Stories of Bonds and Separations

“Forces of Nature” by Ivana Müller, shown at Uferstudios on 12 and 13 October 2021 in the frame of Tanzfabrik Berlin’s autumn season, is an hour-long exploration of the notion of interdependence and collective effort. Unlike many other works that question the concept of group dynamics, “Forces of Nature” is literal and straight forward and allows for as many interpretations as the spectators’ imagination can produce. Bound by climbing ropes and a common goal, the dancers negotiate each gesture and movement as they slowly weave an odd rope-made shelter just to unlace it again at the end. In this smart and deftly staged show, Müller reflects on common effort, ecologies of togetherness and, quite unexpectedly, makes me reflect on my own stories of bonds and separations.

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A Suite for a Dancer and a Harpsichord

In “Elisabeth Gets Her Way” (shown on 6 and 7 October at Fabrik Potsdam within the framework of Potsdamer Tanztage 2021) Belgian dancer and choreographer Jan Martens pays a vibrant tribute to Elisabeth Chojnacka, who is widely recognised as one of the most prominent harpsichordists of the 20th century. Devised as a string of seven solos masterfully executed by Martens himself, the show ostensibly explores the rhythmic universe of harpsichord music and the vastness of Chojnacka’s repertoire. But Martens also wants the audience to get to know Elisabeth Chojnacka more intimately, and amplifies the work with archive materials to draw a poignant portrait of a strong-willed and influential musician. And the show, initially envisaged as a solo tribute, becomes a dazzling dialogue between two uncompromising performers.

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States of Joy at ICC

As part of 10 days of exhibitions under the title The Sun Machine Is Coming Down at the International Congress Centre (ICC) curated by Berliner Festpiele, choreographer Tino Sehgal presents “This Joy”, an impressive voice-movement piece, where the lightness of the score is brilliantly executed by eight performers.

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A Human Comedy

In “A Divine Comedy” by Florentina Holzinger, which premiered at the Ruhrtrienniale in August and which opens the Volksbühne dance season, Totentanz, orgasms, techno, an obstacle course, bodypainting, the dissection of a rat, a body set on fire, humour, a flying piano, and much more cohabit in a powerful theatrical piece.

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Fall into Dance – Play, Desire, and Walking in a Circle

As part of Tanzfabrik’s four-month fall programme for 2021, “Wilson” by Sophie Guisset and “Invitation to Walk #1 – Kreisläufe” by Katja Münker offer the audience two distinct possibilities to experience movement and choreographic composition. The first sees the audience as a voyeur, and the second sees the audience as the maker of the movement path itself.

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Choreographic Cosmic Axes

As part of Offensive Tanz für junges Publikum Berlin (Offensive Dance for Young Audiences Berlin) and a production of the Theater o.N., Isabelle Schad’s new dance piece “Harvest” premiered at the Tanzhalle Wiesenburg. In a fanciful mise-en-scène, the choreographer, three dancers, and a musician play with shifting landscapes, which unfurl through the interaction of sticks and branches.

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Gosh, it feels like work!

How do you start a show? How do you end it? How do you break the fourth wall? And what does it take to be two onstage in front of the audience of many? Plenty of theatre and performance makers have reflected on these recursive questions to uneven, often hermetic, results — all bets were off for Teresa Vittucci and Melanie Jame Wolf. In “Show Business” (30 August to 2 September 2021 at the Sophiensæle) they deploy a full range of tactics from tongue-in-cheek acting and dance, to compelling visual allusions, spoken word, and even singing. They made me grin and laugh, contemplate in awe, and engage in a long after-show discussion with my friends.

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As if Death Could Shine Like Stardust

How can death be imagined? The performance “TodAncestor — dust till down” is a solo dance performance by choreographer Yuko Kaseki and collaborators based on the combination of media, including video projections and live sound recording, with Butoh dance. Containing elements of ritual, it explores diverse aspects of death, such as fear and poetry. This live performance installation is showing at DOCK11 until Sunday 29 August 2021.

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Dramaturgies of Entanglement

Perth-born and Berlin-based choreographer Emily Ranford premiered her most recent work “Forcefields iii” at DOCK11, 19 to 22 August 2021. This skilfully choreographed piece concludes the “Forcefields” trilogy, that explores, as Ranford describes in her programme notes, ‘a network of interdependencies endlessly morphing and curling on itself into previously unseen shapes.’ I searched for the missing link between the signifier and the signified in this piece, which, although beautifully performed, lacked dramaturgical deftness and emotional power towards the end.

