ITI - Germany
German Centre Of The International Theatre Institute

Transforming Acts

Premiere: 15th of August 2014 during the festival „Tanz im August“ HAU3, Berlin


08 to 16th of  May 2015 - Berlin, Kunstquartier Bethanie

4th to 5th of September 2015 - Frankfurt am Main Mousonturm

20th to 24th of October 2015 - Maribor (Slovenia) Borštnikovo festival

5th to 8th of November 2015 - Leipzig euro-scene

21st to 24th of April 2016 - TanzQuartier Wien

30th August to 9th of September 2016 - Basel Theaterfestival Basel


A Kaleidoscope by Penelope Wehrli and Detlev Schneider

A project by the German Centre of the International Theatre Institute

A Tanzfonds Erbe project

Concept note

For me, ballet and Tanztheater have a pilot function.
Also the function of a sewage treatment plant:
to clean the instruments, just like cubism did for painting.
- Heiner Müller 1986

In the seventies of the last century, many artists who were in search of fresh forms of expression and thus crossed genre and categorical enclosures considered dance as an autonomous form of art. It was in the process of liberating itself from the burden of its traditions and it influenced the theatre avant-garde in a lasting way.
Its highly artificial vocabulary of movement, the choreographed group elements, the composition of performers into images in space,— in general, usurping the space as a topos to achieve awareness for the sculptural character of human physique and for the performer as a kinetic sculpture — repetitive sequences, but also the virtuous nature and abstract figures in ballet’s language, and the choric—these all became fields of reference for artists who were searching for new and more abstract forms beyond mimetic and representational realism in theatre.

Heiner Müller and Einar Schleef touchingly testified to the extent that Pina Bausch’s choreographies influenced their thinking about art and their search for contemporary scenic images of the tragic.

At the same time, in Middle Europe the synergies of dance, sound and image space developed the power the New York Judson Church protagonists had been working on since the 1960s. Previously, Cage and Cunningham had been experimenting at the Black Mountain College with interactions between sound, dance and scientific/technological thought constructs.

This development also had an influence on Robert Wilson’s works. His breakthrough with Einstein on the Beach owed a great deal to Lucinda Child's cooperation in choreography and dance.

But dance did not just remain a stimulator and model. It also began to adapt the specifics and innovations from other art forms, and it thus strengthened its potential to influence; for example, dramaturgic thinking in multi-level narratives, new textures of language, speaking and script, as well as the rapidly growing potential for imagination within electronic media for images and sound.

In a first approach, these highly fruitful reciprocal processes of inspiration and transformation from the final three decades of the last century will be highlighted in our project and made tangible with numerous impressive examples. To do so, it collects image and sound material from significant performances by 12 choreographers and directors from their own as well as theatre and dance archives; it combines them with video portraits that were produced especially for this installation: Pina Bausch / Laurent Chétouane / Jo Fabian / Jan Fabre / Johann Kresnik / Thomas Lehmen / Heiner Müller / Einar Schleef / Meg Stuart / Robert Wilson / The Wooster Group / NEUER TANZ/VA Wölfl

Our selection thus addresses the first wave of integrative and transformative cooperation between different arts, forms of expression and media in theatrical projects at the end of the last century.

Of course, the list could be easily expanded, and we soon have an eye on Marthaler’s subtle choric/choreographic repetitions in his 1990s song plays, and Castorf’s reference to Kresnik and his doubled arrangements created by instant video projections.

Transforming Acts would like to evoke this period of a new, intense interaction. We know that remembering doesn’t just simply bring the object back the way it was recorded, but rather overwrites it with our acutely current viewpoints and interests. Each memory of something past is also its visualization, its re-forming for the present.
In this sense, our selection of artists, their works and their presentation is, of course, subjective.
Remembering means working on the present.

  • An extensive publication to Transforming Acts (English/German) can be ordered from the ITI office (4 €).

Artistic direction: Penelope Wehrli (concept, interviews, scenography, score)
Detlev Schneider (concept, dramaturgy), Project direction: Michael Freundt (concept, organisation), Research and digitalization: Thilo Wittenbecher / Mime Centrum Berlin,
Research assistance: Christopher Langer, Video portraits / artistic assistance: Sirko Knüpfer, System architecture / artistic assistance: Joa Glasstetter, Video processing:
Constanze Altmann, Beathe Kunath, Sound design: Christian Obermaier, Construction:
Eik Döring, Technical direction: Thomas Koch