Hi, I'm Chantal Guevara. In March 2006, I moved back to the UK, partly to resume taking class at The Place. Within months, I'd decided to stay on to take part in Jen Irons's performance project there, and within months, Cloud Dance was born: a dance company for new graduates, new arrivals in London, students seeking residencies, professional dancers between jobs and professionally-trained dancers working in other industries. After our initial performance at Sadler's Wells in March 2007, we needed recurring performance opportunities, so with a number of choreographer friends in mind (including Jen), Cloud Dance Festival was born - specifically, in a sandy internet cafe on the beach in Monterrico, Guatemala, Central America.
The original aims of Cloud Dance Festival (CDF) were to curate a selection of interesting and diverse range of works from a mixture of early-career choreographers and beyond, and to target them at non-dance audiences to cultivate new audiences for dance. In 2007, the three festivals were held in studio theatres, and with each year, the festival continued to grow in size (of venue); 2016's would have been our largest by far, had it not been prematurely cancelled.
From the home page of this site, you can see the wealth of artists we have attracted and showcased over the years, and we have loved finding amazing work and showing it to audiences.
Having typically worked with 20-25 artists per festival, and developed ongoing relationships with a number of artists from each, the focus of the festival shifted towards artist support and how to best implement that, given that we were just about scraping by with a fantastic team of volunteers and without any funding. Although that's something we've explored since 2009, in 2012 I went freelance, which partly meant that the festival had to be put on ice for a while, but it also gave me the opportunity to explore artist support from different angles and how to incorporate this into my future plans for the festival, leading to us receiving Arts Council funding for our November 2013 festival, Showtime, which was intended to develop the relationships and partnerships to move forward.
Well, that didn't happen, so I went up North in 2014 to conduct research for the festival's future, and ended up staying there for a few years, developing a near-fatal condition, and I haven't been nearly as active since then. I did spend some of the time working on the 2016 festival, which very sadly never saw the light of day - although its core aims live on... And hopefully we'll see its successor in the near future.
But there's more to Cloud Dance Festival than just the festival, strange though that probably is to read.
Through CDF, I've worked with over 200 choreographers, and because I couldn't afford to pay the artists without having funding in place, I've offered a consultancy service for many of these artists over the past 10 years, and continued to support them over the years however I can. Going freelance meant I could branch out further and work with artists who wouldn't normally fall under CDF's umbrella, and many of these artists have been vital contributors to my various research topics and / or performed in my various showcases.
Consequently, when people ask 'what is CDF?', it's hard to reply. Because the festival is such an enormous monster to work on, and I don't yet have a team in place to assist me with the next one, CDF is also the umbrella name I use for my various other ventures, for example:
- writing: reviews (no more), previews, interviews, features etc. All under the umbrella of the "Magazine".
- research: mostly published right here on CDF, and exploring different aspects of the professional dance industry, with a particular focus on independent midcareer artists and their role within the industry. Oh, and funding. I've spent several years analysing Arts Council spending on dance and across all artforms. And I talk to lots and lots and lots and lots of people.
- promoting regional dance: as CDF has worked with so many artists from around the UK, part of its ongoing activity is to visit each of the regions to keep updated with who's creating what, who's supporting them, and their future plans. This is particularly useful as a number of dance artist friends are planning to leave London for various reasons, so I can advise them accordingly.
- networks: trying to reshape IDMN (Independent Dance Management Network) to be more relevant and more attractive to our industry as it is now; a vocal member of the North West Dance Network, which is exploring dance development in the NW of England; and another one which is still in embryonic stages
- gender debate: I know we've all given up and fallen silent, but I'm still hanging in there.
- conversation: I've often said that a lot of what I do involves trying to get artists to talk to each other about key topics, whatever the format. Still working on that. Watch this space for more details.
- podcasts : a new initiative, with Isaac Ouru-Gnao of Gender in Dance. We've both been very busy, so it's been slow to get off the ground, but we have a really long list of artists from around the country to interview for your benefit. I'm on video, he's on audio.
- scratch nights: this is an outcome of my open space event on gender and equality in January 2016, and it's run in partnership with the very wonderful Blue Elephant Theatre. It's called Blue Cloud Scratch, and the website is here: www.bluecloudscratch.com
- artist support: a choreographer I once worked for told me "you don't belong to just one artist, you belong to the whole industry", which sums it up very nicely: I spend a lot of time investigating projects to benefit the wider sector, not that many of them have yet got off the ground. A once-potential partner told me off for things taking so long to materialise, but that's how partnerships work...
- artist consultancy: as my various projects mean I can't commit to working as a traditional producer or manager with artists, this means I've been working with a range of artists on shorter-term pieces of work, ranging from funding applications to tour booking via a lot of advice and information on the industry as it is.
- photography: I do love it so. You can check out my photography work here: www.chantalguevara.com