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Tanz im August 2021 Talkabout #2

For the second part of their Tanz im August talkabout, Eli Frasson and Evgeny Borisenko attended the world premiere of Thiago Granato’s “The Sound They Make When No One Listens” at the Sophiensæle on 19 August 2021. After the show they sat together in the Sophiensæle’s brick-walled courtyard to discuss a show that explores the different facets and political connotations of the act of listening. The next day, on 20 August, Eli and Evgeny went to the Lilli-Hennoch-Sportplatz to attend the world premiere of “Breathe” by Milla Koistinen, in which she interacted with two huge brightly-coloured inflatable fabrics and the audience on the football pitch. After the show Eli and Evgeny found a spot near the ruins of Anhalter Bahnhof to sit and discuss the show.

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Tanz im August 2021 Talkabout #1

Tanzschreiber writers Eli Frasson and Evgeny Borisenko decided to go to three Tanz im August 2021 performances together, and then to meet up after each show to talk about what they saw. In this first part of their conversation, Evgeny and Eli discuss “WEG” by Ayelen Parolin / RUDA, the show that opened the festival at HAU1 on 6 August 2021. In the second part of their Tanz im August talkabout, they will discuss Thiago Granato’s world premiere of “The Sound They Make When No One Listens” and Milla Koistinen’s “Breathe”.

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Symbols of Power

Flags ripple, flap, and cut the air. Shrouds wrap motionless bodies. Exotic creatures slip from mediaeval banners. Military snare drums roar. Fierce battles morph into revelry, and sports events transform into funeral processions. Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi have always turned to historical events, art movements, and traditions for inspiration. In their new diptych, “AeReA” and “ARA! ARA!”, they explore the symbolism of flags and mediaeval heraldry, as well as their political connotations. The first part of the diptych, “AeReA”, will be shown during Tanznacht Berlin Vertigo (Part 2) on 23 and 24 July 2021, while a digital version of “ARA! ARA!” premiered during Tanzfabrik Berlin’s OPEN SPACES – Making It Happen #2 on 10 June 2021. “Silver Veiled” is a dance film born from the same research process. It was originally commissioned by Dublin Dance Festival in 2021.

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Performing Memory

How can an archive be performed? How can a research process be shown on stage without the result being dull and didactic? How can a dance be devised about a show that premiered more than 40 years ago? In “Try Leather”, Britta Wirthmüller, William Locke Wheeler, and Justine A. Chambers explore the political and performative aspects of an eponymous 1975 solo by Canadian artist and activist Margaret Dragu. Choosing a dozen different archive records and key words each night, Wirthmüller and Wheeler offer their personal take on Dragu’s work and life in a show that combines dance, spoken word, and audio fragments.

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Hearing Your Skin: soundance festival is Back in Town!

From 11 to 27 June soundance festival Berlin is submerging our senses with an interlacing of digitally presented dance and music works, physically experienced video installations, fully breathed open air performances, as well as a programme of talks and lectures. Led by artistic director Jenny Haack at DOCK 11, the Zionskirche Church, and the garden of EDEN Studios, the 2021 festival edition presents 66 artists in 16 pieces and six dance film videos. The latter can be enjoyed both as a walk-in screening at DOCK 11 and as online streams. With this attractive combination of formats, dance and music works are (slowly) coming back as a physical part of the city’s texture to celebrate the beginning of the Berlin summer!

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Bodies that have fallen out of history

The dance piece “Still Not Still” by Ligia Lewis, which was planned for April 2021 in HAU1, was presented for the time being in film format (in collaboration with film director Moritz Freudenberg) on 11 June and released on Vimeo. The work’s focus is an emotional corporeal mise-en-scène, which relies heavily on humor to express the exclusionary mechanisms of colonial and neo-liberal structures.

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How to Bee a Dance: On Love and Waggling

“Bee Dances” by Indonesian choreographer ninus and Berlin-based choreographer Kareth Schaffer, online from 10 to 23 June 2021 for Open Spaces – Making It Happen #2 by Tanzfabrik, offers choreographic thoughts on what it means to create a dance piece together from within a cross-cultural perspective. An ensemble of six international dancers (including both choreographers) performs an hour-long piece in which they become a hive with elegance, softness, and a sense of love for dance as an extensive communication system.

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Uncanny Birds

Danilo Andrés’s most recent piece ‘Schräger Vögel: A Queer Choral’ was choreographed and rehearsed in the darkness of Berlin’s pandemic winter. A filmed version premiered 29 May 2021 during the Performing Arts Festival Berlin. Devised for a group of non-binary and queer performers, this short and intense study into the physicality of guttural singing and yelling was pertinently filmed in the middle of the huge, brick-built nave of the Reformist Church in Moabit. Andrés’s idea of questioning social norms through the embodiment of unconventional vocal techniques is highly appealing, however, the show ends too quickly to allow it to fully unfold.

