Flaneurs, or ‘city-walkers’, immerse themselves in the personalities, built environment, and atmospheres of the street. This interdisciplinary workshop innovatively combines movement experimentation in the German capital with the forum of writing.
Honoré de Balzac called flânerie the ‘gastronomy of the eye’. But more than the eye is at work here: the whole body moves through the cityscape, translating the diversity and politics of the street into thoughts, and then words. The workshop is co-taught by a professional dance|theatre artist, Nicole Nigro, and a professional non-fiction writer, Joseph Pearson. Together, they work at an intersection: how movement through the city can translate into polished writing in the genre of literary non-fiction. The workshop innovatively combines movement experimentation in the German capital with the forum of the writing workshop.
Keen city observers will move through Berlin drawing on the work of the situationists, whose focus on the spectacle emphasises how the city can actively transform its explorers. Participants will spend most of their time walking the city, feasting on its neighbourhoods, while completing a series of movement experiments based on situationist theories of la dérive, and keeping a flâneur diary of their findings. Simple choreographic devices are explored while employing Rudolf Laban’s efforts to shape our experiences: gliding, pressing, wringing, punching, floating, slashing, flicking, and dabbing through the architecture. Each participant gauges how discreet or extreme their efforts will be.
Excursions into the city––both as a group and self-directed–– reflect on cultural history, with additional readings from Berlin-explorers such as Christopher Isherwood and Audre Lorde. Like these writers, we respond to the built environment with our own compelling observations. As part of the revision process of their diaries, participants will spend one day in a formal writing workshop. Our prose--reflections on the cultural history of the city through the urbanscape--can be forms as various as the essay, diary writing, place-based fictional narrative, or docu-fiction. The intimate movement explorations, and experiments, in the German capital distill ultimately as polished creative written work.
Day One: 10am – 4pm
Introduction to the course and to one another. Introduction to the city of Berlin, its past and present.
Afternoon 2pm-4pm: We examine examples of flâneur writing set in Berlin: Tucholsky, Isherwood, Lorde.
Day Two: 10am – 3pm
Morning 10am – 12pm: In-class movement portion.
Afternoon 1pm-3pm: First excursion in the city, exploring through movement exercises and experiments.
Day Three: 10am – 3pm
Morning 10am – 12pm: In-class movement portion.
Afternoon 1pm-3pm: Second excursion in the city, exploring through movement exercises and experiments.
Day Four: self-guided day
Participants spend the day walking on their own and writing about the city, with prompts provided by the instructors if needed.
They submit their drafts by 8pm to a group email so that we can read the drafts and make notes for the next day.
Day Five: 10am – 3pm
Morning 10am – 12pm: We spend the morning workshopping and exchanging comments on each other’s work.
Afternoon 1pm-2pm: We spend the afternoon workshopping and exchanging comments on each other’s work.
Late afternoon (no class): Is free for revision. Students are asked to polish their work, aiming for publication standard, for presentation the next day. They email their final work by midnight.
Day Six: 10am––12pm
Morning: The anthology of our work is published. We reflect on moving through Berlin, the writing process, our dynamic as a group, the market and publication possibilities, and what happened to us in Berlin. Students are encouraged to spend the weekend in Berlin, exploring the city, and writing more!
Prior application requirements (f.e. assignments to complete)
Participants will be asked to read a number of short texts before arriving.
This movement and writing workshop is open to everyone – regardless of native language or level of writing or theatre/dance experience – because we all have a story to tell.
No special materials are needed except a course reader of short extracts of city-writing, which is distributed in advance, and comfortable shoes for city explorations.
Joseph Pearson is a writer and cultural historian based in the German capital. He is the author of two books of literary non-fiction, My Grandfather’s Knife (HarperCollins, The History Press, forthcoming in 2022) and Berlin (Reaktion/U Chicago Press distr., 2017). His short fiction, poetry, essays, and journalism appear regularly in literary journals and other outlets such as the BBC, The New England Review, and Newsweek. He is also the house essayist of the Schaubühne Theatre in Berlin. Pearson received his doctorate in modern history from the University of Cambridge and previously lectured in the Core Curriculum of Columbia University in New York City. At the Barenboim-Said Academy, a German university, he teaches creative and arts writing, and chairs a writing workshop on political poetry.
Nicole Nigro (she/her) is an international dance|theatre artist, currently based in Berlin. Nigro is a graduate of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre (CA), York University (CA), The Royal Academy of Dance (UK), with an MFA with Accademia dell’Arte (IT) and Mississippi University for Women (US). She has been a guest artist with Anandam Dancetheatre, Broken Jump Theatre, The Danny Grossman Dance Company, Divadlo Continuo, Dance Theatre David Earle, Peggy Baker Dance Projects for Nuit Blanche, Die Wolke Art Group, Diyar Dance Theatre, and several independent choreographers. Her work has been presented in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, and the Middle East. She was a long-time faculty member at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre (CCDT), a guest lecturer at York University, George Brown College, and Rose Bruford College, as well as the Artistic Director of CCDT’s Core Apprentice Company.