Throughout the 2010s and 2020s, we have lived in a world plagued by rising nationalisms that ironically seem to be very well interconnected on the global stage. However, not all things related to the concept of ‘nation’ must inevitably comprise the ‘-ism’ that has increasingly been troubling our world. As a dance scholar, I was induced to ponder whether the relationship between ‘dance’ and ‘nation’ is confined to the obvious solicitation of folk dances by some states or national groups at representational events[1]. This has led me to take a closer look at the phenomenon of the National Dance Platform (NaDaP), a global(ised) phenomenon in which many global dimensions of cultural flows, or “scapes” (Appadurai, 1990) conflate. My research has allowed me to focus on what is (re)presented at NaDaPs, who does so, and by what means, and thus I concretely asked to which extent does the art form, contemporary dance contribute to constructing national narratives within the framework of an occurrence that has  spread internationally.

This article will thus engage with the national dance platform (NaDaP), a phenomenon that – surprisingly – has not been explored in large despite its incontestable relevance for the world of contemporary dance. It will aim at directing the reader’s attention to the complexity of the occurrence and claim that it would be short-sighted to reduce it to its most obvious constitutive feature, showcasing contemporary dance: Indeed, cultural, ideological, historical and financial global flows converge and entangle each other in NaDaPs in such a tight way that the phenomenon enables us to grasp the complex relationships of culture, arts and arts funding, globalised markets and national fairs through a magnifying glass –  in the constructed world of contemporary dance and beyond its self-defined borders. In short, NaDaPs seem to be a perfect example of struggles for prevalence that crystallise within and out of flows of ideas, peoples, and finances (Appadurai, 1990) in a world still haunted by coloniality through a trade in Deutungshoheiten (a German word that can be translated as ‘interpretative sovereignty or authority ’). Globalised national struggles in times of rising national-isms in a (dance/d) nutshell.

National Dance Platforms (NaDaPs). Their constitutive elements and a brief history

National Dance Platforms (NaDaPs) are a specific form of dance festivals that emerged in the 1990s. What differentiates NaDaPs from other festivals is the confluence of three elements: firstly, that they implicitly or explicitly raise the claim of representing a nation; secondly, that they do so by presenting contemporary dance and thirdly, that their targeted audience is mainly programmers, and mostly foreign ones. However, none of these elements is set in stone and they can be understood and interpreted differently in each iteration. It is a common assumption that NaDaPs grew out of the necessity to create visibility and eventually a market for the contemporary dance produced in the countries in which they occurred[2].

Looking specifically at the history of NaDaPs, the first festival that took the shape of one – and was central enough within the European (cultural) economy to set precedence[3] – was Spring Collection (1992, Southbank, London, UK). Without being called a NaDaP (the category became evident only retrospectively), the platform offered what would roughly become the defining characteristics of NaDaPs: a showcase of dance loosely defined as contemporary, the aspiration to (re)present what was judged to be best in the country’s dance creation within a specified period, compacted into a short stretch of time (a few days: generally, three to four) and targeting mainly (but not only) foreign programmers as audience. Spring Collection was also the platform out of which British Dance Edition, Britain’s NaDaP grew, making it the first festival of its kind. However, BDE’s and Spring Collection’s genealogy can be traced back to Le Ballet pour Demain (The Ballet for Tomorrow), an international choreographic competition[4] established 1969 by choreographer Jaque Chaurand in Bagnolet (France) with such massive global impact that it led to the constitution of NaDaPs, firstly in the UK and thereafter in most countries with a developing contemporary dance industry.  From their beginning in Britain, followed up by Germany in 1994 and Israel in 1995[5], NaDaPs have spread out to become a global(ised) feature present in most of the international contemporary dance world. Thus, NaDaPs emerged slowly in the 1990s, but they have mushroomed in the 2000s and currently many countries have established one. The phenomenon is so deeply entrenched in the world of contemporary dance that even throughout the Corona pandemic (2020 – 2022), a time bound to severe restrictions to conducting rehearsals, attending theatres, and international travels[6], various countries attempted digital iterations, as not to lose the contact to their targeted audiences. Thus, it seems evident that the promotional character of the NaDaP is imbued with relevance. But I will demonstrate that they are not solely a tool to showcase dance. The next section will take a closer look at the phenomenon and shed light onto other layers that are immanent to the phenomenon.

