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Author(s): David King

Journal: Mäetagused. Hüperajakiri
ISSN 1406-992X

Volume: 49;
Start page: 139;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Collective Goods | Cultural Production | dance | Estonia | Externalities | Free Rider Problem | Infrastructure | Internalized costs | Koolitants | Market Forces | Productivity | Social Capital

ABSTRACT
PremiseThis essay is an elaboration of a paper read at the Imagining Bodies conference at Tallinn University in 2010, where the author considered differing meanings of the concept of productivity, and market force’s impact on dance in Estonia. The premise was that a cultural tourist might be able to view and describe cultural production in Estonia in novel and possibly productive ways, because of his geographic and social displacement. After making notes while touring in Estonia, during autumn and winter of 2009/2010, on his observations of similarities and differences between how dance is created and funded in Estonia and California, the author gathered them into a travelogue and subjected them to a variety of cultural, economic and political critiques.ObservationsThe scale and direction of cultural production in Estonia and California are vastly different but capital market forces foreground similar resource allocations in dance production:Women provide the central core of the social infrastructure of the Estonian Dance and dance education. It is this self-subsidized labour pool, operating at discounted labour costs, that provides the social infrastructure that is the primary dance resource for the nextgeneration of Estonian dancers. The social good that dance produces is often defined as a positive externality, secondary to internal/cash transactions, operating outside of the capital economy and probably not included in measures of the gross domestic product of the nation. Externalizing the costs of dance education and production allows for “free riding” by individuals and institutions that profit from the goods dance practices produce for the country without making personal investment. Dance is further subject to what William Baumol calls the “productivity lag” in the performing arts wherein dance, because it requires a fixed number of labour hours toproduce and perform, seems cost more than the consumer goods that have become easier and quicker to produce since industrialization.Training citizens’ bodies to be moved, and to move together, to dance and perform acts that create a common good, seems to be an externality – outside the bounds of market forces, something that is obfuscated and not talked about. These definitions lead us to profligately expend the social capital it takes to create and maintain the organizational infrastructures that sustain communities.Conclusions The peoples of Estonia, from the sea-islands to the inland lakes, northern towns, and southern hills, are producing a rich and diverse cultural product. The culture of Estonia is second only to its natural beauty as an economic draw for tourism. The export of Estonian art has the potential to advertise and solidify the country’s presence in the international business and political arenas. While touring with the Koolitants festival the author, a foreigner, was given the extraordinary gift of experiencing the great energy and potential of the young dancers of the Estonian countryside and was able to see the dedicated work and commitment of the adults who are the most vibrant part of the infrastructure for moving the work of young artists from Estonia into the world. However, the infrastructure of dance in Estonia is being pushed to produce at, orperhaps beyond, its carrying capacity and signs of strain are showing around the edges. The social infrastructure is rich, but risks losing cohesion due to burnout of key players. Young dancers often look outside of Estonia to find fulfilment in their work, adding topopulation stagnation and brain drain. The fear is that without timely and investments in the social and physical infrastructure of dance, Estonia will not be able to remain competitive in the global arts market.The solution is an offset by skill and ability that small dance organizations have shown in leveraging the resources they have invested into local movements that make impacts on a national scale. Creating a strategic policy of cash investments in dance culture will mean that the dances they produce will be thoughtful reflections on the history and future of their nation.
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