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Tanz im August: We’re back, y’all!

Lily Kelting returns as our dedicated Tanz im August blogger: Last year she got sweat upon and brought home confetti in her bra. She hopes the 29th Tanz im August is as intimate and impactful. And she's confident it will be.

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Everyone complained that 2016 was the worst year ever but how naïve that seems now. 2017 is a parade of bad news beamed straight from my cell phone into my eyeballs. As Jia Tolentino wrote in the New Yorker at the close of last year, “I’m worried that the ‘worst year ever’ feeling is half a condition of the Internet, of the way we experience the news as delivered through social media. There is no limit to the amount of misfortune a person can take in via the Internet, and there’s no easy way to properly calibrate it – no guidebook for how to expand your heart to accommodate these simultaneous scales of human experience; no way to train your heart to separate the banal from the profound.” Yes.

And how far away even December seems. At a 2015 performance of “Turbulence (a dance about the economy)” at HAU, Keith Hennessy stood and shouted himself hoarse, incanting “watch dance more than news, watch dance more than news, watch dance more than news.” Back then, it seemed irresponsible to suggest – somehow art-world insular and self-congratulatory. Now Hennessy’s incantation is a voice in the chorus telling us that it’s time to switch our phones to airplane mode and move a little more slowly. And watch a little more dance.

So this August, that’s just what we’re going to do. Not that dance is a form of escapism: the opposite. This year’s program is political – but also oblique, unexpected. A perfect example: Anne Collod recreates Anna Halprin’s experimental 1967 piece, Blank Placard Dance (Aug 25, HAU 2, Aug 27, Gendarmenmarkt), where 30 volunteer performers march silently, holding blank placards, through the streets.

The program is also truly and delightfully diverse. There are performances from across Africa commenting on post-colonialism. There are feminist performances which challenge the definition of feminism… and finally put an end to that tired line, “There are no women on our programme because we couldn’t find any.” Well, producers, please come to Berlin this month and see for yourself.

There’s the world premiere of Arkadi Zaides’ multimedia solo performance TALOS (Aug 30-Sep 2, HAU 3, Sep 1, HAU 2), which deals with the EU’s newest technological initiative for prevention of illegal border crossings. There are talkbacks and Meeting of the Minds and Dance Circles (after all, one of the finest errands of a contemporary dance festival is to engage its participants in critical, curious discussion). There is also good plain FUN! (That’s next weekend [Aug 11-13 HAU 2], from Berlinerin Lea Moro).

Next year marks the big 3-0 for Tanz im August, but thanks to Virve Sutinen and team it’s no calm before the storm of the festival’s big anniversary. The storm before the storm blows its way through this August: dancing feet and limbs from far and wide, performances in turn playful, provocative and profound. We’re here to help you navigate. Welcome aboard.