NaDaPs: a magnifying glass to look at global flows of ideas

At the first glance, NaDaPs appear to be solely a marketing tool to promote contemporary dance. Several interviewees[7], all senior figures who established themselves  NaDaPs in their respective contexts claim their aim to promote contemporary dance. Admittedly, they do so in different ways, as the (perceived as desired) proximity between the arts and the market differs from context to context[8]. However, they all choose to do so by the means of an occurrence taking place within an (explicit or implicit) national framework (the Na of the NaDaP)[9]. Hence, no two platforms are alike[10]. Although they are all NaDaPs and even target the same audiences, often sharing many invitees, and proposing roughly similar schedules, they do differ in many ways, being each of them a result of and a contribution to the construction of narratives of the context, the alluded nation (the Na in the NaDaP) in which each iteration takes place.

The inter-relatedness of the local and the global seems to be evident. To understand the relationships of interdependence between the local and the global, I will make use of Arjun Appadurai’s idea of ‘global cultural flows’ (1996, 1999)[11]. Appadurai stated that the “genealogy [of cultural forms] is about their circulation across regions, the history of these forms is about their ongoing domestication into local practice” (Appadurai 1996: 17). Consequently, a specific NaDaP is the result of the local historical circumstances that have enabled its emergence and shaped its iterations, while it is at the same time genealogically part of a macro-system, that has set the framework for its constitution. Genealogically, the idea of the NaDaP has circulated across regions; historically, it has adapted to different environments acquiring local shapes and foci. At the same time, the NaDaPs have influenced the local dance scenes through their respective eligibility criteria, therefore domesticating local dance scenes into a globalised understanding of production structures. Each NaDaP contributes to the whole system, and therefore to the genealogical tree of the NaDaPs into the future, while at the same time affecting in turns the phenomenon in its totality.

NaDaPs are constituted by international flows of people, monies and ideas. In the next section, I will concentrate on the flow of ideas and apply the ideoscape as defined by Appadurai in order to unveil further intertwining layers of the phenomenon, NaDaP as a global(ised) and local occurrence.

Ideas. National-ness and Contemporaneity

NaDaPs are a ground ruled by the image, the imagined and the imaginary and as such they are the materialisations of their interplay.  They are products of ideas and ideologies, and the concrete manifestations of the fictions they at times contribute to create. To start to approach the phenomenon, I will proceed to draw onto Appadurai’s ideoscape. The ideoscape encompasses the flows of ideas and ideologies that shape cultural manifestations within the system called by Appadurai ‘global cultural economy’ (Appadurai 1996:27). This section will thus take a closer look at the ideologies underpinning the phenomenon of the NaDaPs, the images, the imagined and the imaginaries that are produce and invoked by them. NaDaPs implicitly claim to represent or mediate nations. I will firstly question what the ‘nation’ is in relation to the phenomenon of the NaDaP and thus whether and to what extent NaDaPs do mediate nations, and how this claim reflects back onto the constitution and content of each iteration.

NaDaPs are events that form part of the ‘global cultural economy’ while they at the same time raise a national claim, some by means of their name and all by their localisation and selection process towards the showcase. This selection process is underpinned by ideas about quality governed by various rationales. To explore the ideologies at work, I will especially investigate two core concepts that I have identified as instrumental for carrying out NaDaPs. These are that of national-ness and that of contemporaneity.

It  would be easy to assume that NaDaPs present folk dances, as these are often the dance styles solicited to convey national identities[12]. Dance historian Anthony Shay argues that stately sponsored folk dance ensemble proliferated after the 1950s worldwide (with the aim of national representation), but in the hegemonic powers of the West and Japan (Shay 1999: 29). These dance companies played a big role in conveying notions about the nations’ “essence”[13]. But NaDaPs did emerge in the so constructed ‘West’ and they set their focus on contemporary dance[14].

As emerged from several interviews I conducted with personalities that were instrumental for the constitution of different NaDaPs (Ashford and Beattie 2017; Heun 2017; Ketels 2017), and as it becomes apparent from the historical line drawn from Bagnolet’s competition to the NaDaPs, a paramount source of motivation to establish NaDaPs was to enable the newly emerging art form, contemporary dance to achieve more visibility. They were indeed a tool to bring visibility to a ‘new’ dance form that was emerging and was less funded than the then omnipresent classical ballet. Following the history of Bagnolet and the interviews with my different informants, terms like modern, modern ballet or contemporary were used interchangeably to signify “other than ballet”. As inaccurate as this might seem from today’s perspective, this reflects the dance parlance in much of the 1970s and 1980s. Only after the 1990s (the time of the phenomenon’s emergence) a greater clarity seemed to crystallise about dance that had emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as an alternative to Western classical ballet. As I will go on to discuss, contemporaneity as a “critical and therefore a selective concept (that) promotes and excludes” (Osborne 2013:2) became relevant in later years. And  the manifestation of dance NaDaPs were aiming at promoting was contemporary dance in its various manifestations. Therefore, it is paramount to understand how exclusion and inclusion are governed within the discourse of contemporaneity. Disguised in a word of vague definition, ‘quality’, perceptions of relevance for the present, and thus a sense of contemporaneity, play a role at the point of selecting to participate in a NaDaP. The analysis of various NaDaPs has shown that the understanding of relevance differs greatly between particular NaDaPs’ iterations and thus that the ideas about what is ‘in’ and contemporary are subjective to local understandings of ‘quality’ in the framework of global negotiations of relevance – thus introducing the mediated nation into the global(ised) framework of contemporary dance.

