Course Descriptions

An Introduction to Modern Germany and Berlin

Instructor: Roland Dollinger
Required course
This four week-long summer course will introduce all students to the history and culture of modern Germany with an emphasis on its capital, Berlin. Through the exploration of literature, film, and historical sources, students will gain a solid overview of the main historical and cultural developments in modern Germany from the early 20th century to the present. As the site of some of the most fascinating, momentous, and horrifying events of the 20th century, Berlin offers an ideal vantage point for an in-depth study. This class will provide students with a more general context for their other seminars in dance or architecture/visual arts. Exploring the streets of this historically self-conscious city will supplement our course work with rich-lived experience.

Dance Practice and Study

All elements (labeled A, B, and C below) required

(A) Morning Practice (2 hours, M–Th)
Instructors: Professor Ingo Reulecke, Helge Musial
This component provides the student with various movement and creative skills. Class will include specific and practical improvisation exercises as well as set exercises and movement sequences. We will begin by ensuring a clear anatomical understanding of the body in order to facilitate optimum alignment in the forms we will be studying. Various somatic techniques as well as ‘soft' martial arts will inform our physical practice, thus the student will have access to a number of physical parameters that can be put to use in the next part of the class. A weekly workshop will provide the student with support and tools to develop Independent Projects, wherein both improvisational and compositional methods are treated equally. We will endeavor to become familiar with, and utilize to some degree, Susan Leigh Foster's concept of choreographic empathy.

Students are given opportunity and strongly encouraged to take one class a week in the Berlin dance community.

(B) Academic Seminar (2 hours, Tu/Th)
From Political Revolutionaries to Cultural Missionaries: Dance and Dancers in Germany from 1900 – 2013
Instructor: Jacalyn Carley
During the last century, Germany (both East and West) experienced five different forms of governments, deeply affecting not only the conditions under which dance artists worked, but also the works they created. This seminar will place major German choreographers and dancers in their historical and political context, and particularly focus on dance in post-war and unified Germany.

We will:

  • Investigate the politically motivated worker-dancers of the Weimar Republic (Jo Mihaly, Valeska Gert, Hans Weidt)
  • Compare the "bunker mentality" of choreographers during WWII (Mary Wigman, Gret Palucca, Rudolf von Laban) with those who went into exile
  • Explore the work of Tom Schilling, Hans Weidt and Gret Palucca who fueled the dance as social-realism in East Germany, while Kurt Jooss, Pina Bausch, Bill Forsythe and Hans Kresnik took dance into new political and abstract dimensions in the West
  • Turn to choreographers whose work is now considered to be groundbreaking, i.e., work supported and exported around the world by the German government as cultural heritage (Pina Bausch, Sasha Waltz, Bill Forsythe)

Finally, Community Dance is currently revolutionizing dance and public educational models in Germany. We will investigate Berlin projects that bring choreographers into the schools for extended professional engagements, as well as high visibility projects that blend multi-generational and multi-cultural populations with major symphony orchestras, thus confronting the elitism of ballet and abstract art with grass roots passion and professional attitude.

Site visits to various institutions, viewing extant film, and attending dance performances will extend the scope of classroom lectures and help us understand the German concept of dance as a sustainable, revolutionary, exportable and a life-changing art form. The high value placed on dance, including government support for universities, private institutions, state ballet companies and freelance projects (all with a lack of censorship), will guide our discussion on what is dance and our own place in today's dance world.

(C) Independent Choreographic Project
A Studio Presentation at the Ufer Studios

Instructors/Mentors: Ingo Reulecke, Helge Musial, Jacalyn Carley

In the fifth and final week, students are given 24-hour use of a large studio-theater at either Ufer or Eden studios in Berlin. With the assistance of instructors, works will be completed and presented in a semi-professional situation. Throughout the four weeks prior, students will have had special composition/choreography workshops with Morning Practice instructors to inform and nurture the choreographic process. Instructors help students engage in and transform material, and delve more deeply into their own Berlin experiences.

The final presentation also includes a brief demonstration of material covered during the four weeks of Morning Practice.

The Practice and Study of Visual Arts & Architecture

BridgeAll elements (labeled A, B, and C below) required

(A) Morning Practice (2 hours, M–Th)
Instructors: Lara Lu Faroqhi (Drawing) or Klaus W. Eisenlohr (Photography)
Visual Arts & Architecture students have two options for Morning Practice, i.e., drawing or photography. Both courses are designed to resonate with the Academic Seminar. They cannot be taken simultaneously.

