Battery Dance completed the third year of Dancing to Connect for Refugee Integration over a 5-week period in September/October, 2018, addressing the humanitarian issue of refugee integration across the German nation. Cities, schools, foundations and education offices in the three Federal States of Baden-Württemberg, Sachsen-Anhalt and Brandenburg participated with approximately 350 students from a total of 20 schools. A cadre of teacher trainees shadowed and partnered with Battery Dance’s practitioners.
The Rewards of Building Bridges
Battery Dance's frequent returns to Germany have developed strong relationships with hosts, rendering a fulfilling sense of partnership. This was felt especially during a celebratory reception following the final performance at the Marienkirche.
Battery Dance returned for its 3rd consecutive year to cities across Germany with Dancing to Connect for Refugee Integration. Each workshop followed the parameters Battery Dance employs in all of its Dancing to Connect programs: +/- 20 students, ages 14 and up, in each of 19 individual workshops. Twenty hours of practice time were spent in the creation of original dance works comprising movement sequences generated by the participants. The workshops culminated in performances on large stages with fully professional theatrical conditions alongside performances by the Battery Dancers.
The schedule of workshops was based upon the academic calendar of the German Federal States, beginning in Sachsen-Anhalt where Battery Dance returned to Dessau-Roßlau and the surrounding cities of Bitterfeld-Wolfen and Wittenberg for the first time since 2009. Three workshops took place in Dessau with one each in B-W and Wittenberg. With the anticipation of an audience in excess of the capacity of the Marienkirche, an historic church in the center of Dessau-Roßlau that has been converted into a stunning performance venue, two performances were scheduled. City officials and leaders from the Landeschulamt invested great care in organizing the program. Among other things, they arranged for dance flooring to be laid on top of the stone surface of the stage area to ameliorate the hardness. Exceptional hospitality was laid on, with tours of the city and a celebratory reception following the final performance rendering a true sense of partnership. Despite what appeared to be minimal publicity, the Marienkirche was packed with every seat taken and some standing on the sides for the matinee and evening performances.
Next, the Company returned to Brandenburg State, with workshops in Potsdam (2), Rathenow and Oranienberg. The Battery Dancers were supported by 5 teacher trainees, one of whom was a Syrian refugee and professional dancer, who had supported the workshop program in 2017. The students gave their all in the final performance at Schlosstheater Rheinsberg, which was documented on video by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Brandenburg. Another separate performance by students from the Steuben Gesamtschule was presented before a full house at the Reithalle of the Hans Otto Theater for a special ceremony honoring innovative programs for refugees across the region.
Responsibility for the 3 programs in Weinheim was handled by the head teacher from the Helen Keller Schule in Weinheim, Alexander Haas, who had done so in 2017 as well. The school provided the necessary spaces for three workshops; and music, theater and social work teachers supported the workshops along with Iraqi refugee Halo Azad (who had been a participant in a Dancing to Connect program in Erbil, Iraq, in 2012!). Simultaneously, a group of refugee students in Mannheim worked with two Battery Dance teaching artists supported by Syrian refugee Saeed Hani acting as a teacher trainee and translator. Saeed has established himself as a professional dancer/choreographer based in Trier and relocated for the duration of the program to Mannheim. His German, Arabic and English skills made him an invaluable support – and learning Battery Dance’s arts education methodology will add to his portfolio of skills for future work.
The finale among the schools in Weinheim and Mannheim took place in a sports hall at Heddesheim since it had proved impossible to source a theater venue in the participating cities. A good crowd showed up to celebrate the achievement of the students, with Halo Azad serving as the master of ceremonies.
Dancing to Connect for Refugee Integration was chosen as the opening event of 2018 American Days in Stuttgart . Christiane Pyka and her staff at the DAZ organized the entire project, beginning with an opening press conference and a meet-and-greet reception for all teachers and local coordinators from the Theaterhaus Stuttgart with the Battery Dance team. Battery’s teaching artists fanned out across the metropolitan region the next day, provided with maps and public transit tickets provided by the City. Workshops reached diverse schools with an age-spread of 14 – 22 years old and various educational levels. The theater was packed full and received a standing ovation from VIPs as well as parents and teachers from the participating schools.