Here, 3,000 miners once showered coal dust off their weary bodies on a daily basis. Today, the former pithead baths at the Zeche Zollverein (Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex) are home to the PACT Zollverein, an institution formed by the merging of the Choreographisches Zentrum NRW with the Tanzlandschaft Ruhr.
The Zollverein coal mine and coking plant ceased operations for good in 1986, after which time the buildings stood empty. Freelance dancers discovered the pithead baths for themselves and, in the mid-1990s, began the process of creatively occupying the buildings in order to perform their pieces in the empty rooms. The building was converted into the Choreographisches Zentrum NRW (Choreographic Centre NRW) between 1999 and 2000 and, in 2002, the group merged with the Tanzlandschaft Ruhr (Dance Landscape Ruhr) to create the PACT Zollverein. Today, international dance companies and dancers such as Forced Entertainment, Meg Stuart / Damaged Goods or Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker perform pieces here.
PACT Zollverein is an exceptional venue that consciously preserves the traces of the past. For example, the walls of the foyer and restaurant area are still tiled, with comfortable armchairs and furniture in the mockingly called "Gelsenkirchen Baroque" style, which used to adorn many a miner's home in the Ruhr area, serving to emphasise additional features. The stairs which lead to the PACT Zollverein's stages have been worn down by many a pair of work shoes and, today, the recesses in the wall have once again been filled with fresh pieces of fragrant soap.
The PACT Zollverein produces and co-produces dance and performance pieces from renowned dancers and dance companies, acts as a venue for festivals such as the Ruhrtriennale, presents exciting guest performances, offers a residency programme for artists and sees itself as an interdisciplinary platform for artists and people engaged in the cultural sector from all over the world.
The focus of their "Plattformen" area is on the exchange between artists, scientists and students from a range of disciplines, as well as on linking art, science, technology and society. This is something which becomes particularly clear through their "Atelier" format where, on a given evening, the entire institution acts as a backdrop against which selected artists are able to present their works. Following this, visitors have the opportunity to discuss what they have seen in a relaxed atmosphere over freshly-prepared food and a drink.
Here, concerts are followed by performance pieces; short dance pieces by film screenings. This format acts as a miniature representation of that which makes PACT Zollverein so unique – a highly avant-garde mixture of all disciplines, open and in constant discussion with one another, that brings with it an enthusiasm for new things. As a result, since being founded, the PACT Zollverein also sees itself as an initiator, powerhouse and stage for groundbreaking developments in the field of dance, performance, theatre, media and the performing arts.
Additional projects carried out by PACT take a look at the urban space. In 2016, the WerkStadt was created – a satellite of the PACT Zollverein located in the district of Katernberg in Essen. This acts a place where people can investigate common issues through dialogue; one which offers a forum in which to share cultural techniques and knowledge with one another.
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