On HeLa – The Colour Of Cells

Company Christoph Winkler

© Tom Deerinck | NCMIR

Premiere December 12, 2019
December 13 | 14 | 15, 2019


The project begins with the story of the HeLa cells, the first line of human cells to be cultivated. The cells were taken from Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman, who died of cervical cancer in 1951. During the treatment against the tumor, the cells were extracted from Henrietta Lacks and passed on to a laboratory without her knowledge. There, it was discovered that the cells were »immortal«. From these cells, the scientists were able to grow the first human cell line. With these cells, many medical discoveries became possible, such as polio vaccination, or advances in cancer and HIV/AIDS research.
The cells remained anonymous, and became the foundation on which a multibillion dollar industry was built – while Henrietta Lacks’ family was neither informed, nor participated in the profits.
Only in the early 90s, the story of the HeLa cells became known and caused debates about ethics and privilege worldwide. Today, there is a foundation under Henrietta Lacks’ name, and her story has inspired films, documentaries, and plays, with Oprah Winfrey among others.
Christoph Winkler and Lois Alexander take this history as a starting point to think about privilege and racism, which are even apparent in cancer. Christoph Winkler has had cancer himself for a year and will provide his own observations, acting as a counterweight to Henrietta Lacks’ story. Lois Alexander brings both stories together as the moderator. Alexander compares the different social situations in which disease unfolds, reflecting on their contradictions.

Christoph Winkler has been showing his dance pieces at Ballhaus Ost for many years, most recently the solo The boards that mean the world with Robert Ssempijja. In March 2019 he also co-curated the Fan Fic Festival together with the Ballhaus Ost team. He also has a longer collaboration with Lois Alexander, among other things she was part of the ensemble of Sheroes in 2017.

Running time: 60 min.
In English with German surtitles.

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.

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