacement. Instead, we have a handful of forty- something year old men and women discussing mortality, when what we need are younger and more energetic personalities talking about how to build a better world.

Vienna’s ImPulsTanz may offer the solution. Wild optimism reigns before each year’s program. For a number of years, the great white hope of the dance world was Burgenlander Chris Haring whose experiments with technology showed great promise. But Haring seems to have reached the end of the road with the mechanization and dehumanization of the human form. This year, Haring will be showing a new version of Sacre du Printemps, inspired by Warhol and Nijinsky and created with longtime collaborator and muse Stephanie Cumming. Jean-Christophe Maillot will be showing a delectable Daphnis et Chloe.

Another promising evening features a collaboration between experimental French choreographer Anne Juren – who lives in Vienna – with Broadway Obie-award winning director Anne Dorsen. The two young women will be playing with themes of the naked female body, feminism and magic. If past performances are any indication, Juren’s new piece should be both beautiful and clever and somewhat shocking.

Dionysian Sylph: Cecilia Bagnolea at the opening party of last year’s ImPulsTanz Festival | Photo: Alec Kinnear

How to Get Tickets

There are a few options. If you’re well organized, examine the entire program and reserve your tickets well ahead of time. If you are attending a fair number of shows and parties, an ImPulsTanz club membership can save you money and some hassle, as it offers free entry for parties and 15% off tickets. It will also save you some money for workshops.

Burgtheater tickets are hit or miss. In the AkademieTheater, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. With the Casino, you sit where you can – arrive early and you catch front row seats at a very affordable rate.

If you’re the spontaneous type, you’ll be glad to know, it’s relatively easy to pick up last-minute tickets that may often be less expensive than the normal tickets, sometimes you might even get better seats that way than you would have if you’d reserve ahead of time. But be warned: the better the show, the rarer the last-minute seat. Word of mouth travels fast at ImPulsTanz, so arrive early. Finally, keep in mind that Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker and Wim Vanderkeybus’s sell out quickly!

Tickets have been available online since May 31 at and can be purchased in person in the Foyer der Halle E + G in MuseumsQuartier between 10:00 and 19:00 everyday and by the Staatsoper/under the Arkade from 10:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 20:00 Monday to Saturday.

The Parties

The parties have less drinking and more dancing. Unlike the Viennese, the ImPulsTanz crowd don’t wait until 1a.m. to start dancing: Bodies are in motion by 23:00. You may find yourself dancing next to Wim Vanderkeybus, who will in turn be dancing furiously against the march of time with his secretly pregnant young mistress; or, you could end up standing near suddenly naked sylphs like Cecilia Bengolea (see picture).

Taking Part in Workshops

Workshops fill up quickly. An ImPulsTanz club membership will guarantee you a place for any workshops chosen by Jul. 2. If you are taking part or are an experienced dancer, there are wonderful (and varied) jams once a week – drop by the Arsenal to find out more.

Especially attractive pro offerings include Jeremy Xido and Igor Dobricic’s “The Game,” exploring power structures of creating works of art, and Joef Frucek’s and Linda Kapetanea’s “Fighting Monkey,” exploring joy-oriented fighting and dancing to awake the primitive intuitive body.

Non-professional dancers can train with Rosa’s Repertory, with Ann Teresa de Keersmaeker’s ex-start and choreographic assistant Marion Ballester, or learn improvisation with Benoit Lachambre. To break out of mainsteam European dance, there’s also African Expressive Dance, Gyrokinesis, and Bollywood Kids.

Rules for registration are online at There are several steps, so begin now.


Talks are free and often include other choreographers. Like attracts like, so make sure you have an interest in the work or the artist in question. It’s always better to have seen some of their work ahead of time, as the talk will usually be very self-referential.


What to See

ImPulsTanz Festival

In just 30 days, you can see up to 43 productions. One year, I tried to see every production – which was incredibly exhausting – and I succeeded, save for just one show involving two men and a refrigerator.
Here are some pieces full of movement that promise to offer something for the eyes, if not the soul:

Ultima Vez / Wim Vandekeybus & Mauro Pawlowski: What’s the prediction?
Jul. 15 MQ Haupthof, 21:15: expect a thundering, rock-and-roll, body-slamming performance.

Anne Juren with Annie Dorsen: Magical
Jul. 17 and 19 at Schauspielhaus, 21:00

Maija Hirvanen: On Ice
Jul. 18 and 28 MuseumsQuartier Halle G

Maija Hirvanen brings a Finnish insanity solo. You must see this to believe it; you’ll never travel alone in the far north again.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo / Jean-Christophe Maillot & Liquid Loft | Chris Haring: Daphnis et Chloe / Sacre: The Rite Thing
Jul. 19, 20 and 21, Odeon, 21:00: from the Monte Carlo ballet, is a stunning piece full of vim and vigor.

Robyn Orlin / City Theatre & Dance Group Johannesburg: We must eat our suckers with the wrappers on…
Jul. 20, 21 and 22 MQ Halle E, 21:00:
A piece with black performers about the ravages of AIDS in Africa

Anna MacRae: With Subtitles
Jul. 21 and 28  MQ Halle G, 22:00: reworking the texts of politicians putting them in a folk dancing.

Sarah Vanhee: The Great Public Sale of unrealized but brilliant ideas
Jul. 23 Kasino am Schwarzenbergplatz, 21:00; Pure audience participation; a live auction of ideas.

Antony Rizzi & Penny Arcade / ORF Radio Symphonieorchester Wien & Olga Neuwirth
Jul. 24, Odeon, 19:30
Abschluss Charity Event im Rahmen der AIDS Konferenz 2010

Second part of the shared program with AIDS Konferenz, including the very peculiar Jan Fabre star Antony Rizzi.

Louise Lecavalier: Fou Glorieux / Children / A Few Minutes of Lock
Jul. 27 Akademietheater, 21:00
Louise Lecavalier dancing is always worth seeing.

Rosas / Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: En Atendant
Jul. 28, 29, 30 and 31 Odeon, 19:30

De Keersmaeker is arguably the greatest female choreographer to have ever lived and has produced several generations of dancers and choreographers who worked with her in Rosas.

Jenny Beyer / Anja Müller / Chris Leuenberger: III
Jul. 31 and Aug. 2, Schauspielhaus, 21:00
A Swiss and German co-production “III” with crazy masks and costumes, and lots of movement.

P.A.R.T.S.: Various Works
Three evenings, various times and locations.
Jul. 31, Aug. 2 and 4
P.A.R.T.S. is Rosas’s dance school, always up to something interesting. See tomorrow’s best contemporary dancers today.

Cie. Marie Chouinard: The Golden Mean
Aug. 4 and 6 MQ Halle E, 21:00: a large dollop of show along with the concept.

Les ballets C de la B / Alain Platel & Frank Van Laecke: Gardenia
Aug. 12, 14 and 15 Akademietheater, 21:00: Amazing ensemble work.

Not My Cup of Tea
Jerome Bel, always a big idea but a kind of visual trick like a television commercial gone out of control. Instead of 30 or 60 seconds, Bel’s creations go on for half an hour.
Not recommended.

D.D. Dorvillier is an American artist gone French. Little dance and a lot of concept; nothing to see.

Xavier Le Roy. Annother French king of the non-show or meta-show.

Ivo Dimchev produces personal psychotherapy and experimental theatre; lots of angst and screaming.

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