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Songs of Cranky Hope and Solidarity

Puddles the Pelican continues her tour and lands, silver-feathered, on top of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt for a short online concert within the framework of the conference ‘Diversity Affects | Troubling Institutions’ on 29 May 2021. This magic bird performs at dusk with her band, giving birth to an iridescent pearl to celebrate the reopening of HKW after a more-than-year-long closure due to the pandemic. She sings and walks in beauty, jazzes between grief and hope, invoking solidarity and revolution amid the troubled waters of our times. 

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Onto the Weight Bench

In “Being Pink Ain’t Easy”, Joana Tischkau gleefully stages gestures and habits of exaggerated masculinity derived from US rap. In the context of this year’s Performing Arts Festival Berlin – still available online until 3 June 2021 – Sophiensæle is showing the successful cinematic product of this previously live performance, which addresses white masculinity by citing Black culture and through conscious clashes.  

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Perpetual Motion Machine

Jasmin İhraç’s most recent show “liú” premiered on 15 March 2021 and was shown on HAU4 digital platform from 26 to 29 May during the Performing Arts Festival Berlin 2021. In her delicate exploration of the cycles and rhythms of nature and human life, İhraç avoids far-fetched claims and declarations and leaves the audience face to face with the miracle of the infinite time-loop. This laid-back and quiet show made me want to log these images and my thoughts, minute by minute. 

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To All Tomorrow’s (Open Air) Parties

“The Dying Swans Project”, conceptualised by Eric Gauthier and produced by Gauthier Dance / Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart, is a screendance project involving international choreographers made during the second pandemic winter. In her video “all tomorrow’s parties”, Berlin-based choreographer Constanza Macras provides a fascinating perspective on a post-party mood as an awakening from the post-Covid-19 period. From another view, Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods interface through a poetic and touching screendance work for Haus der Kulturen der Welt.

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Set Me Free on the Hardcore Internet

“Hardcore Internet” documents the four-week research process by dance artist Julia Plawgo at ada Studio. Filmed and directed by Plawgo herself in the form of an open rehearsal, it was streamed online from 30 April till 2 May on ada Studio website. Dealing with themes such as digital space, video games, offline and online life, this work in progress made for the screen creates an alternative space where screened choreography and dance expand on different layers for “living bodilessly in a digital space”.

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Back to the Forming Futures. A Report from Lake Studios: Conversations Through Dance and Ecology

During the first weekend of May, Lake Studios Berlin hosted the first volume of ABOUT DANCE. Entitled forming futures, this forum for dance professionals was proposed by Mårten Spångberg and Alex Viteri Arturo, with online contributions by André Lepecki, Jota Mombaça, Nina Power, Filipa Ramos, Julian Reid, Jana Unmüßig, and Miriam Jacob.

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Filming Utopian Body

“Vogel | 4 Solos” is a sequence of four solos, directed and choreographed by Christine Bonansea, and filmed at DOCK 11. Led by a powerful blend of stark lighting design and raucous soundscapes, this work aims to embody Michel Foucault’s notion of the utopian body — a daunting task for a string of four separate filmed solos that had been initially devised as simultaneous performances amongst which spectators could carve their own paths. Bonansea faces this challenge with a blast of power and creates a thought-provoking study on the limits of emotional perception.

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The Dance Afterlife

On 23 April, the exhibit “The Absolute Dance. Female Dancers in the Weimar Republic” (April to August 2021) opened at the Georg Kolbe Museum in Berlin Westend with a preview for experts and journalists. Curated by Dr. Julia Wallner and Brygida Ochaim, the exhibit corresponds with the scenographic design and the work “Blaue und Gelbe Schatten (Blue and Yellow Shadows)“ by Ulla von Brandenburg.

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Collage of Loneness

The Corona pandemic provided some people more time to be alone. Sometimes, this may mean sitting with oneself without external distractions. Inky Lee, who lives alone, is one of these people. One night, she quietly sits in this state and observes the movements of her insides.

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The Expansion of Joy — An Interview with Anna Nowicka

‘Dear Anna, I hope you are well! […] Due to this second lockdown, we cannot review any performances in the theatres anymore. As an alternative, I would like to interview you on the topic of ‘bodily joy’. It comes from my realisation that, due to the distance, the lack of spontaneity, and the absence of live get-togethers, I find it hard to experience joy in my body myself. And it’s a loss. Therefore it would be great to talk to you about how to keep finding joy in the body in these awkward times. […]. Best, Annette’

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What about a Time Warp Dance?

Here we are sitting in the mid of the second wave, and with the year and my contribution as a tanzschreiber drawing to a close, I would like to make a few reflections on dance/performing arts in this forced digitalization time. The longer we are sitting at home in some degree of lock-down, the deeper the influence is going to last. If on the positive pole, it has been an eye-opening experience connecting people in different geographical location and calling for a rethinking of the approaches to dance, on the down side, most of us crave touch or a stable (economic/working) environment. At this point, I want to look closer at three elements of dance production — creation, aesthetics and fruition — for a sort of time warp on the future of dance, also dance education.

