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Tanz im August

Vivre Sutinen: “We have more diversity than ever before”

Artistic director Vivre Sutinen on this year’s ambitious Tanz im August programme which spotlights indigenous artists.

New Creation by Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão and his company Grupo de Rua will be performed on August 26-27. Photo: Wonge Bergmann

What is going to be special about this year’s Tanz im August?

The special feature is that we are going to have five bigger performances at the Berliner Festspiele and with those, we will have more diversity than ever before. We’ve been working with and mentoring artists over the last few years for the big stages, which we have also done in collaboration with 11 other dance festivals in Europe. We’ve initiated a big EU project that is working with putting diversity on the big stages and now we will see it, so that’s very exciting.

What is the focus of this year’s festival?

We used [the pandemic time] to connect with artists that we had a hard time connecting with in our ‘normal years’, especially indigenous artists. And from those discussions, there’s now a little red thread of indigenous artists in the programme. We will actually open with quite a famous company from Australia, Marrugeku, founded by an indigenous leader, choreographer and a settler. So, it’s a dance theatre performance about migration, indigenous peoples and the questionable migrant policies the Australian government has adopted with closing people onto Christmas Island.

It’s about the stories of the dancers on the stage.

It’s about the stories of the dancers on the stage, they are mixed into this framework. It’s a very touching and celebrative series [Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Aug 5-7]. That is also connected to the work of Elle Sofe Sara [HAU1, Aug 12-13], the Sámi choreographer from the northern part of Europe – pretty much our only indigenous peoples in Europe. She has a piece dealing with land ownership and they are doing very beautiful yoik singing. I come from this part of the world, so for me, I’ve heard it a lot all my life, and I [still find it] astonishing to hear this way of singing. It’s also composed by a very famous composer [Frode Fjellheim].

Amazonia by Martha Hincapié Charry will appear at HAU1 on August 20-21. Photo: Liliana Merizalde

What are your personal highlights?

Martha Hincapié Charry [HAU1 Aug 20-21], who is a Colombian artist with an indigenous background who also lives and works in Berlin, will do her solo Amazonia about her stay in the rainforest during the pandemic. She will also conduct some discussions with other indigenous artists at the festival. I’m also really looking forward to Oona Doherty’s new work Navy Blue [Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Aug 18-19]. The name of her performance refers to the working man’s clothes, and she brings something completely different to the stage. She worked with Jamie XX on the music, so there are very high expectations.

We are also very happy to have Bruno Beltrão [Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Aug 26-27] with his absolutely fantastic dancers and choreographic language, which is maybe one of the most original on the planet. This year we also have Israel Galván [Haus der Berliner Festspiele, August 22-23]. Israel is an incredible flamenco dancer, he’s a big star, and will be joined by legendary musician Niño de Elche.

What is your favourite venue in the festival?

Berlin is beautiful because it’s been able to hold onto alternative spaces like Sophiensaele and HAU, but I have to say that I have a love affair with Volksbühne. It’s one of the most important theatres in Europe and you feel that when you go there. Whatever you put on there bears this meaningful context to say something, especially this year, where we have a South African choreographer Robyn Orlin [Volksbühne Aug 17-18] working with the dance company from Johannesburg. It’s a beautiful, colourful take on the post-colonial state, not in a guilt-ridden way, but in celebrating the imagination and the history. It also has beautiful music and costumes.

Need more tips? Here are five shows to catch at Tanz im August 2022

By Lennart Perlenhem

Virve Sutinen has been the creative director of Tanz im August festival for contemporary dance for eight years running. Finnish-born Sutinen has also directed several internationally recognised dance festival, and draws on her own background of dance and choreography to bring the world’s cream of the crop to perform at the Berlin dance festival.