Wales based dancer Chloe Loftus visited the Imaginarius Festival in Portugal this year, with a view to catching the festival’s renowned international outdoor arts programme, as well as undertaking some useful networking for future work. Below is an account of her experience, which was supported by an Articulture professional development bursary.
Over the past decade, Chloe Loftus Dance have been creating vibrant choreographic work that has toured extensively to critical acclaim, specialising in outdoor and pop-up performances and engaging new audiences to dance theatre. You can find out more here – http://chloeloftus.co.uk/
The Articulture bursary enabled me to attend the Imaginarius Festival in Portugal. Approximately 30 km from Porto, the festival takes place in a small historic city, Santa Maria de Feira.
2016 was the 16th edition of Imaginarius, the biggest street theatre festival in Portugal. It was split into three sections; Imaginarius – the main programme of international street artists; Imaginarius Infantil – workshops, performances and events aimed at engaging children; and Mais Imaginarius – presenting new and emerging artists.
I heard about the festival as the director Bruno Costa had contacted me with the intention of programming my work (The Bank Heist) as part of the festival but unfortunately the building proposed for the aerial material was out of use during the festival. The festival is really accessible, spread over just two days and all within a close network of streets, piazzas and an open grass areas.
The event started with a programme of discussions aimed at professionals and programmers. Attended by about 40 people, this included short presentations from companies alongside discussions with panels of programmers and artists. I got the feeling quickly that Portugal is suffering from the same financial difficulties as the UK and the rest of Europe. Funding is being cut drastically and there was much talk about how projects and festivals can work by exploring other funding avenues – for example sponsorship, crowd funding and collaborations.
Over the course of the weekend I got the impression that Imaginarius was once a huge thriving festival that attracted thousands and is now trying to make do with a greatly slashed budget and the frustration of the limitations this creates. From what I gathered, the Mais Imaginarius acts weren’t being paid and were presenting their work as buskers. The programming was varied; disappointing juggling acts alongside very funny and skilled circus performers, talented acoustic musician solo artists, a few contemporary dance companies, many wonderful and bizarre acts and two large scale events, one of which was commissioned for local artists/companies specifically for the festival.
Personal highlights include: Compagnie Mobil – Sulky M1 A brilliantly hilarious man with a broken down car. Bence Sarkadi – The Budapest Marionettes The most incredible puppeteer I’ve ever seen. With several different puppets creating short stories, it was touching, beautiful and so talented. A must see. Plasticiens Volants – Da Vinci, Volare! A finale for the festival, huge balloon-like painted objects appear and float above the heads of the audience. Amazing scale and stunning effect Attending the event has helped inspire my future practice by accessing such a breadth of street theatre and seeing how different companies approach work in the outdoors.
Alongside strengthening my relationship with the director Bruno and continued conversations with him about future programming, I also gained new European contacts which I hope to pursue for future touring opportunities.
I would recommend Imaginarius as a gentle and welcoming festival with a varied programme of local and international artists. It has a great reputation, but one that I feel it may be struggling to maintain due to continued funding cuts.
Bruno Costa, Artistic Director of Imaginarius Festival, firstname.lastname@example.org