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Reading Tracks – An Interview with Peter Pleyer

Peter Pleyer has been an observant participant of the Berlin dance scene for 20 years, not only as a dancer and choreographer, but also as a dramaturg, lecturer, and Director of Tanztage at the Sophiensæle (2007-2014). He talks about his own past, the present with COVID-19, and the near future of more sensible and effective networking within the equally diverse and precarious contemporary dance scene in Berlin. 

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Thoughts on Lockdown No. 2

Gob Squad first presented their 12 hour livestream performance “Show Me A Good Time” during the lockdown in June. For the second lockdown, they remade the piece into three parts, and HAU broadcast the first episode on 26 November 2020. I decided to use it as an opportunity to reflect on this latest closure of live performance venues.  

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Together Together

“isson – a solo for two men” by cie. toula limnaios has a transformative history. Already in 2003, the performance, then called “isson – a solo for two women”, had its premiere. For its 20th anniversary in 2016, it was restaged with two men, and then remained in the repertoire. Leonardo d’Aquino and Alessio Scandale were supposed to dance it live again this November, but due to the current lockdown, it was presented online instead, broadcast from the Halle Tanzbühne Berlin, and remains available for viewing until 28 November. 

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Something Remains Astir in the Silence: On the Importance of Dance Residency Programs

Whether we anticipated it or not, whether we processed the events and emotions of the first wave or not, the second (partial) lockdown has returned us to a similar situation as in March, as we – Annette, Jette, and I – had just begun reporting on Berlin dance events for the tanzschreiber portal. It’s been a few intense months during which we primarily sated our dance curiosity via online formats. Even though, as we all know, dance is actually the most physical art form par excellence there is (for both the artists and the audience). So we attempted to tackle questions about the practice, “how, where, on what, and with whom can dancers and choreographers work right now?”, and about the receivers, and especially “about what cultural journalists should report on”.  Then came the easing of restrictions in the summer. And now we’re back to square one. However, unlike before, we know what to expect. It’s easier for some artists to rethink things (in part because their work is better suited to online adaptations), for others it’s unfortunately not. What I sometimes sense in the city is a sense of rage: the dull, sad fury of caged animals and the (thankfully, more rarely) existential angst of those who don’t know how they’re supposed to make ends meet (if you’re in a position to help, please support your fellow human beings!).  And just like the first lockdown, something remains astir inside the apparent stillness of the closed performance venues.

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Veiled Motions

Rhea Ramjohn* reflects on the metaphorical and physical masks that shape our day-to-day movements and interactions. The “performance” of creating space for one another during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought physical distancing to the forefront, and has exposed what many marginalised people have long-known as the pandemic of being othered.

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Oceanic Rushing

On 14/15 November 2020, Josefine Mühle is showing a video work on the ada Studio website as a teaser to the performance “LOTUS. the child was stung”, which has been postponed until next year. In this video work, she weaves aspects of prenatal psychology with our own fantasies into a lush dream landscape.

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You Are Not Invited

Berlinklusion’s Kate Brehme* reflects on “You Are Not Invited”, a protest action created by the organisation in 2019 at the Haus der Statistik. This ‘un-exhibition’ — an exhibition that no-one was invited to, was Berlinklusion’s exploration of the relationship between gentrification, the temporary use of non-arts spaces for cultural purposes, and the neo-liberal structures that perpetuate inaccessible working conditions for arts workers in Berlin.

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Emotional Participation

At first glance, Emmilou Rößling’s “The Fraternity”, performed during OPEN SPACES – How to get in Touch with… from 22 to 24 October 2020 at Tanzfabrik Berlin, seems like research on the topic of female togetherness. Beyond that, there is an emphasis on something more subtle, something which merges that which is felt with felt cloth. 

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New Growth

Ballhaus Naunynstraße is one of the few (the only?) theatres in Germany that is committed to showing and supporting the perspectives of BIPOC and of those who identify as queer. It offers a strong impulse to development of postcolonial discourse and practices. Here, performance artist Nasheeka Nedsreal presents her first solo performance “New Growth”. 

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We Have to Learn to Repair the Denial: Inverted Landscapes, Action in the Streets and Stolen Lives.

On September 11, 2020, Pêdra Costa* went to see “Inverted Landscapes”, a performance directed by André e. Teodósio (Teatro Praga) from Lisbon, which began inside with an exhibition by Teodósio and Bruno Bogarim, and was then taken out onto the streets. It was presented at the gallery Kunstraum Botschaft – Camões Berlim, by the performers Ana Tang, Aurora Pinho and Paulo Pascoal.

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