Podium discussion on Transforming Acts – a kaleidoscope by Penelope Wehrli and Detlev Schneider

Transforming Acts

In the 1980s, dance became an autonomous art form that provided fresh sources of inspiration for many artists who were searching for new forms of expression and who crossed traditional genre and category boundaries in the process. It had a lasting influence on avant-garde theatre.

The highly artificial movement vocabulary, choreographed group elements, the composition of performers into images in space, repetitive sequences and standing parades, the physical expressiveness of dance, but also the virtuous nature of ballet language, and the choric – all these aspects became fields of reference for directors and dramaturges who were looking for new, more abstract forms in staged events, and for artistic means beyond the familiar mimetic, representational realism of acting and linear narration.

Heiner Müller and Einar Schleef touchingly revealed the great extent to which Pina Bausch’s choreographies, for example, influenced their own artistic thoughts and their search for contemporary, scenic images of tragedy.

At the same time, the impact of the synergies of dance, sound and image space that John Cage and Merce Cunningham and the New York Judson Church protagonists had been working on since the 1960s was felt in Central Europe. Lucinda Childs' influence, for example, reached us via Robert Wilson’s works. The early choreographies and performances by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jan Fabre and other activists on the Flemish/Netherlands scene at this time were also influenced by these developments, and they in turn became a source of inspiration for younger choreographers and directors.

Dance began to adapt the specifics of other art forms, and it thus strengthened its influential potential – dramatic thinking in multi-level narratives, new language, speech and script narratives – as well as the rapidly growing imagination potential of electronic image and sound media.

The media installation Transforming Acts by Penelope Wehrli and Detlev Schneider collected image material from key performances by 12 choreographers and directors as well as image and sound material about them from their own archives and theatre and dance archives, and combined these with video portraits specially created for the installation.


Artistic directors – Penelope Wehrli (concept, spatial score, interviews) and Detlev Schneider (concept, dramaturgy)
Project manager – Michael Freundt (concept, organisation)
Archive research – Thilo Wittenbecher / Mime Centrum Berlin
Research assistant – Christopher Langer
System architecture – Joa Glasstetter
Video portraits – Sirko Knüpfer
Video processing – Constanze Altmann
Sound design – Christian Obermaier
Construction – Eik Döring

With: Pina Bausch / Laurent Chetouane / Jo Fabian / Jan Fabre / Johann Kresnik / Thomas Lehmen / Heiner Müller / Einar Schleef / Meg Stuart / Robert Wilson / The Wooster Group / NEUER TANZ/VA Wölfl

Performance Dates






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