Karola Lüttringhaus is a choreographer, designer, artist, and freelance set and costume designer who studied in our master’s program Stage Design_Scenic Space in 2011-13. She is the founder of the Alban Elved Dance Company and the Saurus Festival. Karola works, lives and teaches primarily in the US and Berlin. She is currently a PhD student in Performance Studies at UC Davis University of California.
You have worked as a choreographer before – with what expectations did you start your studies? Did your goals change during your studies?
I have been working as a choreographer, designer and director for many years, mainly in the USA. From studying at TU, I hoped to gain insight into a German perspective on set and costume design. I was quite excited about the level of discussion in the seminars and the professional opportunities during my studies. My goals didn’t change during my studies, although I had hoped to build more lasting connections with German theaters and eventually work in Germany again. But that’s difficult from the other side of the pond.
What did you focus on in your studies? Was your interest more in set design or scenic space? How did your interest develop, deepen?
I’m just a theater person. Although scenic space is insanely exciting, I always come back to theater. I ‘think’ theater. I also often work on installations, which have such a hybrid position between exhibition and stage.
What was special about studying at the TU Berlin ?
What I particularly enjoyed about studying were the inspiring and intellectual conversations with lecturers and colleagues, as well as the high level of course content and the diversity of personalities. What enriches the program and every student in the Department of Stage Design_Scenic Space immensely is the fact that every lecturer is an actively working artist or designer. You can feel that they are in the thick of things and can teach a professional, practical and concrete way of working.
What did it mean to live in a cultural metropolis like Berlin while studying?
I am a Berliner, so first of all it was nice to be able to study in my hometown. Berlin has everything, from materials for studying, to good food and great nightlife, to professional career and artistic opportunities. It doesn’t get any better than that.
What memories do you associate with the TU Stage Design_Scenic Space course? What particularly influenced you during your studies for your later professional life and work?
I had the opportunity to not only design a set and costumes at the Landesbühnen Sachsen, but also to write and direct an entire dance theater piece. That was a great experience and the actors and the whole team at the theater were just wonderful.
You are the artistic director of the Alban Elved Dance Company, what do you do exactly?
It’s not so easy to describe. We do quite a few things: I choreograph, dance, design sets, do film, costumes, projections and sound scores. As a company, we create original pieces and sometimes stage works by other artists. And we perform them wherever we are invited, usually in the US. We also organize a festival (www.sarusfestival.org) and other event series, and occasionally teach. I also work freelance as a choreographer and as a set and costume designer.
What are your fields of work? What partners, what venues do you work with?
I teach at Salem College in Movement Science. Right now I’m living in California where I’m pursuing my PhD in Performance Studies at UC Davis. It’s a very interdisciplinary thing and I continue to work there in all areas as well. All in all, my company and have many partners that allow us to realize our work. The last big project was ‘The Light of the Water,’ a piece commissioned by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Other partners include other American universities, colleges and high schools, as well as museums and of course other artists from a variety of backgrounds. But I’m always open to ideas and new opportunities.
Is your professional life well balanced with your personal life?
I love my job and professional life is not really separable from my personal life – especially now that I’m back as a PhD student at a university.
What do you like most about your job?
My job allows me to be creative and give embodiments to intellectual processes. I love designing concepts, being dramaturgically active, and then turning my ideas into reality. It is and always will be an amazing feeling when ideas take shape.
Looking back: what does studying at the TU mean to you today? How influential was your time at the TU for your work today?
I would say that I am still reaping the benefits. It was really good for me and I miss it. Studying at TU reinforced my existing work, taught me new methods and opened up new areas of work.
What tips would you give to someone who wants to be a free artist?
I would advise the person to live where they want to work and to make themselves accessible to people, to be present, to be open. Of course, you also need a website and constant creation is and remains important. Also: Connections, connections, connections!