Dancer and actress Anita Berber was born in Leipzig on this day in 1899, however it is Berlin with which she is most readily associated (and while you’ll search the city in vain for an Anita-Berber-Straße there is a club named after her). And starting next week the city hosts a twelve-day celebration of its most notorious performer which for once focuses more on performance than notoriety. ANITA BERBER – RETRO/PERSPECTIVE is staged by dance company MS Schrittmacher at Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin. Now an artists’ collective, Bethanien began life as an infirmary, where none other than novelist Theodor Fontane used to sling pills in an earlier career as a pharmacist. It was here – and this is the more relevant fact – that Anita Berber died in 1928, scarcely older than the 20th century.
The impetus for revisiting Berber’s choreography came from a chance discovery, as the organisers explain:
In addition to biographical literature, professional and contemporaneous documents of the 1920’s, the research is based on material from the German Dance Archive in Cologne and the Anita Berber Archive in Berlin, where Martin Stiefermann discovered the slim volume “Anita Berberová – Study“ by the Czech choreographer and author Joe Jenčík. In it, Jenčík describes both the dramaturgy and effect of Berber’s choreographies in a very unique and emotional way. As part of the project ANITA BERBER – RETRO/PERSPEKTIVE, MS Schrittmacher will be publishing Jenčíks study from 1930 for the first in German translation.
Based on Jenčíks study, choreographer Martin Stiefermann has reconstructed select solos by Anita Berber together with dancer Brit Rodemund. Their goal is to approximate Berber’s original work and its artistic radicality as closely as possible from today’s perspective. After a successful presentation of the first results of this work in January 2014, Martin Stiefermann and Brit Rodemund continue their reconstruction work on Anita Berber and will present this in a second lecture performance at Kunstquartier Bethanien, Anita Berber’s place of death.
Later in the year comes another Berber study, Ein getanztes Leben by Lothar Fischer. Unfortunately it appears that this book, like the author’s two previous books on Berber, will only be available in German.
And here I’d like to send a shout-out to a long-time loyal reader: my Dad Terry, who turns [redacted] today. Lots of love and best wishes from all of us here at Strange Flowers (me).