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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.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed throughout 4 German Cities in July - October 2017. Participants of the Dancing to Connect Refugee Integration Program completed survey questionnaires both before the program and after. The goals of the questionnaires were to evaluate the effects of the Dancing to Connect programs on participants, and to learn of aspects needing improvement or change. The total number of respondents to the pre-program questionnaire was 255, and 295 for the post-program questionnaire. Each program was approximately 1 week long. The programs were led by Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander, Vice President Emad Salem, and Teaching Artists Robin Cantrell, Sean Scantlebury, Clement Mensah, Bethany Mitchell, and Razvan Stoian.
An analysis of the pre-program and post-program surveys yielded significant results. Over the course of the Dancing to Connect program there was:
For the second year in a row, Battery Dance transformed its Dancing to Connect methodology to address the humanitarian issue of refugee integration across the German nation. The plan for 2017 included two phases, necessitated by the school schedules in the Federal States of Baden-Württemberg, Sachsen-Anhalt and Brandenburg.
Each workshop followed the parameters Battery Dance employs in all of its Dancing to Connect programs: +/- 20 students, ages 14 and up, comprise each workshop. Twenty hours of workshop time were spent in the creation of an original dance work in which the participants generate movement sequences that are shaped by BD teaching artists and their teacher trainees into works of choreography which the participants perform on a large stage with fully professional theatrical conditions alongside performances by Battery Dance from its repertoire.
The unique element of this initiative is in the composition of each workshop group – a mixture of refugees, some of whom are unaccompanied minors, with their German counterparts. Changes were observed in each workshop – German students began to cross the chasm that separates them from refugees, refugees became more at ease in expressing themselves physically and verbally, stories were shared and empathy increased. By the performance day, groups were cheering each other, participants from different backgrounds formed an indivisible ensemble, pride was overflowing. Refugees from conflict zones in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Gambia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and elsewhere had made their way to Germany in harrowing conditions, escaping from unimaginable devastation. Seeing them free themselves, at least temporarily, from the grip of their nightmarish past, and their hankering for their families and friends back home, was tremendously moving.
An evaluation of the program was undertaken by BD staff using matched entrance and exit questionnaires filled out by participants in each of the three program sites. The results have since been analyzed and reveal several significant improvements experienced by the participants of the program.
In the words of Chargé d’Affairs Kent Logsdon, U.S. Embassy Berlin:
I would like to take this opportunity to commend Jonathan Hollander and his dancers for all that they do to promote intercultural understanding. Over the past twenty years, the Battery Dance Company has performed in over 60 countries on 6 continents. It is a dance troupe of international renown. But what makes the Battery Dance truly incredible is its commitment to the Dancing to Connect initiative that it launched over a decade ago.
Both my wife Michell (U.S. Embassy Cultural Attaché) and I have devoted our careers to diplomacy. We have both seen many worthwhile and gratifying examples of cultural diplomacy. Well, Battery Dance is cultural diplomacy – dance diplomacy – at its best. It brings people together through creativity and team building. As Jonathan Hollander says: "You can't dance with someone you don’t trust."
In my opinion, that is the key to the Battery Dance’s success as an agent of change and social action. Dancing to Connect has held workshops focused on providing hope, confidence, leadership and life skills to the least advantaged youth in society. It has conducted sessions focused on combating xenophobia and ending discrimination whether it be based on religion, nationality, ethnicity, age, or class. It has shown how public perceptions of the disabled can be changed, and brought attention to the needs of disabled communities around the world.
They are all part now of a broader community, not just here in Freiburg, but a global Dancing to Connect community. For just as Dancing to Connect becomes embedded in the countries it visits, it also communicates a sense of awareness of the world as a whole and an openness to different cultures. This in the inspiration and passion that drives Jonathan and his dancers. And it is something that we can all learn from.
Each year since 2005, Battery Dance Company has conducted a melange of arts education programs and performances in Germany. What began as a very focused, on-off project in Baden-Wurttemberg, developed into a multi-tiered program that spread to five German Federal States.
Successful programs often breed opportunities for follow-on activities, especially when personal relationships have been built with local sponsors and community leaders.
When on-site rehearsal time is anticipated to be very limited, extensive background communication and research is helpful in order to foresee any problems well in advance and resolve them beforehand.
Plan itineraries well in advance and think imaginatively about ways to shoe-horn programs onto other tours. The expense of conducting the Breisach program would have been too high, had it not been grafted on to a previously scheduled Asia Tour, using the Frankfurt Airport as a hub.
