The project confronts the history of the HeLa cells, the first human cell line to be cultivated in a laboratory. The cells were taken from Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. During treatment against the tumor, the cells were extracted and passed on to a laboratory without her knowledge. There it was discovered that the cells were »immortal«, that they keep dividing infinitely. Scientists were able to grow the first human cell line out of them, and later made numerous medical discoveries such as polio vaccination, as well as advances in cancer and HIV/AIDS research.
The choreographer Christoph Winkler, who has had cancer himself for a year, relates his own experience with illness to the history of the HeLa cells in a documentary dance performance. In collaboration with the dancer Lois Alexander he creates a solo that engages with questions of ethics, privilege, and racism. Connection the two stories they compare the very different societal situations of the courses of the desease and reflect on the inconsistencies. The sounds of the bloom times of jazz by Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and Max Roach create space for the choreographic excursions and are complemented by spoken word texts from authors like Marlene Nourbese Philip and Anne Boyer.
In English with German surtitles.
Christoph Winkler has been producing dance pieces at Ballhaus Ost since many years. Before On Hela he created the solo »The Boards that Mean the World | Embawo Ezitegeza Ens« with Robert Ssempijja and curated the Fan Fic Festival with the team of Ballhaus Ost in march 2019. The dancer Lois Alexander has been a constant collaborator of his work and performed in Ballhaus Ost 2017 in »Sheroes«.
Concept, choreography: Christoph Winkler
Performance: Lois Alexander
Video installation: Josephine Freiberg
Technical direction: Fabian Eichner
Production assistance: Gabriella Fiore
Production management: Laura Biagioni
A production of the Company Christoph Winkler in cooperation with Ballhaus Ost. Funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.