I’m so excited to join the German Hoop Convention in Hannover this upcomin weekend. It’s my first time. I’m still a beginner, but can’t wait to finally meet some of the best hoopteachers like Deanne Love or Babz Robinson (know them from youtube) and all the great people, I share the same passion with. No worries, that I need to drive to Kiel for a job interview tomorrow at first…if I’m down afterwards I will hoop the worries off this weekend until I’m happy again. If it works out, it would be cool, because I would really love to work for a dance company as an assistant.
Who is that huge guy in the highly visible colorful jacket and what kind of group is the Secret Dramaturgs Society that I read about in the program? In retrospective I would like to share some impressions and thoughts about the conference „Body. Representation. Interaction. Difference.”, organized by the German Dramaturgs Society at the end of January in Hannover. This three day meeting once a year is always a highlight for me. You never know whom you will meet in the workshops and what will be the outcome of it all, but you know at least that all the people who show up (production dramaturges, directors, freelance actors, scientists, authors, publishers) love the performing arts and want to come up with new ideas for the future.
This year’s event dealt with questions like: What kind of bodies do we see on our stages? How come, that our ensembles get younger and younger (to pay them less and save money), while our society is getting older and older? Why are the minorities not represented? What about inclusion in the theater field? What structures and requirements are necessary backstage and on stage for a theater that hires disabled people and also produces performances for disabled people? Usually the conference produces a lot of questions and almost no answers, but the process is constructive. You start to think (about it) again.
The performance that impressed me most this time was “Wrong”by Helmut Oehring with El Perro Andaluz and Christiana Schoenfeld (a deaf solist opera singer). I never thought about a concert, where a deaf singer would sing using sign language and it was a curious experience. I was able to hear the experimental music, but not able to understand the lyrics of the libretto, because I never learned sign language. To make it a bit more complicated the music was influenced and electronically blurred by a ring that the opera singer had on her finger. So she is not able to hear the music, but she has an influence on what I hear in the audience, because she as a performer is moving her hands all the time. On a second level the singer also produced sounds with her voice that she can’t hear to add another layer to this form of art for the audience that can hear. In the discussion afterwards they explained that the lyrics are so poetic that the singer has to invent new signs and gestures to express the content in a certain frame of time, which is predetermined by the composition of the music. The creative process therefore is comparable to all the other rehearsal forms of performing arts. I wonder how it is to play this concert for a deaf audience only, because from my point of view the orchestra makes no sense then, through the singer needs the signs from the conductor to know when she has to “sing” the lines with her hands. And what a moment to give applause in sign language, where you shake your hands in the air instead of clapping them. It moved me deeply, because I realized how important it is for me to hear and how irritating it was not to hear the final applause for a performance that was excellent.
My second highlight was a three hour workshop called “Rewriting Distance: dramaturgy as a somatic and creative practice”, given by Guy Cools, who is a dance dramaturg by training and now an Associate Professor for Dance Studies. I’m very thankful that he shared so many insights about his background and working methods, because he focuses on questions and self-critical reflections of the work of a dance dramaturg that I often struggle with myself. You know like the necessary invisibility of the dramaturgs contribution to the final work of art or the uncertainty what a dramaturg is doing at all during the process. There is no constant definition of Dramaturgy and that is the strength of the field, but it also makes it difficult to explain others what you do or what you maybe hope to do as a dance dramaturg in the future. It all depends on a trusting relationship between dramaturg and director or choreograph that needs to be established in the first place. We started with a twenty minute movement workout, followed by three practical exercises with the aim to reintegrate our own (dramaturg) bodies and to talk about the movement/learning processes after each step. In doing so, he gave us a practical experience of what it means to shift the focus of the work from supporting the actual production to supporting the creative process itself, which is now his main motivation to work. I will write about his workshop and some of the reflections in more detail in an extra post for those of you who are interested in dance dramaturgy. I also strongly recommend Guy Cools practice-based PhD on the relationship between dance and writing.