On June 23rd, Battery Dance Company returned to Breisach, the city where it had staged the acclaimed “Dances for the Blue House” in 2006, to participate in the 10th Anniversary commemorating the opening of the Blue House as a living memorial to the Jews of Breisach. Seven members of the Company participated – 5 performers, artistic director and technical director.
Three events took place in close succession before an audience estimated at 200. First, a series of site-specific performances were presented within 5 rooms of the Blue House:
• a community room on the ground floor where a BDC dancer performed along with musician Thomas Wenk (resident of Breisach, professor of music at the Freiburg Conservatory)
• A prayer room in which dossiers of Jewish families are stored in a wooden ‘ark’
• A study room where the recently deceased Cantor, Ralph Eisenmann, had prepared his sermons
• The former bedroom of Eisenmann and his wife, where a rock came through the window, a precursor to the events that were to follow in the Nazi movement
• A small kitchen where the audience watched the dancer and reader from the open doorway.
The audience was asked to form a ‘silent procession’ and filed through the rooms, following a pathway that was marked on the floor with colored tape. There were readers in each room who recited passages from texts included as an addendum to this report. After the audience had filed out of the house and seated itself on chairs and benches that had been placed on the closed-off street and in the shade of a large tree, the dancers dashed out of the house. They had changed from their cream-colored silk costumes into brightly colored “rain suits” and ran around the side yard of the Blue House, climbed a scaffolding, and ceremoniously unwrapped the plastic sheeting covering a newly installed sculpture created by German artist Heike Endemann. While the audience took respite in the garden of the Blue House, with cakes and coffee, the Battery Dance Company team was transported to the Breisgau Halle where the Company’s tech director had been working all day with local crew on preparing the stage, lighting and sound for a full-fledged performance. At 7 pm, the performance took place, featuring a new work, “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost” by Polish choreographer Jacek Luminski and two segments from “AUTOBIOGRAPHICA”. Introductory remarks were given by the Public Affairs Officer of the Consulate General Frankfurt and by Battery Dance Company Artistic Director. The audience included a huge span of generations with local children of under 10 years old all the way up to people in the 80’s. Jewish Holocaust survivors and families of survivors from Breisach came from as far away as the U.S., Switzerland, U.K., Israel and France. For them, the events had a special resonance. However, the local audience from Breisach and Freiburg, including 4 young adults who had participated in the original Dances for the Blue House and Dancing to Connect programs, as well as teachers from Freiburg schools who had coordinated the earlier programs, also attended and accorded powerful appreciation for all of the events.
Battery Dance Company led their third inter- generational performance here in 2012.
This was a development of previous Inter-generational projects that happened in 2010 and 2011.
Battery Dance Company held an inter-generational program here in 2011.
This project was a follow up to the inter-generational program created by Battery Dance in Germany, 2010.
The company worked with 20 participants between the ages of 14-80 years old. They explored the themes of time and aging to produce a 40 minutes performance that was showcased at the end of the week.
Battery Dance Company performed here as a part of its Dancing to Connect program in February 2011. This was a groundbreaking, multinational project uniting Israeli and Palestinian teens through dance for the first time in Bochum, Germany. Four BDC teaching artists conducted an intensive week of workshops with mixed groups of students from Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Bochum, brought together under the auspices of Encounters, Peter Maffay Foundation & the NRW Government. A trilateral youth exchange, this iteration of Dancing to Connect aimed to train the young people as mediators in the Middle East conflict and as exemplars of tolerance and dialogue. DtC introduced the universal languages of dance and music to build communicative bridges among students whose backgrounds are starkly polarized. This program was continued in June when the same German and Palestinian youth were invited to Israel to continue the historic collaboration. See Kfar Menachem, Israel for more information.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed here as a part of Dancing to Connect in Germany 2010.
Please see Germany 2010 Overview for Lessons Learned in Aachen, Bochum-Wattenscheid, Essen-Kray, and Witten.
Please see Germany 2010 Overview for the narrative in Aachen, Bochum-Wattenscheid, Essen-Kray, and Witten.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed here as a part of Dancing to Connect in Germany 2010.
Please see Germany 2010 Overview for Lessons Learned in Frankfurt and Wiesbaden.
Please see Germany 2010 Overview for Narrative of Frankfurt and Wiesbaden.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed here as a part of Dancing to Connect in Germany 2010.
