Reinhild Hoffmann studied dance from 1961 to 1965 with Eleonore Härdle-Munz at Karlsruhe, and from 1965 to 1970 at the Folkwang College in Essen. The teachers who had the greatest influence on her were Kurt Jooss and Jean Cébron. She went on to dance for Johann Kresnik at Theater Bremen. She started producing her own works of choreography in 1974, and took charge of the Folkwang Dance Studio with Susanne Linke in 1975. In 1977, she undertook advanced studies in New York. From 1978 to 1986, she was director of Bremen Dance Theatre, sharing this role with Gerhard Bohners until 1981. Reinhild Hoffmann Dance Theatre began touring internationally in 1978.
Between 1982 and 1986, four of her productions were invited to the Berlin Theatertreffen. From 1986 to 1995, the company was based at the Schauspielhaus Bochum, where it combined dance and spoken theatre for the first time. Reinhild Hoffmann’s achievements have been honoured with various awards and prizes, including the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, which she received in 1992. Since 1995, she has worked on a freelance basis in Germany and abroad, and concentrated to a greater extent on directing music theatre. She lives in Berlin. Norbert Servos’s book So lange man unterwegs ist – Die Tänzerin und Choreographin Reinhild Hoffmann (As Long as You’re Moving – The Dancer and Choreographer Reinhild Hoffmann, K. Kieser Verlag) was published in 2008.
Reinhild Hoffmann loves a language of images: archaic, wild and austere, her style is clear, highly emotional and free of pathos. At Folkwang, her early development as an artist saw her engaged with questions about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of movement raised by Kurt Jooss in response to Laban’s analyses of space, weight and time. The college brought together all the arts under one roof, and she was stimulated by the exchanges of ideas this encouraged with visual artists who – like her – were seeking radical new directions. Even this early in her career, the stillness and slowness of her dance came close to the sculptural plasticity typical of her mature style, characterised as it is by its affinity with performance art and deep awareness of the expressive dance tradition.
With Pina Bausch, Susanne Linke, Johann Kresnik and Gerhard Bohner, Reinhild Hoffmann was one of the pioneers of German dance theatre, a movement that liberated dance from its subordinate role within opera companies and raised its standing in the theatrical world as an art form in its own right. She contributed to this emancipation of dance at Bremen and Bochum – until the financial obstacles she faced proved insuperable. Subsequently, without an ensemble, unable to lavish vast resources on her projects, she used pure movement to reflect on the physical language she had developed, with its powerful drive towards abstraction, as well as drawing on its atmospheric intensity in her later work as an opera director.
She has struggled for freedom within radical restrictions in more than 30 solo and group works, entering into dialogue with inanimate objects – boards, stones, material – and testing out the laws of physics in the process. In Solo with Sofa (1977), performed to Cage’s whispered Empty Words, she seemed trapped in an oppressive nightmare, her body wrapped in a piece of fabric that was simultaneously both dress and furniture cover. Hoffmann passed on this masterpiece to young dancers in 2011. In order to keep alive the tradition for which she stands, her early piece Callas (1983/2012) has now been resurrected as well. Hoffmann has always lured her audience into ritual spaces – in Zeche eins and Zeche zwei (Pit One, Pit Two, 1992/93), for example, it was a pithead bathhouse, in Vor Ort (On the Spot (1997) it was a room in Berlin, where she piled briquettes of coal like her memories. In 1999, she joined forces with Susanne Linke for Über Kreuz (Crosswise), a profound meditation on Laban’s dance notation. In this piece, she decoded the original sources of questions about dramatic space that are also relevant for opera productions. When directing singers with the economical phrasing that is her trademark, she seeks a conscious treatment of time and makes music visible with a carefully constructed physical language. When it comes to the classics, it is their historical dimension that intrigues her, while contemporary opera allows her the freedom for parallel compositions on the stage that breathe as one with all the work’s other elements in what the viewer experiences as an orchestral organism.