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Madeline Ritter Madeline Ritter
photo Bettina Stöss

Ritter has been the director of the five-year Tanzplan Deutschland (Dance Plan Germany) which, although completed in 2010, has left significant legacies for German dance, yielded new ventures and been imitated in many other countries. I met Ritter when she recently accepted an invitation from Ausdance to visit Australia.

The aim of the Tanzplan project from 2005 to 2010 was to act as “a catalyst for the German dance provide dance in Germany with more recognition and establish it as an art form of equal value along with opera and theatre in the public perception and in the perception of those responsible for cultural policy” ( Tanzplan, Ritter explained, was initiated by Germany’s Federal Cultural Foundation. She describes the foundation as “very unusual, a new organisation with an annual budget of €35million and an artistic director—something totally new for a funding body—with an artistic policy. The artistic director Hortensia Völckers had been the director of the Dance Festival München and an independent art curator.

“To put it simply, there are two strands to the foundation. One is very well defined; people can apply for funds and there are juries and so on. Then there is a significant part of the budget which is totally free— an amount that is not set and the Federal Cultural Foundation can decide itself what to do with the money it allocates. The foundation looked at the state of art in society and the first thing it did when it started in 2002 was to take up different themes like shrinking cities, migration or the future of work. It allocated several million euros, talked to people and secured art organisation partners to do very practical, hands-on things—praxis as research—in a very sophisticated way.”

Ritter explained that an initial focus on dance allowed for the emergence of Tanzplan Deutschland with a budget of €12.5m over five years. “The community was asked what the deficits in dance were and what could be done if a lot of money was given to an organisation. Two deficits were indicated: limited professional education and a lack of awareness, visibility and understanding of dance in society. First it was thought that we needed to do the biggest dance festival of all—a national festival for people to really see what dance is. Twelve curators were asked to present ideas—I was one of them. I looked at the deficits and I thought a festival wouldn’t solve them. A festival has to have an independent artistic spirit, and if you impose a cultural policy agenda it won’t fit.”

Ritter instead addressed other problems: “As an independent producer I had been frustrated with the way funding bodies looked at or were communicating with artists, producers and organisations. These were the ones doing the work, not as people needing funding, but as those who can really define the city, who are partners in developing what culture means in the city. How could we bring these two sides together, on equal footing? So the backbone of the Tanzplan strategic plan came from my experience as an independent producer and a lawyer who is used to looking at points of contention.”

Consultation ensued and became a constant in Tanzplan’s operations. “We travelled, invited politicians and artists to meet us in cities where there were professional dance scenes and institutions and we said, ‘We’re willing to invest €1.2m in your city if you have a great idea, a vision of what would really help dance in your area.’ We asked them to be very specific and to work together. In the end nine cities were selected for Tanzplan Local, “including the big ones from Berlin to Frankfurt but also middle-scale cities like Potsdam and Bremen.” All projects had to “be based on an existing, active dance scene, had to forge alliances with regional and community cultural administrators and local partners, have obtained 50% co-funding from their city or state authority, or from foundations or sponsors...[and] provide points of contact between classical and modern dance, theory and practice, the ordinary public and professionals, open up dance to a new audience and communicate its activities [and] continue to function sustainably after the end of the project” ( Ritter says that with the completion of Tanzplan Local “most of the projects have received local and regional funding to go on without our help.

“Over 450 dance institutions collaborated over the five-year period, nearly 900 dance works were produced and thousands of young people participated in the educational projects. These ranged from the creation of a unique space in Hamburg for a new choreographic centre, K3 at the Kampnagel arts venue, to a touring program for state-run and independent companies in northern Germany and the establishment of well-equipped residencies in several of the Tanzplan cities. In Düsseldorf, tanzhaus nrw collaborated with more than 20 local institutions to involve in and infect with dance as many kids and teenagers as possible. In Essen, PACT Zollverein creatively nurtured thinking about dance and in Dresden Semper Opera, Palucca School and Centre for European Arts Hellerau joined forces to support young professionals. Dance congresses in 2006 and 2009, an international co-production fund and Tanzplan’s comprehensive educational initiatives added to the assault from all sides. Through matched funding the original budget of €12.5 m was raised to €21m.”

Ritter regards ample time and independence as the essence of the success of Tanzplan: “There was a gestation period of over five years, each city had plenty of time for their project and was totally free—it could change direction when something wasn’t working. What I really learned was communication. We used mediators and external consultants to work on really concrete problems, how to bring people together to dialogue. A tough one in the education program was the challenge of bringing together the heads of all the dance universities, all 11 of them to talk to each other and work together. It took my colleague Ingo Diehl one year of preparation before we got them together for the first meeting. On the matter of archiving we invited an Australian, Michelle Potter to advise us; we were inspired by the way Australia brought together the National Library and the National Film and Sound Archive to create the Dance Collection. This was a good way to beat resistance to the sharing of archives.” There is now an Association of German Dance Archives.

The Education Program has been an important aspect of Tanzplan: “Now we have a dance biennale for students, the next generation of professionals: they meet every two years with funding which in the future will be secured from the Minister of Education. Our goal is to enhance not just awareness of but knowledge about dance—of what’s happening in dance in the world, the praxis.”

Another major project in education has been the establishment of the Inter-University Center for Dance Berlin (HZT) which started out as a pilot project of Tanzplan Berlin in 2006 and is now administered by the University of the Arts Berlin and the School for Dramatic Arts in cooperation with the Network TanzRaumBerlin. Ritter says that the centre “developed from the independent dance scene and its needs. Anyone can apply to do the bachelor degree—a gardener say, because it’s not about bringing everyone on stage and making them beautiful dancers but giving them a profound knowledge of dance which they might later use for anything they do.” Ritter laughs: “A little problem: the gardener wanted to dance on stage!” The university’s BA and MA programs “offer a reflective and experimental approach to study and combine practice-led artistic and theoretical teaching, as well as practical career guidance” (

Another Tanzplan legacy is Dance Techniques 2010, a publication in book form, DVD and website, available in English (ISBN 978-3-89487-689-0). It is the outcome “of a three-year research project on contemporary dance techniques in which renowned dance institutions in Germany and Europe were invited to take part. Its goal is to provide comparative insight into the various transmission models of dance technique and to make practical and theoretical knowledge applicable” (

Madeline Ritter is now working on another Federal Cultural Foundation initiative, a four-year funding project on the heritage of dance and on the partnering of schools and dance organisations. “I will be working on this with a colleague with all the knowledge we acquired from Tanzplan. Other things we are doing include setting up a national dance office because we feel a communicator-moderator is needed, and also creating a Digital Dance Atlas with the Academy of the Arts, Berlin, to be launched in 2011.” The Atlas “offers viewing of full-length dance works and access to treatises covering many aspects of dance, and the history of dance since 1900, with a particular focus on Germany. An additional area has been set aside for documentation and thematic dossiers” ( Ritter adds, “We’re also looking at what other countries are doing. We feel a real affinity with Ausdance, which is so connected to the needs in dance and the people in the field.”

Beyond her latest plans, Madeleine Ritter feels that art in Germany has to deal with too much established infrastructure: “I would like to infiltrate the state theatre system and its 62 dance companies, open them up and bring the outside world in.”

Madeline Ritter visited Australia at the invitation of Ausdance National, assisted by the Goethe-Institut, the Australia Council and Tasdance.

RealTime issue #100 Dec-Jan 2010 pg. 24

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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