Drawing students will explore the current visual culture of Berlin, creating sketchbooks that include notes, drawings, found images, and creative writing. We will be on-the-go, visiting exhibitions, galleries and artists’ studios. Students are encouraged to refine and define their personal motivations for making and understanding art, while, at the same time, gaining insight into the Berlin art scene. In addition, some assignments will use works of art and architecture to train the eye and develop an understanding for what is critical in a particular work.

Morning Practice in photography focuses on visual field research for urban settings in Berlin, and on investigation of visual traces of history. We look at current cultural influences in Berlin, sites of importance and, for the most part, visit locations with historical resonance. The student's goal however is not to simply depict those places but to give personal meaning / interpretation – by striving for composition and expression, by creating spatial relations or visual re-interpretations. The use of a different point of view of the camera-eye, and the transformation into visual media (a print series), together with the well-informed decisions for a presentation may lead to new and critical insights. The entire process includes image selection, working with series, preparations for printing, group discussions, preparing and structuring a presentation of a cohesive body of work and critical reflection on presented work. Photography students must have at least one semester of college-level photography and a camera with manual aperture.

(B) Academic Seminar: Challenging Art and Architecture: Critical Interventions in Berlin (2 hours, Tu/Th)
Instructors: Gundula Avenarius, Christian Dengler
As the capital of a united Germany in search of its identity, Berlin is the place where east and west clash and mesh. Fascinated by the vast open tracts in a European capital, international architects and artists have flocked to Berlin.

The breathtaking transformations of the last twenty years are, however, but another chapter in a tradition of upheaval in Berlin. After 1700, Berlin changed from a sober Prussian town to an elegant Baroque center, then from a late 19th century imperial capital with a thriving industrial base to become an innovative cultural center during the post-WWI years. After Hitler's pretensions of Germania ended in the rubble and human catastrophe of WWII, Berlin showcased the Cold War rivalry between two political systems.

Students visit galleries, explore the reorganization of Berlin's world class art collections, debate the planned reconstruction of the royal city palace, and consider alternatives to the concept of "critical reconstruction."

We then expand our framework for understanding the changing concepts of art and architecture by moving back through transformative moments in Berlin's history. Examining vivid and often controversial positions in art and architecture, students learn to analyze each period as an expression of a (national or post-national) state of mind, and come to apprehend concepts like figurative or abstract, traditional or modern in architecture and artworks.

By studying symbolic and image politics, we come to understand how art and architecture transport political ideas, and how these are read, displayed and consumed. We thus also learn about the changing ‘notions' of art, from Romanticism to Bauhaus to Beuys, and consider the concerns of the individual artists and architects as well as the wider historical, political, economic, social and cultural background in which their works were created.

We never meet in a classroom. Instead, students work with original artworks in galleries and collections, seek out buildings and designs. The key prerequisites for this program are intellectual curiosity and creativity, and the desire to interrogate our own assumptions about the possible meanings of art and architecture.

Note: Visual Arts students spend a lot of time on their feet each day, getting to various locations in greater Berlin and then exploring them, and should be prepared for the physical demands.

(C) Independent Project
Challenging Art: Project Presentations
Instructors/Mentors: Lara Lu Faroqhi, Klaus W. Eisenlohr
During the final week of the program students pursue independent projects, which will be mentored by one of the instructors or, depending on the medium or topic selected, an outside advisor. During Morning Practice and the afternoon Academic Seminar, students will have both developed the artistic skills and acquired the intellectual background for understanding their own positions in the art field. In the culminating fifth week of the program, they will complete projects that either take on an artistic challenge, reflect the process thus far, or investigate new perspectives. For emerging artists and architects, students will learn to write an artist's statement and to present their work as part of the group show. Students in the humanities or German cultural studies might choose, for example, to conduct additional on-site investigations, explore readings and approaches to visual arts/architecture criticism.

German Language Studies

This is an intensive language program at Die Neue Schule in Berlin. Classes meet every morning for five weeks, and twice a week afternoons (four weeks) for intensive comprehension and speaking. Language students take part in all excursions and tours and also have the opportunity to meet with Professor Dollinger in individual tutorials during the independent study week.

A Closer Look at Dance in Berlin