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Tanz im August 2021: All the world’s a stage

We guide you through a a fortnight of cathartic performances, open-air arenas, off-beat venues and strong female takes.

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Brace yourself for a fortnight of cathartic performances, open-air arenas, off-beat venues and strong female takes. Photo: Thomas Aurin

Tanz im August has been given the thumbs up this year, paving the way for Berlin’s annual dance-fest, presented by the HAU and curated by Virve Sutinen, to take place this summer. Like all cultural events at the moment, the festival has had to adapt somewhat to our unique times, so the 33rd iteration is not exactly more of the same. Browsing through the programme, you’ll notice a number of surprising new venues across the city, whether it’s outdoor stages at the tented Freilichtbühne Weißensee or the stadium-like Arena nestled in the Gärten der Welt, or indoor spaces like the repurposed electricity plant MaHalla and the brewery turned art space KINDL.

Even with all this change of scenery, some things never change. The programme is packed with deeply personal and political performances, put on by a gutsy, female-dominant roster featuring some of the scene’s most exciting choreographers, performers and cultural thinkers.

Here are four programme highlights not to miss.

Crisis revisited

Berlin’s prolific Argentinian choreographer, Constanza Macras, is back with the physical premiere of her latest show, Stages of Crisis, so get ready for that raw spontaneity you may have missed at the live-stream launch at HAU last May. During her 2013 theatrical walk through Müggelwald, titled Forest: The Nature of Crisis, Macras collected a load of material to use for this follow-up performance. Armed with the spoils of that four-hour woodland adventure, the cast of her DorkyPark dance company takes to the stage at Gärten der Welt for a production of warped fairytales in a dystopian supermarket.

Constanza Macras, Stages of Crisis, Arena at Gärten der Welt, Aug 13-14

Shake it, shaman

Tanz im August kicks off with a show presenting all you ever wanted to know about spiritual dance practices on the continent of Asia, courtesy of the intrepidly studious Choy Ka Fai. The Singaporean-born, Berlin- based artist ventured across his home continent, from Siberia to Vietnam, meeting over 50 shamans and filming transient states of mind and body (not unlike the kind seen in Berlin nightclubs). Meshing new technologies with ancient rituals, blending anthropology with art, this is the inquisitive Ka Fai’s second deep dive into the medium, following his 2015 multimedia project SoftMachine.

Choy Ka Fai, CosmicWander: Expedition, KINDL, Aug 6-22

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ARCHIPELAGO – A Spectacle of Blending tells the story of a neo-humanoid presence searching for community. Photo: Martin Rottenkolber

Sister strength

African women – and their resilience – are the focus of Dorothée Munyaneza’s latest piece MAILLES. The British-Rwandan dancer, actress, singer and choreographer is already known for cathartic performances exploring the atrocities of war, including her 2014 Samedi Détente, in which she confronted her memories of the Rwandan genocide and the ghosts that have haunted her since she left Kigali for the UK aged 12. This August at Volksbühne, she is joined by five other women with African roots – poets, flamenco dancers, singers and artists, hailing from Haiti to Somalia and Ethiopia, each with their own story of hardship and determination. Munyaneza weaves the voices of this diaspora into a tapestry of the undefeated.

Dorothée Munyaneza, Mailles, Volksbühne, Aug 14-15

Powerhouse duo

A derelict power plant in Oberschöneweide seems like the perfect setting to watch the end of the world as we know it. ARCHIPELAGO – A Spectacle of Blending tells of a neo-humanoid presence searching for community – and it doesn’t always like what it finds. The result of three years of collaboration between German dance maestro Stephanie Thiersch and German-Austrian composer Brigitta Muntendorf, this big, bold show marries architecture, dance and performance under one industrial roof.

Stephanie Thiersch & Brigitta Muntendorf, ARCHIPELAGO – A Spectacle of Blending, MaHalla, Aug 20-22