The Goethe-Institut
In motion

The Goethe-Institut is active in almost 100 countries around the world, and everywhere the focus is on international interactions and understanding: on inviting artists to give guest performances, bringing language learners together in exchange programmes, and rotating staff to various locations. Stories from a cultural institution where “in constant motion” is the byword.

They entertain, touch, encourage, inspire, and challenge us: writers, filmmakers, painters and, of course, dancers and theatre professionals. The Goethe-Institut helps fund their creative endeavours and provides an international network and a global platform.
Pina Bausch at the Goethe-Institut São Paulo in 2000. Photo: Goethe-Institut Archive Pina Bausch at the Goethe-Institut São Paulo in 2000. As a dancer, choreographer and founder of the Wuppertal Dance Theatre, Pina Bausch helped shape genres and regularly spent two to three months a year on the road in various countries with backing from the Goethe-Institut. Her dance troupe frequently performed in France, but also in the US, Italy and Japan. Bausch looks back on the collaboration with all the travelling and friendships that emerged as a time of unique joy. “I’d like lots of others to have the same opportunity to experience other cultures and ways of life.” This would, she feels, make for a more hopeful future: “There would be much less fear of each other, and we could also see what connects us all much more clearly.”

An interview with Andreas Dresen
“The conversations take place after the film.”

Der Regisseur von Filmen wie „Gundermann“, „Sommer vorm Balkon“ oder „Nachtgestalten“ erinnert sich an seine Reisen und Begegnungen mit dem Goethe-Institut.

An interview with Andreas Dresen

The yearning is the same everywhere

A good decade before the Goethe-Institut’s sponsorship sent Pina Bausch out to inspire audiences beyond Germany’s borders, the Institut organized a tour for another cultural institution: the GRIPS Theatre. Born out of cabaret and the student movement, the Berlin-based children’s theatre dedicated itself to a social mission: to oppose “the rotten, Christmas fairy tales put on by German state theatres” in the 1970s, according to founder Volker Ludwig. It took some convincing to get Ludwig to agree to tour Brazil, but the performances and seminars on realistic children’s theatre really resonated there. Invitations to other places, including India, followed.

  The GRIPS Theatre Pakistan, which introduced the GRIPS concept in Pakistan in the 1980s, at a 2012 performance in the Goethe-Institut Karachi. Photo: Kashif Paracha The GRIPS Theatre Pakistan, which introduced the GRIPS concept in Pakistan in the 1980s, at a 2012 performance in the Goethe-Institut Karachi. “Today, GRIPS Theatre plays have been translated, adapted and staged in all parts of the world and in the most diverse cultural circles,” Goethe theatre consultant and long-time Institut director Klaus Vetter summarised in 1994. All over the world, material and plays have been written and tested according to the “GRIPS method” as part of guest directorships, workshops and playwright meetings. Listening, watching, bouncing ideas off each other, providing inspiration, creating, and interacting with different people and things is the heart of this work. Ludwig sees the global success of his theatre as rooted in its original mission: “The more we managed to speak to Berlin’s children, the more children in other parts of the world related to the plays. Apparently, children around the world share the same worries, fears and sense of yearning.” He expressed gratitude towards the Institut for the experience and called the Goethe-Institut and GRIPS a “winning team”.

“Working as a cultural ambassador to generate international exchange”

Not only did creative director and composer Cathy Milliken complete many projects with the Goethe-Institut; she also learned German there.

An interview with Cathy Milliken

Launching of an international career

In “Dialogue 2013” SW&G and Padmini Chetturs ensemble dancers explored the historical centre of the city of North Calcutta. Photo: Martin Waelde In “Dialogue 2013” SW&G and Padmini Chetturs ensemble dancers explored the historical centre of the city of North Calcutta. The mid-1990s saw the formation of another successful team: Dancer Sasha Waltz had just turned her hand to choreography and developed her own improvisational format when she founded the Sasha Waltz & Guests (SW&G) company with Jochen Sandig in Berlin. The troupe gave its first guest performance at Munich’s Schauburg in 1995.

An interview with Sasha Waltz
“These theatres are burnt into my memory.”

The choreographer and dancer talks about the early stages of working with the Goethe-Institut and a memorable tour through Egypt, Syria and Israel.

Sasha Waltz im Interview
With her “Travelogue” piece, Waltz was celebrated as a great hope of the independent dance scene and discovered by staff members of the Goethe-Institut’s Department of Theatre and Dance, kicking off a lasting collaboration. Starting in 1999, the Goethe-Institut organised a number of large tours for Waltz’s production “Allee der Kosmonauten” (Allee of the Cosmonauts) that took the troupe through South Asia and other areas.

The group then made guest appearances in Latin America with the “Körper” (Body) piece. The tours marked the dance theatre artist’s international breakthrough: The company quickly became so successful and well-known that it was invited to international festivals, such as the Habima Festival in Tel Aviv and the MESS Festival in Sarajevo, even without Goethe-Institut support.

An interview with Uwe Timm
“I got to know my readers from other languages.”

Some trips with the Goethe-Institut have influenced the author’s literary work – such as an invitation to go to Japan.

An interview with Uwe Timm

Worldwide educational exchange

Language and education work best when there is exchange: There is no better way to convey a mindset, life experiences and, ultimately, vocabulary than through encounters and conversations. This is one reason the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) has been helping teachers and schools set up bilateral student exchange programmes between the United States and Germany since 1972.

Additionally, German teachers and student teachers interested in getting to know schools and the underlying school systems in a foreign country can complete internships at schools supported by the Goethe-Institut. The Goethe-Institut launched the SCHULWÄRTS! Internship programme to place teachers and provide individual support before, during and after their internships.

The Goethe-Institut also serves as an intermediary partner in the opposite direction: Pupils from abroad can get their language and professional skills on par to begin studying in Germany with “Studienbrücke”. The educational programme includes fixed modules students complete in their home countries, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers advising services.

Employees in motion

In a place that gives artists travel stipends and helps learners connect through global programmes – a place where constant motion is the principle – employees never stand still either. Over the courses of their careers, many go through various stations at Goethe-Instituts abroad, in Germany, and at the headquarters in Munich, while others move to a new location every five to six years as part of routine job rotation.
Despite the global pandemic, the HR department organised more than 130 relocations within the Institut from January to November 2021 alone, not including necessary moves abroad for health or personal reasons, for example. Sometimes these transfers are to other European countries, sometimes to New Zealand thousands of kilometres away. The timing is tricky here, as all the boxes and furniture are meant to arrive in the new place of work at around the same time as the people, and children need to be enrolled in their new schools in time as well.

As representatives of all the employees on the move, a few colleagues talk about their work in different places and the importance of this international cultural exchange in the following picture gallery.
Text: Romy König
Translation: Sarah Smithson-Compton