Isabella Spirig:«The dance world thinks in other dimensions»

Interview with Isabella Spirig (Steps)
© Caroline Minjolle

Dear Isabella Spirig, you have certainly had to struggle with some difficulties in the last few months because of COVID19. Would you like to tell us what impact the Corona crisis had on the Steps festival organisation?


The Migros Culture Percentage Dance Festival Steps takes place every two years and tours 30 - 35 cities, plays on about 40 stages and presents 80 - 90 performances each. This requires very good planning and the corresponding organisation takes about two years. The festival takes place in April and May. This means that a large part of the work has already been done by the time of the cancellation. The decisive media conference of the Federal Council took place on 13 March and it was clear that we would have to cancel the festival. Cancelling a festival is about as demanding as running a festival, with the difference that the real happiness - the enthusiasm of the audience, the satisfaction of the partner theatres and the well-being of the artists - cannot be experienced.


However, we are pleased to be able to present the four co-productions: There will now be 23 performances spread over the whole theatre season 2020/2021 and we hope we can fulfil our responsibility as co-producer.


Support for cultural creation is very important right now. The Migros Culture Percentage remains true to its commitment to culture in these challenging times and, together with the theatres, is presenting the four co-productions despite the great challenges.


The programme design and the overarching theme of „identity“ that you have chosen is very interesting, especially in view of the crisis we are facing. Where is the audience taken to in these four co-productions which can now be shown after all?


Ioannis Mandafounis kicked off the series of performances with his play «Faded» on 17 October at the Lucerne Theatre and will be shown in various cities until May 2021. In his piece, the Geneva-based dancer and choreographer slips into the role of the classical dancer one last time and delivers a multi-faceted, profound and humorous tour de force of dance - congenially supported by the artist and performer Antigone Frida.


The originally planned festival opening «I am who I am who I am» by Tanz Luzerner Theater can now be premiered at the beginning of the season in the densely packed programme of Lucerne Theater. The evening will feature choreographies by the Swiss Jasmine Morand, the Israeli Ella Rothschild and the British Caroline Finn. The three choreographers deal with the theme of identity in an individual, intelligent and humorous way.


In «Nothing Left», Basel choreographer Tabea Martin illuminates the effects that the death of others has on us. Dance for the unspeakable opens up a new level of communication. On 28 and 29 November in Basel and on tour throughout Switzerland until June 2021.


Last but not least, the international co-production «LUDUM» by the Belgian Anton Lachky Company: choreographed like a game show, the candidates* present themselves in «LUDUM» with short, powerful solos. They dance in fast motion, in raging Hollywood perfection or with Asian martial arts furor - from 8 April 2021 until 1 May.



Cancelling a festival is about as demanding as running a festival, with the difference that the real happiness - the enthusiasm of the audience, the satisfaction of the partner theatres and the well-being of the artists - cannot be experienced.



Those who are aware of their identity have dealt with themselves. What is the difference for you between self-confidence and self-indulgence?


Self-love is lived egoism. As a rule, narcissistically inclined people have little tendency to reflect critically on themselves, but also on themselves in the context of society.


Self-confidence, on the other hand, is positively afflicted, at least as I interpret it. It enables a person to accept both their own strengths and weaknesses, to question their own role constructively again and again. I think that’s important, because whenever you want to commit yourself to a higher-level mission, you have to use your own abilities strategically and with tact.


Whenever one talks about identity, one is soon talking about one’s own and others‘ and about borders. What do you understand by xenophobia and have you ever encountered it?


The dance world thinks in other dimensions - are there companies with only one nation of dancers*? Probably only in dictatorships…


Apart from that, all I know is the interaction of different nations, religions, languages and the pursuit of common goals. The solution-oriented cooperation is a matter of course for dance makers.


What does art and specifically dance mean to you?


Art has the power to design utopias and make them tangible, as well as to set and reflect on socio-politically relevant themes. This is especially true for dance, because it is a model for joint action and functioning in the true sense of the word.


Is dance systemically relevant?


Art as a whole is systemically relevant! To survive the Corona lockdown without music, books, Netflix and online dance courses would not have been possible. Everything is the product of artists.


And dance in particular can make a particularly conclusive contribution to the current discourse on proximity and distance, which has become even more explosive in society as a result of the Corona crisis. The subject area concerns the art form at its core. And, as already mentioned, working in dance is by nature solution-oriented, because otherwise not a single choreography works.


Dear Isabella Spirig, thank you very much for your time and for answering my questions. Good luck and joy during the tour.






Steps-Vorstellungen in der Saison 2020/2021 in der Spielzeit 2020/2021


Nach der Absage der 17. Ausgabe unserer Biennale im Frühling warten ab Herbst Höhepunkte des zeitgenössischen Tanzes auf das Publikum. Vier unterschiedliche, aber gleichsam inspirierende Koproduktionen des Migros-Kulturprozent Tanzfestivals Steps gehen auf Tournee in der Schweiz – für einmal nicht während 24 Festivaltagen, sondern verteilt über die ganze Theatersaison 2020/2021.


- «Faded» von Ioannis Mandafounis macht den Anfang am 17. Oktober und wird bis 22.Mai 2021 zu sehen sein.


Weitere Koproduktionen:

- «I am who I am who I am» von Tanz Luzerner Theater (Uraufführung am 28. Oktober im Südpol LU mit Vorstellungen bis 5. November)

- «Nothing Left» von Tabea Martin (Uraufführung am 28. November in der Kaserne Basel mit Vorstellungen bis16. Juni 2021)

- «LUDUM» von der Anton Lachky Company (Schweizer Uraufführung am 8. April bis 1. Mai2021)


Infos unter

Tickets: Programm



Yolanda Gil Zürich / Mo, 19. Okt 2020