What else. I have seen performances every evening (more or less interesting ones like “Nussknacker und Mausekoenig”, a ballet by Joerg Mannes, “Amerika” by Franz Kafka and “Lehmann Brothers” by Stefano Massini / the youtube videos give a good impression) and I really liked Hannover and strolled around in the sunshine, whenever I had enough of the talking inside the walls. On the one hand it was too much input for one conference and on the other hand I was so grateful for the excessive demands. I really miss that time for discourse and reflection on what is going on and occupies our attention at work. So thanks to the awesome team for organizing this 60ies anniversary conference and I wish the new elected board of management all the best for the next (sixty) years of the German Dramaturgs Society. I missed out my chance to ask the huge guy in that colorful jacket who he is (perhaps you – my dear reader – know him), but I met a member of the group of the Secret Dramaturgs Society and they want to talk with us (webside in German only unfortunately).
Difficult times, confusing news, a lot of new executive orders. He really said that? He really signed that anti-abortion order. Let me double check this…what the f*** is going on. I compared the inauguration speechs of Obama and Trump. You could write a theater play about that drama. The good news is, that people arround the world started to demonstrate (Kiwis and Aussie’s being the first ones on the streets), Madonna called for a peaceful revolution and we should all help her and Michael Moore (love his morning-after to-do-List!) to let it happen. I wish I could write like Elfriede Jelinek…you know like fallowing 10 media channels at the same time and writing the shit out of it, while all this is happening. But I prefer research, I want to understand things, I get tired…and all this is overwhelming me at the moment. I’m paralyzed. Tomorrow I will take a breath and drive to a conference in Hannover. It’s a conference for theater dramaturges in Germany and the topic is “Body, representation, interaction and difference.” Trump changed my whole perspective on this, because he is playing with and questioning all of these topics. Whom does re represent? What can I expect from a President? Is he interested in interaction? How do we stand up for difference these days? He is that kind of a Trickster figure I hoped would never ever be in power again. Fallow me the next few days, if you are interested in the outcomes of the conference and please comment and share intersting articles – especially, if you are from the US. It’s difficult for me to keep track from Germany. Thank you and take care!
Is it just a good idea for a campaign or does it really effects the people and the dance professionals, if the German Federal Cultural Foundation supports a format named Dance Congress and calls the year 2016 a “Tanzjahr” (year of dance)? The Dance Congress held in Hannover from 16 to 19 of June was the 4th edition of its kind and the first one I experienced as a participant. I was thrilled to go and join all the performances, lectures and dance workshops and it was way worse it, to make that effort.
You simply know it’s a once in a lifetime chance to join a talk by the leading German dance artist Susanne Linke, who was a student of Mary Wigman and is now 72 years old, and to be able to even join her for a short teaching moment. She invited us to participate in a short practice rehearsal slot, because it is one thing to listen and to think about dance and another thing to experience a dance technique that is called “Inner suspension”. What a gift for young people like me, who only know her work, because we studied the VHS tapes and the DVD’s in the dance archive, that she is still so very motivated to share her knowledge. She surprised me in her talk being so open, deeply honest and overall humorously and moved as all deeply, when she talked about her friend and colleague Dore Hoyer (German expressionist dancer and choreographer) who committed suicide in Berlin on 31 December 1967.
I started my report with one of the highlights, but let’s go back and talk about the opening of the Dance Congress: a public warm-up in front of the Opera house in Hannover and therefore in the heart of the city. I can only support perception of Boris Charmatz, the choreographer and moderator of the warm-up, that this event is so popular that we should have a dance congress every year (not only every 3 or four years). We all stretched our legs and our minds and the dancers of his production Musée de la Danse: Common Choreographies was the best version of a vibrant dance archive I can think of. How cool to see a former dancer at the company of Pina Bausch (the German legend for the development of Tanztheater) in a performance, where she dances and talks about how Pina would teach at the same time. This playful game with the audience was just hilarious.
