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Tanztage: “It’s like watching flowers appear”

INTERVIEW. Tanztage is on! From Jan 4-14, artistic director Peter Pleyer's vision of the independent dance scene is presented in full to Berlin's international enthusiasts at Sophiensaele.

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The 18th Tanztage festival opens with Kareth Schaffer’s As Easy as 1, 2, 3, Jan 4 and runs through Jan 14.  

Tanztage artistic director Peter Pleyer has been at the helm of the Sophiensaele’s festival for young artists for the last seven years. His final edition of the “Dance Days”, co-curated with Arianne Hoffmann, continues the now 17-year-old tradition of presenting a cross-section of the young, international independent dance scene. Up-and-coming choreographers and dancers receive support, space and funding to develop their works before they’re presented in one of the Sophiensaele’s historic spaces.

How do you approach coaching these artists?

I want to give them maximum freedom to explore – what they need most is a space to risk things. Unfortunately, marketability still plays a big role. We’re very happy this year to have a three-minute piece (Kareth Schaffer, As Easy as 1, 2, 3) but of course this is not very marketable. Even a 20-minute piece is hard to sell. So many people are eager to make 40-minute pieces, which often is too long for young choreographers.

But older choreographers also find it difficult to keep working.

This idea of the mid-career artist is difficult everywhere. You have to start developing strategies, like working outside Berlin, especially in Scandinavia or Switzerland. People start teaching yoga…

How is the partnership with Hoffmann working?

She brings a lot of perspective from her time in Los Angeles. We had a little discussion because we have one group who are putting on children’s Native American gear and dancing around like ‘Indians’. Ari’s response was, “You should ask yourself questions about these things.”

So how do you respond to those kinds of issues?

I just think raising the sensitivity to these questions is important and then the artists can do what they want.

And young artists need guidance as well as exposure…

That’s the real work of Tanztage: picking them up, shining light on them, giving them some fertiliser and watching what flowers appear. But these are my 16 babies for this year, and every year I’ve had 16 new ones. That’s one reason for moving on. Maybe it’s time to continue with two or three, and really help them make their work.

Visit www.tanztage.de for full programme. All events at Sophiensaele, Sophienstr. 18, Mitte, U-Bhf Weinmeisterstr.

Originally published in issue #123, January 2014.