Abandoned Ballrooms in East Germany
When the last murmur of a crowd departed and the last song played, these beautiful ballrooms lived on, a stark and fading reminder of the beauty, art, and community that once gathered there. The era of the ballroom ended, the last curtain falling shortly after the fall of east Germany and the Berlin Wall in the first years of the 1990s.
Prior to these sweeping national changes, every village had a local gaststätte, or “small hotel.” Locals would use these buildings not only for lodging visitors, but also for feasts, weddings, birthdays, and so on. Additionally, many cities also had a kulturhaus for more performance-based gatherings, such as cabarets, exhibitions, concerts, and lectures. At least one of these iconic buildings would typically host a ballroom large enough to accommodate impressive crowds, and it is in these large rooms that age, abandonment, and neglect is most clearly on display.
When the borders in Germany opened in 1989, there were vast cultural changes, and the need for gaststätte and kulturhauses diminished: one by one, these vibrant jewels of culture were shuttered. The locals, eager to put the past behind them, embraced the lifestyles of their former West German neighbors, and those lifestyles didn’t include ballrooms. Money for upkeep was also scarce, and with necessary renovations outpacing community coffers, the last dance for these gather places wasn’t far behind.
The historical monument status that once protected these ballrooms from the wrecking ball has, like their interiors, eroded over time. As ballrooms like these are being gradually being dismantled and destroyed to make way for the relentless march of progress, we were fortunate enough to capture their beauty one final time to spark imaginations and thoughtful reflections.
All the pictures in this series were taken in the former ballrooms of east Germany. Even though numerous examples of these once-grand ballrooms dot the countryside villages, they’re disappearing one by one. We’ve spent the last few years searching for these ballrooms, spending countless hours, kilometers, and effort to compile this collection, which we’re very proud of. We hope you enjoy seeing it as much as we loved capturing it!