To Keep Communality Going
At Tanztage Berlin 2019, choreographer Kareth Schaffer is inviting experts and the audience to discuss the political shift to the right in a choreographed conversation.
The 2016 US presidential elections really caused some soul-searching moments for me as an American citizen: coming to terms with the anger, frustration, and fear for my country ultimately came down to the realization that, for better or worse: I live in Berlin now. By far the most efficient way of showing solidarity with people who are affected by the global swing to the right would be to get politically involved in Berlin. So I ended up joining a political party, canvassing and organizing at the outskirts of Berlin in the run-up to the 2017 federal elections.
Because of that, Anna Mülter from Sophiensæle approached me about organizing a panel discussion on the implications of right-wing nationalism at the Tanztage festival. I took this idea and, well, danced with it, and out came this proposal for a "choreographed conversation.” Instead of a classic panel discussion, I want to bring our invited artists and political activists into dialogue with the audience, because I think that the Berlin contemporary dance scene holds enormous potential for political movements: we’re quite diverse, our practices revolve around resistance, disrupting perspectives and holding attention, and (last but not least) we know how to make a lot from almost nothing!
The format will therefore be participatory: in smaller groups we will answer questions about how art, bodies, and politics can support each other. This means examining what we as dancers are bringing to the table, as well as understanding how everyone is being affected by "völkisch”-national rhetorics.
We’ve invited artists and activists who are politically involved in a variety of ways: Be van Vark creates huge community dance pieces in cities throughout Germany, while Rodrigo Alves examines the interplay of gender, identity, race and art history in his pieces and through the ways he navigates his art-making communities. Phil Butland co-founded the English-speaking organization of the Berlin Die Linke party. Marcela Giesche consciously chose to open her experimental art space Lake Studios in Köpenick, a neighbourhood at the edge of Berlin with an unfortunately strong AfD voting base. And Mateusz Szymanówka recently organized a very successful festival of queer art in Poznań. At the time of writing the whole panel isn’t fixed, so there will also be some surprise guests!
In addition to opening up and sharing resources with each other, I also want to use art very functionally, in the form of music and game structures, to create excitement and rapport among the participants in the conversation. One of the most inspiring, important, and FUN demonstrations in recent years was the Anti-AfD demonstration in May 2018, when the club scene and the theater scene of Berlin both mobilized a lot of people: the "Glänzende Demonstration” of the theater scene resulted in the Erklärung der Vielen, where institutions and individuals pledge their resistance to racialized far-right discourses. I’d like to find ways to keep this communality going in smaller, more every-day structures – like conversations.