In der Luft, Tatiana Mejía / Kareth Schaffer ©René Löffler


In der Luft, by Tatiana Mejía and Kareth Schaffer, was previewed on 18 June at TANZKOMPLIZEN in Podewil and will premiere on 27 September. This fun, educational, and imaginative dance work brings the attention of audiences six years of age and over to the mixture of many gases and tiny dust particles all around us: air.

I’m 10 minutes late to the 10 am preview of In der Luft at TANZKOMPLIZEN, the first venue in Berlin that produces dance exclusively and continuously for young audiences. Guided by an usher to quietly enter the theatre, I decide to sit on the floor next to the seating banks to watch the show from the side rather than disturb the large audience of captivated children and their teachers in the seats. As I lean my back against the side wall, I feel a breeze at the nape of my neck from the windows behind the wall curtains. I watch the two choreographer-dancers animatedly describe to their entranced young audience, with illustrative gestures, how humans interact with air: how we need it and feel it, and how it enlivens and moves us in space.

Unlike other dance productions for young audiences that I’ve seen or performed in, Kareth Schaffer and Tatiana Mejía are very economical with their use of props and costumes, using just a few objects that change their function throughout the show. A big plastic cloud shape is suspended above a shelf that becomes a bed, a seat, and a drawer for an umbrella and water bottle that the performers play with in their exploration of air, water, and weather. A large plastic sheet that resembles a puddle on the floor is rustled vigorously by Schaffer to produce the sound of wind.

©René Löffler

The interaction between the performers and the young audience is lively and dynamic. The unmediated responses of the children, uncontrolled by the rules of etiquette that adults embody in public spaces and theatres, are highly sensitive to the live performance, enhancing my own experience of the situation. The feedback loop between Schaffer and Mejía with the young audience is palpable, almost making the air in the space—the invisible protagonist of the show—visible. The children gasp, laugh, fall into each other’s laps, and yell “Luft!” into the room when asked humorous, rhetorical questions about the atmosphere surrounding Earth. The energetic flow in response to the show is a strong player in the live situation, facilitating a meaningful exchange between the performers and the audience. The seating bank becomes like a vibrant sea, many heads bobbing and waving with exclamation; sudden jumps splash up into the air from their seats, stirring the atmosphere.

Breathing, a fundamental aspect of our health and well-being, is compellingly explored through movement and spoken text. As James Nestor discusses in his book Breath (2020), we have lost our ability to breathe well, a grave consequence for us as a species. This troubling reality, coupled with the ongoing climate crises and the recent Coronavirus pandemic, which have both caused significant shifts in how we understand sharing air and space, make In der Luft a crucial work for children now. The invisible atmosphere that surrounds us is addressed in engaging, humourous, detailed, and thought-provoking ways, evoking fascination about its properties, potentials, and implications for adults and children alike.

In der Luft, by Tatiana Mejía and Kareth Schaffer, was previewed on 18 June at TANZKOMPLIZEN in Podewil and will premiere on 27 September 2024.