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In 1984, the cultural manager Karl Regensburger and choreographer Ismael Ivo decide to launch the Internationale Tanzwochen Wien in the Austrian cultural metropolis. With six teachers, among them already renowned artists such as Joe Alegado, Germaine Acogny and Cristina Caprioli, and twenty workshops for all levels, for beginners to professionals, the Sommertanzwochen at Universitätssportzentrum Schmelz stimulate the development of a new dance culture in the city. In 1985 the Wintertanzwochen complement the programme, which hence take place every February until 1998. As a suggestion of George Tabori, who therefore also offers his Theater Kreis (nowadays Schauspielhaus Wien) as a venue, a performance programme expands the already very succesfull workshop festival in 1988. Hence, the first ImPulsTanz festival takes place, showing works by Marie Chouinard, Ko Murobushi (†) and Mark Tompkins. Their names are closely related to the festival ever since, which has meanwhile become Europe’s biggest contemporary dance festival.
Utterly dedicated to the promotion of contemporary dance, the festival creates ImPulsTanz Resesarch in 1990, which offers work and research projects for professional dancers and choreographers. Susanne Linke, Nina Martin, Mary Overlie and Karine Saporta are the first edition’s project mentors. For the first time, internationally renowned artists are not only invited to present their own work at a festival, but also to share their knowledge and approaches with advanced dancers and young choreographers, or even attend workshops by their colleagues themselves. In 1996 the independent danceWEB Scholarship Programme follows, which selects about 60 dance artists, who are seeking further education as well as researching and networking possibilities, from around 40 countries out of more than 1500 applicants each year.
More and more the ImPulsTanz festival turns into this unique melting pot which has defined the festival’s character down to the present day – spectators and acclaimed artists do not meet each other only in the theatres, but also in the studios at workshops or on the dancefloor at the festival parties. In 2000, ImPulsTanz and the Wiener Festwochen join forces and together realize the festival tanz2000.at. The same year, the workshop programme finds a new home in the Arsenal, which, during the year, accommodates the rehearsal stages of the Wiener Burgtheater as well as the workshops of the Bundestheater – the Austrian federal theatres. In 2001, ImPulsTanz takes a further step and, for the first time, opens the festival with an open air event, choreographed by Austrian artist Christine Gaigg, in the main court of Vienna’s cultural and lifestyle hotspot MuseumsQuartier.
A further leap towards identifying and representing the latest trends within contemporary dance is taken in 2001 by establishing the [8:tension] Young Choreographers’ Series, highlighting a new generation of dance makers and performance artists. It offers them the opportunity to present their work within the festival, to exchange and to benefit of several weeks lasting research and work residencies. Making the new generation of choreographers visible and giving them its due support is also the main drive for founding Prix Jardin d’Europe – European Prize for Emerging Choreography, which is awarded among the [8:tension] artists by an international jury.
Also the party programme soçial enjoys growing popularity and establishes itself in 2005 with the first edition of the ImPulsTanz festival lounge as a fixed star in the Viennese party summer, back then accommodated in the Oval Halle of the MQ, meanwhile at home in the Burgtheater Vestibül.
At the same time also reviews of the past and esteem of dance historically crucial productions have its place at ImPulsTanz and get their own programme feature with ImPulsTanz [Classics] in 2014.
In 2012, ImPulsTanz was awarded the Bank Austria Kunstpreis, Austrias highest endowed award within the arts field.
Today the festival is well known for its four pillars Performances, Workshops, Research and the party programme soçial. With an annual programme of about 50 productions, staged in the city’s most important venues, and more than 200 workshops, where dance is celebrated in all its forms, nightly concerts and DJ-lines at the festival lounge and at the grand parties, ImPulsTanz has developed into one of the most important festivals for contemporary dance and performance worldwide.
In 2012, the festival has been awarded with the Bank Austria Kunstpreis, Austria's most prestigious art prize.