In the domains of theatre, dance, musical theatre, and contemporary circus, the Confederation supports the creation of plays, the diffusion, and promotion both in and outside Switzerland, the translation and subtitling of such pieces, as well as the network between Swiss actors and international co-producers. The main political actor regarding this field is the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.
In the last Culture Dispatch, all of the mentioned disciplines were grouped under the term “Performing arts”, an initiative that has been critiqued by Danse Suisse (Swiss Association of Dance Professionals) in its reply to measures announced in the Dispatch. Critics claim that it erased the particularities of each sector, as well as their needs, which depend on their own production and professional particularities. This fusion also translates into a common performing arts prize, seen as a step back for the dance world in terms of recognition. From 2021, and in addition to the Swiss Grand Prix Performing Arts / Hans Reinhart Ring, the Federal Office of Culture will award 2-3 dance prizes, 6-7 theatre prizes and one prize each for a dance and a theatre production in the field of the performing arts.
During the 2017/2018 season, the 28 biggest professional Theatres staged around 6400 performances (inside and outside Switzerland), representing around 1.5 million spectators. The more important structures are the Opernhaus (Zürich), St-Gall Theatre (St. Gall), Schauspielhaus (Zürich), Konzert Theatre (Berne), the Grand Theatre de Genève and the Theatre de Lucerne. For the same season, public funding amounted to CH 334 million (around 316 million EUR). There is also a flourishing independent scene with smaller companies, also in rural areas. According to the Theatre Studies Institute (Bern University), in 2010 there were 380 spaces hosting performances of independent theatre, dance, and opera. These smaller spaces reach a considerable audience, for example, around 1.7 million visitors for the 2019 season (Federal Office of Culture: Culture in Switzerland – Pocket Statistics (2019)). On the dance scene, one of the key projects is “Das Tanzfest”, held in 20 different cities around Switzerland.
These latter numbers also show that the main activity is concentrated in the big cities, a situation that also encapsulates the disparities between linguistic regions, and the importance of ensuring cultural exchanges within the country itself; this is recognised as an important feature of future cultural policies projects. On the other hand, the French part of Switzerland seems to be more dynamic thanks to the support of the Commission Romande de diffusion des spectacles (CORODIS). Other different successful projects from Reso – Reseau Danse Suisse have taken place to promote exchanges between centres.
Another issue is low level of investment in diffusion, which is very limited both nationally and internationally, thus limiting audiences for Swiss performing arts. The limited access to European networks is a challenge, as well as the need to expand international touring and visibility. The example of the 2019 dance event Panorama Danse shows the disparity between production and diffusion funds, particularly for independent companies and reveals the importance of cooperation.
Besides the artistic disciplines mentioned, musical theatre and contemporary circus have recently gained momentum, and are also seen as being in need of more considerable funding.