Grand Opera House


Katharina Abderholden

Oshkosh-based artist Katharina Abderholden sees dance in every day movements. 

“Dance is just movement with intention,” she says. “You can walk down the street and dance if you move with the intention of taking up space or leaving something behind. If you have intention, it changes the quality of the body which makes it more interesting.” 

With a background in ballet that began in childhood but took hold at age 14, Abderholden studied contemporary dance technique and choreography at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is a guest artist at Danceworks, Inc. in Milwaukee and an instructor at Valley Academy for the Arts in Neenah, which her mother, Anne Marie Brunner-Abderholden, founded in 2002. She is also a choreographer with the Lake Arts Project, a multi-arts program where she helps at-risk youth and veterans address post-traumatic stress disorder through movement. She has been a dancer, rehearsal director and choreographer with dance companies in the United States and Europe.

Collaboration is at the core of Abderholden’s professional work. She recently partnered with Appleton painter and installation artist Cristian Andersson in the creation of a performance piece entitled EARTH//AIR, which explores human connection in the digital age.

“I’m really fascinated by learning the processes of other artists in different mediums,” Abderholden says. “With collaboration, you are adding more complex theories into the performance because you’re getting more minds involved.”

In March, Abderholden performed in “Breathe: a multi-disciplinary water opera,” where the “stage” was Lawrence University’s Wellness Center pool. The production featured more than 20 performers including singers, dancers, musicians and even a diver from the university’s swim team. Much of the performance took place on the pool deck or underwater with the audience viewing from all sides. 

From swimming pools and monuments to alleyways and abandoned buildings, Abderholden’s performance work is often site specific, not relying on traditional stages or seats. Performances “in the round” offer certain advantages, Abderholden says. 

“It pulls in a lot of visual elements that help build the space for what the dance could be inspired by,” she explains. “It also opens up a lot of questioning for the audience members because you have more to take in.”

However, the audience isn’t in the forefront of Abderholden’s mind during performances. Adopting this mindset has been a work in progress for Abderholden, a reformed people pleaser. 

“I used to be very much there to entertain everyone in the space. Now I’m aware the audience is there, but when I’m actually moving through my body it’s like a different world,” she says. “As an artist, I’m trying to investigate how the movement is influencing me or how I’m feeling it, and hopefully the audience can observe something from that. It’s like feeling my body for the first time. And that happens over and over again.”

Meet Abderholden during Art on the Town on September 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the FOX CITIES Magazine booth in Houdini Plaza with performances at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. —By Amelia Compton Wolff 

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