June 15 - 23, 2010
For more information, please see Germany 2010.
Please see Germany 2010 Overview for Lessons Learned in Halle and Wittenberg.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed in seven different cities and towns in four different regions of Germany.
For further information on project activities, see specific regions:
Chosing a Timely Theme
Given German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s declaration on October 16, 2010, that the Germany’s so-called multi-cultural society had failed, Battery Dance Company’s theme of Inclusion/Exclusion was a powerful demonstration of the opposite. Over a period of 38 days, in nearly 25 schools among 4 German States, Battery Dance Company teaching artists gave students the opportunity to reflect on this potent theme as it impacts them and their communities. These students were from various disenfranchised sectors such as Turkish, African and Central Asian immigrants, the learning and physically disabled, residents of the former East German States, unemployed youth and others.
Training German Teaching Artists
A new and important aspect of the multi-year project was introduced in Dancing to Connect 2010: the sustainability of the project through the training of German teaching artists. German dance teachers from the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst as well as other freelancers from Berlin, Brandenburg and NRW States, joined their American counterparts as members of the DtC pedagogical teams. In this way, they gained practical training in the DtC approach and were introduced to local teachers and school administrators – opening doors for future employment.
Battery Dance Company’s Dancing to Connect program in Germany entered its 5th season in June, 2010, with workshops stretching across 10 cities in 4 Federal States. The over-arching theme of the 2010 program was Inclusion/Exclusion. This theme was first posited by Inka Thunecke, Director of the Heinrich-Böll- Stiftung-Brandenburg, at the end of the 2009 iteration of Dancing to Connect that had been centered on the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and on which H-B-S-B and BDC had first collaborated. Inka was inspired by the impact of the teaching artists of Battery Dance Company and its partners from Drastic Action who she had seen working with children of Turkish immigrants in Berlin and learning disabled jobless youth in the depressed town of Eberswalde. She had witnessed how the DtC project injected a spirit of optimism, empowerment and self-realization for these ‘have-nots’ of German society.
10 American teaching artists from Battery Dance Company and Drastic Action collaborated on the Dancing to Connect workshops in 2010, with program management handled by BDC Artistic Director and technical support for each of the five culminating performances by BDC’s production designer.
In the original plan, German free-lance dancers and dance teachers would have been trained in the Dancing to Connect methodology in each city where workshops were held. In this way, the gains of DtC could be multiplied even after the American artists had departed. Unfortunately, funding was not sufficient to realize this plan in full; however, in five of the cities -- Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Potsdam, Wittenberg and Witten – training was held with local teaching partners. In the first two cities, trainees were selected from the pool of graduate students in the Masters Degree program in Contemporary Dance Pedagogy at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. Throughout the tour, an Australian dancer accompanied the team, gaining training through a fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts.
The multi-layered, international cast of characters that had come together to forward Dancing to Connect in Germany might appear to be the result of a carefully constructed business plan. However, the truth is very different: In 2005, we envisioned the project in Germany to be a one-off event.
Looking back at the formative stages that had laid the groundwork for this unexpected evolution in Germany, a conversation in Washington with a long-time staffer at the Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau had provided guidance that was pivotal. She suggested that we apply for Speakers Grants from the US Embassy in Berlin in order to lay the groundwork for what was, at the time, a small and contained program. The meetings and talks with different stakeholders in Freiburg and Berlin, representatives of educational, funding and community institutions, yielded unexpected results. It was suggested that we exploit the opportunity of having our dance companies in Germany to work with youth in schools. Here was one of the keys to our success: the fact that the formative notion of a youth outreach program was offered by the host country. In the next 6 years, unimagined developments occurred: the project continued in Freiburg for the next three years but also expanded to 23 other cities; funding continued every year from the US Embassy in Berlin and Consulates in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Leipzig; but in 2009 and 2010, U.S. support was overtaken by support from the German Government and German foundations, guaranteeing the growth and sustainability of the program.
The Theme of Inclusion/Exclusion was first posited by Inka Thunecke, Director of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung-Brandenburg, over lunch in a French cafe in the jewel-box city of Potsdam. This was in October, 2009, at the end of the earlier iteration of [Dancing to Connect] that was centered on the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Inka had seen Battery Dance Company’s and Drastic Action teaching artists working with children of Turkish immigrants in Berlin and learning disabled jobless youth in the depressed town of Eberswalde, and had witnessed how the dancing project had injected a spirit of optimism, empowerment and self-realization for these ‘have-nots’ of German society.
