Planned for a long time, rehearsed even longer, then everything was hanging in the balance for a short time - but the AWO Ballet Rheinau from Mannheim has now come to an agreement with the Federal Garden Show in the dispute over alleged cultural appropriation. "A good conversation, a good result" is how the meeting on Monday evening between representatives of the AWO and Buga can be summarized, said a Buga spokeswoman on Monday evening. There will be changes to three of the original six costumes that were the subject of the complaint.
The background to the dispute was that shortly before the first appearance of the senior women's group, those responsible for Buga had expressed concerns about clichéd costumes that would have served too many cultural stereotypes. The criticized costumes were supposed to symbolize certain countries on the show. The show was then on the brink. "We either show the show in full or not at all," the head and founder of the AWO troupe, Erika Schmaltz, had previously emphasized.
"We shouldn't show the Spanish flamenco costumes, the oriental dance, the Mexican dance with sombreros and ponchos, the Japanese dance with kimonos, the Indian dance with saris and the Egyptian dance in which we are disguised as pharaohs," Schmaltz said said. The "Mannheimer Morgen" had previously reported on it.
The troupe was only informed of this last Wednesday - "although we had received the seven dates for the show on the Buga before Christmas from the Buga," Schmaltz said. She does not know how the decision of those responsible came about. She doesn't know the exact reason either.
Now the seniors have made concessions and will perform anyway. "The pharaohs are becoming Egyptian workers, the Mexicans are fed up with the poncho and the Asian women are becoming more modern," the Buga statement continued in the evening. "It was important for us to take something constructive with us," said Fabian Burstein, head of cultural events at Buga 2023.
In addition, the performances would be moved to the main stage and followed by discussion events. "I am pleased that we were able to have a constructive discussion with Buga 23," said Alexander Manz, Executive Director of the AWO district association in Mannheim. In this way, one did justice to the voluntary work of the AWO seniors without losing sight of the sensitivity to diversity.
The AWO ballet has been around for 42 years. The women between the ages of 59 and 85 perform voluntarily in old people's homes or at street festivals.
In the show now under discussion, various dance routines with a total of 14 different costumes were planned under the motto "world trip with the dream ship". The AWO ballet was inundated with calls and encouraging letters after the costume criticism, Schmaltz said.
The women had been training for the event for the last six months, and the costumes were sewn by themselves. According to Schmaltz, the idea for this show came from 2020 - "but then Corona got in the way," she said. The ballet show was rehearsed for the Buga and shown last Saturday in a nursing home. People were excited.
Gallery on the AWO Ballet website with pictures of some of the costumes