Dance in the heart of the periphery

View of Stralsund

Peter van Heesen

We are in Western Pommerania: Will it be possible in a country whose coastline belongs entirely to tourists in the summer to create a year-round dance culture worthy of the name?

Between the northeasternmost part of Germany and the northwesternmost corner of Poland runs a stretch of coast called Western Pomerania. Characterized by briny bodies of water known as Bodden, the area is home to enchanting lake landscapes abounding with islands and peninsulas. These lakes are filled by the Oder River and other rivers, which open into the Baltic Sea through countless shallows. The often hard to access and therefore well-protected harbors made it difficult for past invaders to conquer the medieval trading towns such as Stralsund, Greifswald, and Stettin (Szczecin).

Between summer beach vacations and romantic sunsets over the Baltic Sea, it is at least that difficult to imagine a dance culture in the sparsely populated Western Pomeranian hinterland that generates just as much energy as the region’s energy industry amidst all its wind turbines, solar panels, and rapeseed fields. How could it? From afar, Western Pomerania sounds like a vast hilly region, endlessly distant from metropolises like Berlin and Hamburg.

Over the years, dance journalist Elisabeth Nehring has observed that a distinct dance culture is developing between university towns such as Szczecin and Greifswald. In Stralsund, she is involved with the “Fachstelle Tanz Mecklenburg-Vorpommern” association and has gained profound insights into an initiative called “Perform[d]ance.” It is based in Stralsund, but radiates throughout the large district of Vorpommern-Rügen and even beyond. The gene of dance lust that characterised northern Germany, especially in the 19th century, transforms “Perform[d]ance” into dance art. The following story makes it perceptible again.

Peter van Heesen

And for a long time now, dance creators from all over the world have been coming back here, to the open countryside, if you will, because here they find what the cities have long since lost: open spaces and a society that does not have to fight for dance to be recognized but that enjoys it together. This way to the long summer of Western Pomeranian dance culture.

Read on …

By the Baltic Sea


Adventures between sun, sails and clouds: How the Perform[d]ance initiative is bringing dance to rural areas

… or as a lover read for free