Given German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s declaration on October 16, 2010, that the Germany’s so-called multi-cultural society had failed, Battery Dance Company’s theme of Inclusion/Exclusion was a powerful demonstration of the opposite. Over a period of 38 days, in nearly 25 schools among 4 German States, Battery Dance Company teaching artists gave students the opportunity to reflect on this potent theme as it impacts them and their communities. These students were from various disenfranchised sectors such as Turkish, African and Central Asian immigrants, the learning and physically disabled, residents of the former East German States, unemployed youth and others._
For more information, please see Germany 2010 Overview.
To see performance footage of one of the schools, Otto-Hahn-Schule, that DtC worked with during their time in Frankfurt, Click here
Otto-Hahn-Schule was one of the Frankfurt Schools where the group taught and performed. We were very happy to return after having staged a performance and master class there in 2007.
Mayuna & Sean, Teaching artists of Battery Dance Company taught 15 girls and 10 boys (ages 12 – 18) how to create their own choreography on the theme "Inclusion/Exclusion".
In these videos, Jonathan Hollander, Artistic and Executive Director of Battery Dance Company and Dancing to Connect and Gabriele Telgenbuescher, Deputy Principal Otto-Hahn-Schule in Frankfurt, speak about the importance for the school and for the students of such ground-breaking cultural initiative.
Make yourself uncomfortable - stretch to the limit - it just might produce the results you need:
In 2009, we applied for the second time to the German Federal Government via the Ministry in Bonn that looks after the Trans-Atlantic Program, for funding of Dancing to Connect. Having hit the jackpot the previous year, we had no idea whether (despite DtC's success) we could succeed a second time. Beyond that, we had expanded our reach from 1 State in 2006 and 07 to 3 States in 08 and 09 and now -- lunacy -- intended to work in 4 States in '10. Even though our plans were grandiose, we were attached to each and every element and wouldn't hear of jettisoning a part of it.
So, there was only one thing to do in case the Bundesmin. failed to materialize: Plan B!
Through a contact of a contact, I found the name and e-mail address of a key person in the Education Ministry. Though I was told that Germany is highly decentralized, and States make up their own mind vis a vis educational programs, I had nothing to lose.
I made my way to Germany 6 months prior to the start of the project -- luckily, the US Embassy in Berlin agreed to bring me over on a Speaker Program.
I was on my own, spending two or three days in each State, meeting with potential partners from morning 'til late at night, and then jumping on a train to the next city. I phoned the Education Ministry and spoke to Madame X (I shall refrain from using her real name to protect her identity but for any good detectives, don't bother -- she has just retired!) who agreed to meet me that evening! One problem: Madame X was in Bonn and I was at the other end of the State of NRW, in the small town of Witten, in a very important meeting that ended at 5 pm. "If you can make it", she challenged, "I'll pick you up at the train station and you can join me at the opening of an exhibition followed by a formal dinner."
A formal dinner in Bonn was not my idea of a fun evening, considering that my hotel was in Düsseldorf, an hour by train from Bonn, and I had a plane reservation to fly to Berlin the next morning at 6:30 a.m.
Here's where the stretch came in....
Fortunately, German's love their cars and love to drive fast. So I hitched a ride to Cologne with Frank, a PR executive who loved the concept of DtC and was part of the group meeting in Witten.
I had to close my eyes as he sped at top speed on the Autobahn in his deluxe vehicle.
I sprang out of the car as we reached the train station and boarded the next train for Bonn, arriving exactly on time to be picked up by Mme X.
By this time, having been in meetings all day in 4 different cities, I was exhausted. Fortunately for me, Mme. X was in the same state, and after we saw the packed crowd at the exhibition, we both agreed that a quiet supper was the best choice!
We found a table at the adjacent restaurant and dug into some wine and an unexceptional meal. The exceptional part was our conversation: We hit it off in a big way and were carrying on like old friends.
On the way back to the station, I heard the words I had only dreamed of: "How much do you need?"
Fast forward: we got the grant from the Bundesministerium, minus about 25% that had been an across-the-boards cut mandated by the government in keeping with the recession. I contacted Mme. X who promptly filled in the gap and we were off and running with DtC 2010 in all 4 States.
The take-away lesson here is obvious: Never turn down an invitation from a potential funder even if it means 3 hours of sleep and indigestion!
For more information, please see Germany 2010 Overview
Please see Germany 2009 Overview for more details on this Dancing to Connect Tour.