Several NaDaPs carry an allusion to a national element in their name, such as the Czech Dance Platform[15]American Dance Abroad, the British Dance Edition or the Dance Platform Germany[16]. This emphasises thus that they,  in a way or another, represent the nations in which they take place – or that they claim to represent them. Thus NaDaPs are clearly not only events in which dance is presented but occurrences in which specific ideas and narratives about nations are constructed vis-à-vis local and (mostly) foreign audiences. What is danced on stage, performed by whom, in which way and with whose money are all more or less explicit pieces of information, fragments of the puzzle that constitutes one big narrative at the moment in time and locality of a specific NaDaP – mostly the suggestion of a national narrative, as advanced by the occurrence’s name.

I have already mentioned that the phenomenon of the NaDaP is a global(ised) one. The targeted audiences, the invited programmers and promoters are international[17]. Many of the dancers and choreographers, core workers in the field of contemporary dance are international.  Contemporary dance with, by and for international people appears to evoke a “certain global contemporaneity” (Osborne 2013:26, my emphasis[18]), contradictorily implying the claim of being in essence non-national. Remarkably, NaDaPs emerged in the so-constructed West that did not sponsor state folk dance ensembles. This raises the question whether contemporary dance is as well a language that conveys national identities and if so, whether it acts as the folk dance of hegemonic nations, those that formulate contemporaneity and claim it for themselves. In Appadurai’s own words, “one man’s imagined community (Anderson, 1983) is another man’s political prison” (Appadurai 1990: 295). Analogically, the argument opens the room to ponder whether contemporary dance, being advanced through the globalised phenomenon of the NaDaP, might be an instrument of cultural neo-colonialism, while conflating notions of contemporaneity and national-ness in a world still haunted and materially shaped by coloniality.


National-ness and contemporaneity, the ideologies underpinning the phenomenon of the NaDaP have been in focus in this piece under the lens of the ideoscape. On the one hand, notions of contemporaneity have been critical for establishing NaDaPs. This was often linked to a sense of disadvantage of the new art form, contemporary dance, in relation to more established forms such as classical ballet or folk dance, and that this new dance form had to be helped to visibility.

However, grounded on Osborne’s tenet that contemporaneity is a state of being while the contemporary must be constructed, these very dance forms, Western classical ballet, folk dance, and dance styles that had been canonised as ‘classical’ against which contemporary dance sought to affirm itself in its beginnings have found a way into many of the NaDaPs I have attended both within my concrete field studies and throughout my professional visits.

Discourses of national-ness, albeit entrenched with modernity in the inception of the nation-state and apparently dyschronical were also seminal to the establishment of the phenomenon, NaDaP. However, concepts of nationhood and the administration of national-ness vary according to the locality of each NaDAP.  Concomitantly, NaDaPs provide a space in which alternative criteria and narratives of nationhood can find a place, and in which contemporary understandings of the nation can be proposed. At the same time, while NaDaPs were established to make contemporary dance more visible, the contemporary state of being can be the arbiter that paves the way for dance styles often not associated with contemporary dance to find a way into NaDaPs.

Contemporary dance is the NaDaP’s means by which narratives about the nation are constructed, suggested and transferred within the framework they constitute. On a global scale, this chapter has argued that forms of contemporary dance can act as the folk dance of hegemonic nations and be part of a neo-colonial endeavour. At the same time, it is the imagined community of the nation and its values that re-imagines and re-presents itself in a NaDaP and conversely, NaDaPs mediate the nations they represent. And here lays their potential, for  – as a ‘social praxis of imagination’ (Appadurai 1996:31) – NaDaPs can provide the artistic, danced space for nations to put into practice more inclusive, diverse and honest imaginaries of themselves.


