About Capturing Dance

 Capturing Dance_Station#3


A TANZFONDS ERBE Project by Tanzfabrik Berlin, Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz Berlin HZT (Inter-university Centre for Dance), Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln KHM (Academie of Media Arts, Cologne) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (German Research Foundation) Project Verzeichnung;

supported by Tanzfonds Erbe – a German Federal Cultural Foundation initiative – ; the Schering Foundation.


  • Project Background

After the rapid development of contemporary dance especially after the 1980s, the turn of the millennium saw issues of dance reconstruction and documentation becoming the focus of artistic, academic and curatorial interest. Until this point, the comparatively young discipline of dance had concerned itself relatively little with questions of the transmission of creative productions to subsequent generations. This initiative received additional political support in recent years in Germany with the establishment of the Tanzfonds Erbe (Dance Heritage Fund) scheme through the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

With this background and as a consequence of these omissions, diverse activities were developed in recent years to inspect, document, archive or reconstruct the dance heritage of the 20th century and place it into a historical context. This one-sided emphasis on historiographical and archival methods and an almost exclusively retrospective preservation of dance heritage has resulted in recent developments in performance theory remaining unnoticed until now. These theories describe and proclaim the documentation of performative events as active and self-evident aspects of artistic practice. The artistic approach to photos, videos, concepts, objects, materials and things that arise during the artistic process is thematised, discussed and seen as fundamental in performance art whereas it is mostly overlooked during the process of creating a dance production. The project Capturing Dance seeks to apply these new performance theories about the significance of documentation in the artistic process from the visual arts and transfer them to the field of dance in a multiple-phase, flagship project.
The theoretical aspect of the project background can be loosely summarised as follows: At the beginning of the 1990s, while Peggy Phelan was proclaiming the uniqueness of the practice of performing while describing the leaving of a ‘mediated trace’ as an insubstantial characteristic of performance, Philip Auslander, Barbara Clausen, Amelia Jones and others were actually applying this new definition of a mediated understanding of performance art in their own practices. Performance was understood as a hybrid artistic medium that included the varied practices of production, documentation, archiving, reception, research and publicity. A central discussion was the fluid relationship between the event and the act of watching, between the staged and the documented, artist and audience, which led to a mediation of the performative. For Auslander, it is the performativity of the documentation itself that is the performance art.

  • Project Phases

On a practical level the project is divided into five phases taking place over somewhat more than a year. A group of 20 young choreographers and new media artists from Berlin and Cologne are involved (students and emergent artists) as well as a collection of notable theoreticians and curators from dance, new media and performance.

In June 2015 (25th to 27th), the project started with a three-day internal introduction and orientation in Berlin where the young artists met. Speed dating and a number of other playful ways of meeting and sharing work and motivations happened and exchange has been promoted.

On 16th and 17th October 2015 a public symposium on dance documentation as artistic practice took place. Starting from the performance theories of the 1990s, historical and contemporary methods of documentation as artistic practice were introduced and discussed by project participants and interested members of the general public.

In Feburary 2016 the participants met in Cologne in a laboratory setting where two workshops were performed as well as the first concrete photographic and film material of the development of dance projects or productions have been taken.

Leading up to the start of June 2016 the projects or premieres planned by the participating choreographers will be comprehensively and artistically documented in a series of one-week-long residencies.

The results of the documentary processes will be exhibited at the end of June 2016 in the Ebensperger Gallery in Berlin in collaboration with the curator Thomas Weski and Sigrid Gareis and open to the public for one week.

  • Project Goals

The project’s goal is to actively develop exemplary artistic and documentary material from working and production processes and broaden the possibilities of available forms of documentation within the dance field for the future. Through understanding documentation as an artistic act the project develops and tests new or infrequently asked questions during the dance working process itself: How are issues of authorship entangled in the artistic documentation of a dance production? What choices about the politics of image production and gaze are made during the documentary process? Which correlations exist between the production of the work itself and that of the resulting image, video, drawing, photograph or installation? Can the documentation of dance as staging of the present be already working towards a knowledge of the past, or in other words, can the historical perspective already be thought about during the process of development? Or should we strive towards Marina Abramović’s “embodied documentation” which departs from an anti-archival openness and the notion that it is changed by time and therefore creates new productions over and over again? Recent artistic understandings of the ‘thing’ as a process will also be considered in contrast to static museum pieces.

The documentation of the project itself naturally has a special significance. A student of the Dance Studies MA at the Institute for Theatre Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin will select the project Capturing Dance as the subject of her thesis, actively participating in the project’s documentation process. Selected symposium contributions will be published in the online journal MAP Media — Archive — Performance (http://www.perfomap.de). Questions of intellectual property will also be specially considered. The contracts for the resulting works of collaborative documentation between the choreographers and new media artists will be individually negotiated and settled with legal advice.

A by-product of this establishment of documentation as artistic practice is that it will invigorate the genre of dance photography and dance video which has always been marginalised in the field. An ideal of the project would be to open up new professional and economic possibilities for dance artists in collections, museums and the art market.

  • Project Participants

Artists: Akseli Aittomäki, Saori Hara, Liad Hussein Katorowicz, Janine Iten, Lisa Müller-Trede, Lulu Obermayer, Valentin Tszin, Enrico Wey, Yuebing Luo (MA SODA students at HZT) and Mariana Bártolo, Hannah Doerr, Peter Haas, Krzysztof Honowski, Şirin Şimsek, Walter Solon, Felix Zilles-Perels (students at KHM) as well as predominantly younger artists from Berlin and Cologne: Christina Ciupke, Miriam Gossing, Felix Ott, Benjamin Ramírez Pérez, Lina Sieckmann

Theoreticians taking part in the symposium: Philip Auslander, Barbara Clausen, Susanne Foellmer, Barbara Formis, Babette Mangolte, Eric Morrill.

Project mentors: Phil Collins, Eva-Maria Hoerster, Boyan Manchev, Tobias Yves Zintel and the assistent Ale Bachlechner for the study programmes in Berlin and Cologne, Sigrid Gareis as project initiator,  Patrick Ebensperger representing the gallery, Ludger Orlok from Tanzfabrik Berlin, Barbara Greiner, project manager, Mira Lina Simon, production assistent, and Alexandra Hennig, project documentation.