What the Body Remembers. Dance Heritage Today

Berlin in August is already blessed by its annual festival ‘Tanz im August‘, so this year it coincidences with the just opened show What the Body Remembers. Dance Heritage Today at the AdK in the Hansaviertel. It is an exhibition, performances and discourse conceived to review a ‘century of dance’. Enough material to stay there for a while, but currently I cannot always decide where to be when – even not in my favorite city and living place. But I was lucky to at least get a two day glimpse into the show, some performances and a book presentation.


The exhibition focuses on centerpieces from Dance archives in Cologne, Leipzig, Bremen and Berlin providing unique insides into the beginnings of modern and contemporary dance. Certainly this only can offer a very limited view, excluding huge fields of movement innovation and creativity in Asia, Africa and the South Americas. Luckily the organizers are aware of this as has been emphasized during the presentation of the accompanying catalogue.

This publication focuses on 100 extraordinary personalities in the field and while most are European, at least a few figures from Asia and Africa have been integrated. It is a nice compendium of images and short texts around the presented artist. It further has to be mentioned on the positive side that the involvement of some of the leading figures (like Wigman, Palucca, ..) into Nazi related projects like Olympia 1936 has not been spared out, while they are cited next to more edgy figures like the extraordinary Valeska Gert. Yet, to bring this eurocentric scene into the context of a wider view is still an enterprise that certainly is worthwhile to be undertaken.

The opening performance for the exhibition were early pieces by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich was first performed in 1982, and as such it could almost be called a contemporary classic. Passed on in 2018 to a younger generation of dancers the pieces have not lot their fascination. Yet the below clips still show the original performers: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Michele Anne de Mey.

“Put Fase, please, on the list of post-modern greats. This is thrilling work: rigorous and pure, the dancing burns like dry ice…. Fase and the women who dance it create a stunning image of daring within order and turbulence within calm.” Village Voice

“I wanted to come up with my own vocabulary of movements, with its own grammar.” Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

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