Jacalyn Carley is an American who has lived most of her life in Berlin, working as a choreographer, writer, teacher, and now, on-site director for Sarah Lawrence College’s ‘Summer Arts in Berlin’ program.
She graduated from George Washington University in 1974 (having studied under Maida Withers) and moved to Philadelphia. There she danced for Group Motion, an experimental dance company under the direction of former Mary Wigman student Brigitta Herrmann. As Prof. Withers was also a graduate of the Wigman school, Jacalyn’s movement and teaching style was clearly influenced.
She first came to Berlin in 1976 when Group Motion presented a program at the Akademie der Künste, and returned the following year with company member Tonio Guerra to form the dance-theatre group Triptycon TanzTheatre, with Ric Schachtebec. In 1978, she helped co-found tanzfabrik berlin, where she would become a significant contributor.
Tanzfabrik was a collective of choreographers working in a old shoe factory in the Kreuzberg section Berlin (West). It was the first modern dance studio and performance space to open after Wigman studio closed in the ’60s. TF quickly grew to become a landmark institution known for experimental works and for importing US ideas and trends. Jacalyn’s choreographies were a fundamental part of the TF identity, and she often used literature such as Gertrude Stein, Kurt Schwitters, Raymond Federman, or Ernst Jandl instead of music. Her works, mostly evening length, toured extensively throughout Europe and America, and were produced by Berliner Festspiele, Several Dancers Core (USA), among others. She remained at TF for 15 years, during which time she was also instrumental in setting up the Berliner Tanzwerkstatt, and in presenting the international Dance in Berlin Symposium in 1993.
In 1995 she founded her own company, JC&Co/Moving Wor(l)ds Dance Company, working exclusively site-specific – for example, in a cloister ruin, at Gendarmen Markt, in Zeiss Planetarium.
The publication of her first novel in 2001 by ‘eichborn’ launched her writing career. She then attended the Iowa Writers Workshop and was a fellow at the International writers residence, Ledig House, in Hudson, NY. Her books, written in English and translated into German (only available in German), include: “Was sagt das linke Knie zum rechten?” and “Almas Tanz” (both with eichborn), co-authorship of Royston Maldoom’s autobiography “Tanz um dein Leben” (S.Fischer Verlag and Spiegel bestseller for 20 weeks); “Community Dance Handbook” (Henschel). She has also been published in literary quarterlies and writes occasionally for NPR Berlin, as well lecturing on Dance in Germany.
Since 2011 she has taught for and is On-site Director for Sarah Lawrence College’s ‘Summer Arts in Berlin’. This program is for US college students who want to study dance, art & architecture, or language in Berlin. (For more information, please see the link under Contact.)
Jacalyn has two children and is married to journalist and author, Rüdiger Schaper.