Five acts you simply can’t miss at this year’s Düsseldorf Festival

What makes the Düsseldorf Festival so special? The fact that it is not bound by a single concept. Fiona Leonard gives insider tips on how to make the most of this most eclectic of events.

Five acts you simply can’t miss at this year’s Düsseldorf Festival
Aria by No Gravity. Photo: Düsseldorf Festival

In the heart of Düsseldorf’s Altstadt, construction teams have been hard at work over the past few weeks erecting a massive white marquee.

Where the formidable castle of the Count of Berg once stood, the Burgplatz will play host for the next two weeks to the Düsseldorf Festival (September 13th – October 2nd) and a cast of performers from around the world. Now in its 27th year, the festival draws acts from as far afield as Burundi, Korea, Canada and Australia.

While many festivals take a thematic approach to their line-up, the Düsseldorf Festival’s artistic and managing directors, Christiane Oxenfort and Andreas Dahmen, seek out artists whose performances cross genres – drawing together music, dance and theatre in unique and unusual ways.

Expect to see arias and aerial acrobats, fashion and beat boxing, plus musicians creating their magic in churches, concert halls and even in the dark.

With 42 performances in 11 different venues around the city, there’s a good chance you won’t have time to see everything the festival has to offer. But here are five must-sees to whet your appetite.

1. Aria – No Gravity

The 2017 festival opened on Wednesday with flair, drama and spectacle, featuring an Italian dance company that definitely lives up to their name. No Gravity has built its reputation on sending its performers soaring across the stage in elaborate costumes to create a visual tableau that defies logic and the laws of physics. 

This year German audiences will get their first taste of the company’s piece, Aria, which brings the Baroque era to life in a riotous blend of classical music, dance, poetry and song.

Imagine Monteverdi, Vivaldi and Pergolesi arias combined with oversized human bumble bees, boats that sail across the heavens and bodies that run, climb and glide in a 360 degree orbit, and you begin to get an idea of what you can expect from both this company and the festival to come.

13th-15th September 8:00 pm

Festival Marquee, Burgplatz, 40213 Düsseldorf

2. Chombotrope – The Jitta Collective

In stark contrast to the opening event, the firmly grounded African-European Jitta Collective examines contemporary issues of cultural appropriation, environment and identity. The Collective takes the term ‘mash-up’ to new levels combining beat boxing and spoken word, fashion and modern dance and drums and Voguing to create a narrative that reflects the German, Kenyan, Ugandan, Belgian, Senegalese heritage and inspiration of its members.

For this group of artists the message is in the music, dance and also in the clothes they wear; recycling, repurposing and reimagining as they blur the lines between art, fashion and concert.

21st-23rd September 8:00 pm

tanzhaus nrw,  Erkrather Str. 30, 40233 Düsseldorf

3. Silent Disco – Guru Dudu

Back for a second year, Australian comedian, David Naylor, AKA Guru Dudu takes to the streets of Düsseldorf with his silent disco walking tours.

Throughout the festival you can expect to see flash mobs of disco dancing people singing and dancing their hearts out on street corners around the city. If you love the hits of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s then you won’t want to miss the chance to let your hair down and cut loose.

If you fancy something a little more relaxed, Guru Dudu is also bringing his own laughter-based style of yoga to Düsseldorf. Expect to do some deep breathing and lots and lots of laughing.

Silent Disco Tours: 20th Sept, 7 pm, 21st-23rd Sept, 6 pm & 8:00 pm

Happy Yoga: 24th September 4.30pm

4. Ahnsim Dance – Eun-Me Ahn

In her European premiere, Korean choreographer, Eun-Me Ahn, will be presenting a powerful piece that explores what it is to be different in contemporary society. With a company that includes sighted and visually-impaired dancers this piece navigates the range of experiences of those who live on the fringes of society – from cruelty through to survival and, most importantly, joy. This piece is the first in a choreographic trilogy exploring disability and difference.

26th & 27th September 8:00 pm

Festival Marquee, Burgplatz, 40213 Düsseldorf

5. Reversible – Les 7 doigts de la main

Montreal’s Les 7 doigts de la main returns to the festival this year with another performance that reflects the diversity and virtuosity of its cast.

