janet grau

Break it Down

Break it Down

Participatory project, performance, video, 2015

Developed especially for the SIGNALWEGE exhibition at the Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine in Würzburg, Break it Down uses dance and rap music to open up complex scientific and religious issues and find connections.

The lyrics, written in collaboration with the musician Young roDDie (Cameroon/Mannheim), quote biomedical research and existential questions. The song by Young roDDie was integrated into the dance performance, which was presented and filmed at the Rudolf Virchow Center.

I developed the choreography in collaboration with professional dancers and participants interested in the topic (including some scientists!). It translates biomolecular interactions, such as those between proteins and other molecules, which are of fundamental importance for the whole organism – while at the same time addressing religious and interpersonal issues.

Specific structures in protein molecules (i.e., ‘random coils’) as well as actual tasks of proteins in the cell were interpreted in the performance, such as the ‘motor proteins’ that are responsible for transporting substances within the cell and through the cell’s membrane.

The final scene of the performance, as well as the refrain in the end of the rap song – “It’s a jungle in there” – refers to the crowded, competitive environment in every human cell, the so-called ‘molecular crowding’ in the cytoplasm. At the same time, it is a reference to the incredible complexity of the human body – each cell is densely packed and full of many unsolved mysteries. This final scene was reproduced in a life-sized group of dancers, which stood on a ledge above the video in the exhibition.

Read the song lyrics by Young roDDie and Janet Grau.

"Janet Grau subtly choreographs the time-based [...] art forms into an exciting space of experience and thought, in which fractures, holes and disruptions remain tangible and people of different backgrounds begin to communicate with each other about their desires, values and feelings, about existence, work and identity."

Radio feature by Petra Lange, Radio Charivari / Bistum Würzburg:

Radio feature by Karen Dzionara, NDR Info / Blickpunkt Diesseits:

Choreography: Janet Grau with Tanzraum Würzburg and the Dancefloor Destruction Crew.

Many thanks to all the professional and non-professional dancers who helped us ‘break it down’:

Sophie Batsching, Anna Bechtolsheim, Timo Dettmar, Enver Fetahu, Martha Geffers, Stefanie Gloggengießer, Beate Grohme, Anne Haberberger, Kathrin Hilfenhaus, Britta Kellmann, Andrea Kneis, Lisa Kuttner, Michael Lamprecht, Katharina Lenz, Krzysztof Malicki, Roswitha Mehling, Nadine O’Halloran, Sara O’Halloran, Vivan O’Halloran, Carla Oehler, Ellen Seufert, Franziska Toepfer, Thomas Wüllerich, Ilona Zilkowski.

Scientific consultation: Dr. Katrin Heinze, Prof. Dr. Caroline Kisker, Dr. Sonja Lorenz and Dr. Ann Wehman.
Further support: Jessica Lutz, Jugendkirche Würzburg.
Co-production video: SkyscreamArts.


The exhibition, curated by Ulrike Lorenz and Anne Vieth, was part of the German Bishops’ Conference’s art project celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, called Freude und Hoffnung, Trauer und Angst.

Break it Down
Break it Down in the exhibition SIGNALWEGE at the Virchow Center
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