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Stuttgart's Caden Burkman shows the Creative Connections show choir his choreography for a number they are working on for Thursday's show.
Stuttgart's Caden Burkman shows the Creative Connections show choir his choreography for a number they are working on for Thursday's show. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Stuttgart's Caden Burkman shows the Creative Connections show choir his choreography for a number they are working on for Thursday's show.
Stuttgart's Caden Burkman shows the Creative Connections show choir his choreography for a number they are working on for Thursday's show. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
In the 2D design and drawing workshop at this year's Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Josie Christiansen from Vicenza and Stuttgart's Elena Bryson work on their art works.
In the 2D design and drawing workshop at this year's Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Josie Christiansen from Vicenza and Stuttgart's Elena Bryson work on their art works. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Maya Cabrera from Naples supports Vilseck's Alexana Voudouris as they go through a dance move with instructor Ruth Wareham from Alconbury, during the dance workshop at Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.
Maya Cabrera from Naples supports Vilseck's Alexana Voudouris as they go through a dance move with instructor Ruth Wareham from Alconbury, during the dance workshop at Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Maggie Joyce of SHAPE pretends to drill a hole in Bahrain?s Lujane Yacoub's head as Laurynas Bruzga of Ankara watches in the avant-garde collective workshop at this year?s Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.
Maggie Joyce of SHAPE pretends to drill a hole in Bahrain?s Lujane Yacoub's head as Laurynas Bruzga of Ankara watches in the avant-garde collective workshop at this year?s Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
In the mixed media workshop at Creative Connections, Alconbury's Terrica Davis paints a manicotti noodle for the project she was working on, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.
In the mixed media workshop at Creative Connections, Alconbury's Terrica Davis paints a manicotti noodle for the project she was working on, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Students in the collect, converge, create, collage workshop at this year's Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, work on collages using traditional art materials in nontraditional ways.
Students in the collect, converge, create, collage workshop at this year's Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, work on collages using traditional art materials in nontraditional ways. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Rebecca Dosch of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Middle School in Belgium, claps out the rhythm as the string ensemble rehearse a number at Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.
Rebecca Dosch of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Middle School in Belgium, claps out the rhythm as the string ensemble rehearse a number at Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Spangdahlem's Jolie Haar screams as Rota's Helen Quast, left, and Bahrain's Jasmine Osman put her down, saying she has stage fright, as they act out a piece in the drama workshop at Creative Connections.
Spangdahlem's Jolie Haar screams as Rota's Helen Quast, left, and Bahrain's Jasmine Osman put her down, saying she has stage fright, as they act out a piece in the drama workshop at Creative Connections. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Kaiserslautern's Karen Acosta snips a costume she is making in the costume design workshop at Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 5, 2019.
Kaiserslautern's Karen Acosta snips a costume she is making in the costume design workshop at Creative Connections in Oberwesel, Germany, Monday, Nov. 5, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Wiesbaden's Madelyn Robertson tapes one of her finished artworks to the wall in the 2D design and drawing workshop at Creative Connections, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.
Wiesbaden's Madelyn Robertson tapes one of her finished artworks to the wall in the 2D design and drawing workshop at Creative Connections, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)

OBERWESEL, Germany – At Creative Connections, the days are long, the learning curve is steep and emotions run high.

It’s also the best week of the year, say many of the instructors and students from Defense Department schools across Europe participating in the military school system’s annual visual and performing arts workshop.

“Oh, it’s a dream. I love it so much,” said Caden Burkman, a student from Stuttgart High School who’s choreographing a number in the show choir during his second year at Creative Connections.

The 167 students and their teachers who gathered this week at an inn overlooking the Rhine River share a passion for art, whether they dance, draw, construct, sing, act, sew, film, paint or play music.

The event has been held for dozens of years and always sees more applicants than the venue can hold, said Ann Engels, a fine arts teacher for Department of Defense Education Activity – Europe.

This year, nearly 300 applicants submitted recordings or pieces of artwork as they vied for about 170 spots, for which candidates were selected blindly, Engels said.

The big draw, she said, is the chance to be around like-minded peers while getting to “dive deep into your work,” she said.

This year’s theme is avant-garde, a modernistic style that encourages the kids to go outside their comfort zones.

In drama, that translates to acting with little dialogue and audience participation.

“We start out with one word and create an entire scene for it,” said Kaiserslautern junior Ammi Lane-Volz. “Our word is ‘hesitation.’ We made it into a love story using only three words.”

In mixed media, Alconbury art instructor Jessica Mitchell’s students are using unorthodox materials such as Twizzler bites and pretzel rods to make something they can wear. “When you cut this in sections, it’s very interesting how you can cut it, paint it, manipulate it,” she said, holding a slice of okra.

In costume-making, a design might begin with fabric, but that’s where tradition ends.

“I’m using Capri sun wrappers for the outside,” said Rota sophomore Sarah Chambers. “I wanted the nice metallic materials for it and it’s unconventional.”

The students are working feverishly towards Thursday, when they’ll showcase their artwork or put on a performance for family members.

Nicole Colburn, an elementary art teacher at The Bahrain School, said she hopes students leave “with a better understanding of who they are artistically and maybe personally … because these kids come with a lot of pressure and anxiety. They worry, ‘I’m not good enough.’”

Engels wants the kids to be inspired. And feedback shows that they are. Engels said when the students submit forms about how they liked Creative Connections, “most kids are like, ‘I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue in art,’ but this has really invigorated my love for the arts,” she said.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com Twitter: @stripesktown

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