More Space for Dance!
Berlin lacks locations for production and performance. An assessment
The issue of space is consuming the Berlin dance scene at the moment. The decision on the future of the Volksbühne under Chris Dercon has finally swept aside the ideas of using the venue for Sasha Waltz or as a ‘Tanzhaus’. It can be assumed that the Berlin dance scene can’t expect much from Dercon’s Volksbühne anyway; at most some sort of cooperative event might be possible.
Could this herald a simultaneous decision on the direction Hebbel am Ufer may take as a possible venue focusing on dance? The contracts of HAU directors Annemie Vanackere and Tanz im August curator Virve Sutinen expire in 2017, when Dercon starts at the Volksbühne.
But let’s stop speculating and cast a glance to the present. What locations are available for dance in Berlin, which problems are pressing and what sort of demands do cultural and property politics face?
In the existing venues, dance still does not have a firm foothold, for various reasons. DOCK 11, Uferstudios and Tanzfabrik Berlin are not widely perceived as classical venues. They rather see themselves as incubators for artistic development, and they are underfunded in spite of good administration. Sophiensaele, one of the most important locales for dance in Berlin, cannot afford more than supporting accompaniment. Ballhaus Ost, Ballhaus Naunystrasse and Theaterdiscounter all are reacting positively to the growing importance of dance, but the program is often just a sidekick. And at HAU, in spite of the increasing commitment shown of late, cooperation with the independent scene still has a good deal of room for improvement.
In places where dance is made, the outlook is even more bleak. For those dance artists that receive minimal or no financial support, the existing practice spaces are often too expensive. Moreover, suitably sized, available spaces are simply lacking. Given the gentrification in certain Berlin neighborhoods, in future it will no longer be possible for artists to operate the necessary spaces themselves as practice or performance venues.
Thus, a more intensive political discourse is long overdue with respect to the independent scene in the city senate’s cultural administration; it would make sense to set up an independent administrative agency that provides spaces, secures existing locations in their existence and could be a contact for the much discussed "Raumtitel” in the Berlin biannual budget of 2016/17. This is all well known to cultural state secretary Tim Renner and the cultural administration. Indeed, something must be done – now.
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