Appadurai, A. (1996) Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Appadurai, A. (1990) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’ in Theory, Culture, Society 1990; 7; 295-310

Freinkel, P. and Wilensky, G. (2002) Danzas Folklóricas Israelíes. La Experiencia Argentina Buenos Aires: Editorial Milá

Giersdorf, J. (2013) The Body of the People. East German Dance since 1945 Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press

Kaschl, E. (2003) Dance and Authenticity in Israel and Palestina Leiden: Koninklijke Brill

Osborne, P.  (2013) Anywhere or Not At All London: Verso

Reed, S. (2010) Dance and the Nation. Performance, Ritual and Politics in Sri Lanka Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press

Shay, A. (1999) ‘Parallel Traditions: State Folk Dance Ensembles and Folk Dance in “The Field”’. in Dance Research Journal, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 29-56 [online] available from <> [30.09.2018]

Shay, A. (2021) Dance and Authoritarianism. These Boots are Made for Dancing Bristol: Intellect



Ashford, J. and Beattie, T.  (2017) Interview by Gustavo Fijalkow London, 22.09.2017

Heun, W. (2017) Interview by Gustavo Fijalkow (Telephone), 17.11.2017

Ketels, B. (2017) Interview by Gustavo Fijalkow (Skype), 12.10.2017

Vardi, Y. (2015) Interview by Gustavo Fijalkow Tel Aviv, 09.12.2015

(2017) Interview by Gustavo Fijalkow Tel Aviv, 11.12.2017


Gustavo Fijalkow, PhD is an academic and a practitioner. Primarily trained as a dancer, he received his education in Argentina, Germany and The Netherlands. As a professional dancer he performed internationally, exploring pure dance forms as well as youth theatre, site-specific and experimental, interdisciplinary formats. He received his M.A. in International Arts Management for his thesis “Bloodbath-Bloodbond. A historical snapshot of the work of the Goethe-Institut Tel Aviv (Germany, 2010)” and his PhD with the thesis “National Dance Platforms. A comparative study of the cases in Germany, Israel, the UK and Sri Lanka (UK, 2020)”. Since 2020 he has been the Artistic Project Director of the Forward Dance

[1] See e.g., Shay (1999, 2021 and others), Reed (2010), Kaschl (2003), Giersdorf (2013), Freinquel & Wilensky (2002) and many more.

[2] Interview partners that produced the firsts NaDaPs in their respective contexts have confirmed this to me (Interviews Ashford and Beattie [UK, 2017], Heun [G, 2017], Ketels [SL, 2017], Vardi [IL, 2016])

[3] There had similar festivals in Valencia (Spain) and Switzerland throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but for different reasons they did not find the resonance that Spring Collection, the UK’s first NaDaP did.

[4] The name Ballet for Tomorrow implied in that time and framework all sorts of academic dance that were not strictly Western classical ballet, and this is how ‘contemporary’ is used in this context.

[5] I have picked up these three iterations of NaDaPs due to their centrality as impulse-givers within the world of contemporary dance and do not imply that other countries have not established their own platforms.

[6] The description and enforcement of restrictions differed from country to country. However, the iterations were halted after the Dance Platform Germany carried out in Munich in March 2020 and only after mid 2022 did the industry start to pick up momentum again.

[7] Interview partners that produced the firsts NaDaPs in their respective contexts have confirmed this to me (Interviews Ashford and Beattie [UK, 2017], Heun [G, 2017], Ketels [SL, 2017], Vardi [IL, 2016])

[8] For instance in Germany and in France – as opposed to the anglo-saxon sphere –  it is traditionally not considered bon goût to relate the arts to business.

[9] There are several international dance and arts festivals that do not claim representational links to a specific country, e.g. Aerowaves (changes locations), Tanz im August (Berlin), Curtain Up (Israel), Kunstensfestival des Arts (Belgium), etc.

[10] This claim reflects my experience as a guest at NaDaPs for more than 10 years.

[11] Appadurai defined five global dimensions of global cultural flows or scapes: the ethnoscape, the ideoscape, the financescape, the technoscape and the mediascape.

[12] See e.g A. Shay (1999, 2021 and others).

[13] Shay goes a long way to describe how directors and choreographers were encouraged to engage in field research to find the most “authentic” dances.

[14] In the words of one of the NaDaPs’ pioneers, whatever was considered academic theatre dance and  ‘other than ballet’. As inaccurate as this might appear now, this was the spirit and parlance when the phenomenon emerged.

[15] Others do it less explicitly, such as the Icelandic Ice Hot or the South Korean Hot Pot or the Israeli International Exposure.

[16] The original name of Germany’s platform, Tanzplattform Deutschland (Dance Platform Germany), has long been erroneously translated into English as German Dance Platform. That the Dance Platform in Germany (as one iteration was called) is not called German Dance Platform highlights the intertwinement of local history, dance and the narratives constructed by the phenomenon and strengthens thus my argument.

[17] Many years attending NaDaPs have left me no doubt that an international audience is to be met in all their occurrences (personal field observation).

[18] Hereby I aim at especially highlighting the complications of bonding contemporaneity and globality, especially in a world that still needs to stand up to the implications of former and on-going colonialisms.