The International Society for the Performing Arts , or ISPA, is a global platform with the express mission of strengthening the performing arts “through the advancement of leadership, the exchange of ideas, and by fostering a diverse and engaged membership.”
Each year, the ISPA Congress in New York City connects professionals within the performing arts for an annual exchange of the latest trends in the field while furthering creative development through its fellowship program.
Denmark In New York caught up with Anne Sophie Fogedby, one of three Danish ISPA fellows, to discuss the impact she expects this year’s ISPA Congress will have on the international cultural scene as well as her take on the state of global arts and culture.
The Danish regional fellowship is largely made possible by the Danish Arts Foundation.
Denmark in New York: Anne Sophie, thank you for participating in this interview. To start, tell us a little bit about the ISPA congress and why it is such an important happening for global cultural life, particularly in the performing arts.
Anne Sophie Fogedby: The ISPA Congress in New York in January is held each year as one of two annual congresses: one in New York and one in another part of the world. The Congress gathers up to 600 delegates working in the cultural field of performing arts, representing an international network of producers, managers, artistic leaders and artists. ISPA has grown into an international network working for a global perspective. Therefore, the ISPA fellows are a very diverse group of participants with many different nationalities and professional backgrounds.
It’s an important international platform that provides a unique space for discussions on many core subjects. What are the challenges in our field and structures? Tendencies and narratives? An attempt to map and understand the impact of politics, power structures in a social, cultural context among some. Trying and understand how this influences and shapes the conditions for art production, artists and cultural business in a world of constant change. These discussions have many different voices and perspectives due to the network bering so international.
The ISPA network creates an important space for knowledge-sharing and new collaborations.
Denmark in New York: What inspired you to become an ISPA fellow?
Anne Sophie Fogedby: I like to imagine the cultural field as one without borders in a world with many physical and structural borders. But of course the cultural field has borders too— structural gates you could say, such as institutional, economic, and sociocultural. These borders, in the end, define which artistic voice gets to hold the microphone and what narrative is being presented and shared with the audiences.
When working with culture you need to stay open to the world and search for knowledge, share experiences outside your own environment, and maintain an international mindset for gaining and sharing knowledge with a respect for audiences and an awareness of one’s power to curate. This improves your professional practice and the understanding of your ‘local reality.’ I think it provides you with better tools for progress and development in your own practice and in collaboration with colleagues and gives you an awareness. I think this awareness is needed in the cultural field for creating change — to try and ensure that the fiction on stage can mirror the reality the audience lives and acts in. Stories are powerful for carrying narratives and establishing truths. Art is powerful.
The ISPA Fellowship program is a very diverse group of emerging cultural leaders and art world professionals coming from many different national and professional backgrounds. Becoming a Fellow gives you the possibility to define and develop your own professional practice by mirroring others’ practices and experiences. It’s also a chance to share on many levels with the various ISPA Fellows and the mentors from the ISPA network who facilitate the program.
So for me it was clear that it was a great opportunity to learn.
You were the creative producer and international manager at the renowned Danish theatre Mungo Park. How does your work experience impact your fellowship and your drive to improve the conditions for international performing arts and collaborations?
Anne Sophie Fogedby: At Mungo Park we worked on many different collaborations. For the past one and a half years, I have been working at the Opera at The Royal Danish Theatre as I changed position halfway through my ISPA Fellowship.
I believe the work experiences I have had from both positions give me different perspectives on working in different institutional structures. From working in a smaller cultural organization located in a region of Denmark, operating with fewer resources, building different collaborations and creating to now working at the largest national theatre in Denmark where tradition must be blended into new works. In this way, known formats and new formats co-exist and old audiences sit alongside new audiences.
Through my ISPA Fellowship I have become more aware that I come from a privileged part of the world as regards the cultural field I work in. So I suppose I have a more humble and global understanding of the different conditions for art and culture existing around the world. And I have also brought back a lot of reflections on many subjects I can use in my daily work and share with my colleagues in the field.
In a world that is increasingly brought together through social media and other digital platforms, performing arts offer a very real and tangible space for cultural exchange. What new collaborations and possibilities can we expect to emerge from ISPA?
Anne Sophie Fogedby: I would rather just answer like this: performing arts are the live experience collectively shared. We can expect that the need for this will only grow larger. The need for being present in a physical space is not getting smaller.
Is there something that characterizes Danish performing arts and distinguishes it from other national or cultural styles? And, in this respect, what does Danish performing arts offer the international stage?
Anne Sophie Fogedby: I don’t see the Danish performing arts as having an artistic or culturally distinct flavor or signature to it. I think we are heavily influenced by the German post war theatre tradition and Anglo Saxon tradition for drama. We have quite a lot of theatres in the various regions of the country — so we have a living theatre culture in Denmark.
I also don’t see a specific Nordic expression in the Danish Performing Arts as there are in the gastronomic or design fields. But maybe that will come.
If I should highlight some things where Denmark does have a strong tradition it would be in the development of a vibrant children’s and youth theatre. I think we see a strong generation of young female directors and female creatives. And due to our country’s size I think we have quite an amazing pool of strong actors.
I don’t find it useful to always put the national identity glasses on to measure or identify an output. To explore and share cultures can always benefit an audience in my opinion.
Emilie Haaber Lynggaard is the Strategic Communications and Press intern at Denmark In New York.