Breisach, Germany

Breisach, Germany
July 2005

Battery Dance Company worked and performed here in 2005. 

Please see the narrative for lessons learned.

During the week of January 27th, 2005, the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, the American choreographers Aviva Geismar and Jonathan Hollander traveled to Germany on a grant from the U.S. Government to present their project “Dances for the Blue House.”

Dancers, students, teachers and community, foundation, corporate and government leaders offered to join the project, strengthening and expanding it into a truly bilateral effort. Together they have forged a joint approach to the exploration of a universal issue: how do the next generations of Germans and Americans respond to the Holocaust?

At the heart of this expansive program of international cultural exchange is The Blue House project of Breisach, that demonstrates poignantly and powerfully the actions individuals can take to change attitudes and air social and historical injustices in their communities. The Blue House is an old building which served as the gathering place Battery Dance Company in “Secrets of the Paving Stones” by J. Hollander for Breisach’s 300-year- old Jewish community up until the community’s demise. After decades of neglect and decay, the house was slated to be torn down in 1999. Instead, it was purchased by a group of community members, the Förderverein, and restored as a living museum and memorial. With the building as a base, the Forderverein searched for the survivors of Breisach’s Jewish Community and their descendents. These individuals have returned to Breisach three times at the invitation of the Forderverein and the town government, and have shared their histories with community members and schools. The Forderverein, in its endeavor to enlarge the scope of its programs, has invited Geismar and Hollander to develop this new initiative joining art and social consciousness.

Jonathan recalls that Walking through the streets of Breisach and Freiburg during those days of summer, 2006, was like time-traveling. He said:

I passed shoulder-to-shoulder with University students, holiday revelers, shopkeepers and shoppers, while simultaneously feeling the presence of the Jewish deportees, Nazi soldiers and everyday people of the 1930’s and 40’s in a surreal, layered march of time. The teenagers of Freiburg schools were unflinching as they created their emotional choreographies, avoiding the easy pull of show-off dancing; exposing a profound depth of feelings through movement. They tore at my heart, those young people, giving me renewed hope for the future and a surety that the ghosts I passed on the streets were smiling.