The opening night was followed by a long Friday. I started at 9 am with a warm-up called “dance and gyrotonic”, went to lectures, used my lunch break for another physical exploration in “Jazz” (loved it), went to lectures again and last but not least saw the dance performance “Der Besuch” by Jörg Mannes (another highlight) in the evening of course. You can tell by now that I’m really up for dance and should become a dance dramaturge, don’t you? And guess what: I did all that again on Saturday and on Sunday.
I also joined a lecture and a workshop called “Releasing the Archive” given by Carol Brown (New Zealand) and Thomas Kampe (Germany / UK). The two artists talked about the Viennese dance avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s. The research is based on the Jewish dancer Gertrude Bodenwieser, who migrated to Australia in the 40ies. One of the main questions was: “How does the appropriation of past methods influence present-day bodies?” Carol worked on a little choreography with us. She was so nervos when she gave the official theoretical presentation and relaxed when she worked with us in the study that I was glad that she found her Kiwi like peace of mind again. Thomas introduced us to the Feldenkrais method. The sense of self part of the method is very useful, but I can’t really enjoy the esoteric part of it. It depends on the teacher I guess. I just experienced another Feldenkrais teacher here in Ludwigsburg (Natan Gardah, a former dancer of the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv) and it was quiet different.
Last but not least we had the chance to meet and talk with leading choregraphers in round tabel discussions on Sunday, that took place in the big studio of the Opera house. I happend to listend to Simone Sandroni, who talked about his first year at Theater Bielefeld as artistic director of the Dance Company. I had a job interview with him last fall and I’m still sad, that it didn’t worked out, but of course I was too nervous to tell him or ask him about the reason. I’m not able to talk or network in these kind of situations…too much respect. I don’t want to force anybody to hire me. 😉 Second round I switched to Jörg Mannes, who workes for the Dance Company of the Opera in Hannover right now. He had a very honest and likeable why of talking about his own work as well and don’t took himself to seriously either. Third and last talk for me was with Richard Siegal, who talked about his brand new company “Ballet of the Difference” that is based in Munich now.
I was exhausted on my way back home, not ready for another working week, but happy and charged with ideas. My conclusion is yes, the Dance Congress is a platform that is able to affect people, to promote dance as an art form and to boost the exchange between theory and practice and people and professionals. I moved my body, I was moved emotionally and what remains is movement in my brain. Having said this: Dance on!
PS: You can find more information’s about the Dachverband Tanz Germany here. They webside also offers English data.
The Staatsschauspiel Hannover has a long history, that goes back to the 19th century. The main building (Prinzenstraße) is a new, ultra-modern construction that opend up in 1992. The predominatly white building reminded me of a futuristic car park at first, but the large open space of the foyer creates an interesting atmosphere. Espacially because of the huge pictures of the ensemble and of productions, that one can see everywhere. There is also a theater museum with changing exhibitions inside of the theater. The entrance is free for people who have a valid theater ticket for the show of the day.
The Artistic Director since 2009 is the stage director Lars-Ole Walburgand he employed some of the best actors and actresses I know in Germany. Some of the artists worked at the Centraltheater in Leipzig for Sebastian Hartmann before they moved to Hannover. If you haven’t heard about Hartmann before, that might be an interesting theater research. His attempt to modernize the German state theater system and to push the boundaries was discused extensively in various theater journals over the years.
I saw the production “Maria Stuart” lately. Aesthetically I would say that the ensemble follows a post-modern agenda, where experimental theatrical perceptions and representations are created. The video trailers of the productions can give you a better idea of the different styles of directors like Sascha Hawemann, Martin Laberenz or Anna Bergmann. The actors are asked to make the audience aware of the live event and to involve them. They might break out of their roles and start to improvise or drink a beer with you, like it happend in “Maria Stewart” – here to ironically extend the farewell of Maria (the evening acuminates in here exhecution).