Originally founded by seven circus artists, the company has a reputation for projects that delve into the human condition and unfold stories that are as complex as the choreography through which they are told. Using theatre, circus, dance, music, and acrobatics, Reversible digs deep into the family histories of the performers as they tell the stories of their own grandparents and great-grandparents and reflect on how the experiences of the past define the future.

30th September – 2nd October

Festival Marquee, Burgplatz, 40213 Düsseldorf


Eight online events in Germany not to miss in February 2021

With tougher Covid-19 restrictions now in place in Germany, travelling and socialising have become increasingly limited. So we’ve compiled a list of fun events for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own home!

Eight online events in Germany not to miss in February 2021
The entrance to Berlin's Alte Nationalgallerie. Photo: DPA

Here are some events and ongoing activities to look out for in February.

Berlin Philharmonic returns to the 1920s, Saturday, February 13th 2021 at 6:45pm

Berliner Philharmoniker is streaming the 1920s First Symphony Opera, one of German composer Kurt Weill’s early performances. 

As described by the orchestra, this piece’s music is “captivating and triumphant”. The music was composed in 1927 and its story takes place in ancient Greece. 

Final Girls Film Festival, February 4th at 1pm to February 8th at 11:59pm

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival showcases horror cinema that’s directed, written, or produced by women and non-binary filmmakers. 

The festival is committed to creating space for female voices and visions, whether monstrous, heroic or some messy combination of the two, in the horror genre.

Berliner Festspiele, Strong Pieces Stream, Until March 

Berliner Festspiele is showing two of their top picks.

“The Misanthrope” is a Molière’s classic staged by Anne Lenk, and translated by Jürgen Gosch and Wolfgang Wiens. It’s been called a straightforward delight with an exceptional concentration of language and wit. 

And “Man appears in the Holocene” is staged by Alexander Giesches after Max Frisch’s novella about mankind’s Sisyphus-struggle against their own doom.

König Gallerie, 'Dreaming of Alligator Head' by Claudia Comte, January 21st 2021- January 12th 2022

With her digital solo exhibition Dreaming of Alligator Head, Comte creates a scenario that is impossible in reality: She plants her underwater sculpture park in the König Gallerie app. The digital visitors inside experience a fascinating underwater world without having to go on a physical journey. 

Comte also seeks to raise awareness of marine environments and ask how an artistic object can change the world. Check out the exhibition on the König Gallerie app. 

Galerie Tanja Wagner, How to be human, until February 13th 2021 

Celebrating 10 years of the opening of her contemporary art gallery, Tanja Wagner’s exhibition, How to Be Human showcases her personal favourite works of artists she has collaborated with.

It includes Grit Richter’s famous work, Das Letzte Wort, as well as other works that in Wagner’s opinion, seek to explore the question ’How to Be Human’. 

Alte Nationalgalerie Online, until further notice

The Alte Nationalgalerie was set up as a “sanctuary for art and science”. The idea for a national gallery was realised after the donation of a collection of paintings by Caspar David Friedrich to the Prussian state. 

Since Covid-19 has made it difficult to visit the otherwise very popular museum, the gallery has made its collection available online until further notice. 

Naturkundemuseum Berlin, Beats and Bones Podcast and Livestream, Mondays at 7pm, until further notice 

Berlin’s Naturkundemuseum is offering a podcast series where nature experts from the museum answer questions about the diversity of nature, evolution, the formation of the earth, climate change and insect death.

They explore questions such as “Who knows our earliest ancestors were 480 million-year-old jawless fish?” Or, ‘What is the Achilles heel of Tyrannosaurus rex’? 

Catch new episodes every Monday on Instagram, along with a live stream through the museum with experts accompanying you through the collection and exhibition. The previous episodes are available on Spotify as well as Youtube. 

Anne Frank Zentrum, All about Anne, until further notice 

The Anne Frank Zentrum's exhibition “All about Anne” is normally presented at Hackescher Markt in Berlin-Mitte. Since lockdown, the exhibition has been made available online. 

Its exhibition tells the story of Anne Frank's life and the time in which she lived. It also explains why her diary is so well-known today and shows that her thoughts are still relevant.