Friday, April 29, 2011

Germany and Amsterdam

Hello everyone! My, it has been a long time since I've written, I have so much to cover! I was told my last post was a bit "Tolstoyan" (i.e. quite long) and this one probably wont be any different. However, I will break it up into different posts as as there is just so much.

Where I am now: I am in London on the Kate and Will's wedding day! (Unintentionally, and I'm missing Queens day with friends in Amsterdam...) I didn't make it to the wedding route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, but I did watch the ceremony on the BBC over pancakes (for me) and eggs (for Kindall) with strawberries, melons, tomatoes, olives, bread and cheese! Her one room apartment actually feels very confortably sized even though its quite small.

Where I left off: My last post was written in Berlin before my one day adventure to Braunschweig Wednesday and the Tanztheater Kassel audition Friday. I have since been in Holland: Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, and sweet little Nijmegen. Lots of adventures, including my most recent almost-trip to Brussels/Gent when I bought a ticket to London that was one day later than I intended! (I was able to change it, but missed out on partying with some PhD music students in Belgium).

The following will have dance and daily life intermingled. I'll put some basic dance info at the bottom for those of you that want a fast review of the companies and studios I've visited/know about.

Back to the Beginning: Goodbye Germany
  • Braunschweig: I got up far earlier than necessary to catch a 1.5 hr train to this medium-sized town West of Berlin. However, had I not done this I would have missed the train all together. I made an epic number of mistakes getting TO the Berlin Hauptbanhof (Main Station) and then was confused for fifteen minutes while I was there. Train Stations are large and its hard to know which train you are supposed to catch because they only list the end destination. You really need to just go to an info desk and ask, which in Germany is a red "DB" sign (Deutsche Bahn), which I didn't realize til the last minute. I had two minutes before the train was supposed to leave when I finally got my pass validated and got on.
    • The class was ballet, even though the company is more modern (read Corina's blog "Dance for the King of Spain" for more info on this). The company is entirely new as of August 2010, with a new Artistic Choreographer/Director also (Jan Pusch).The dancers goofed around a lot in class, and many sat out before the end. Its the end/middle of the season so they're a bit tired and just trying to get warm. Ballet was evitently not their stong point, so I wish I cold have seen them doing modern. I felt a little awkward, like I was too trained/bun-head-ish. I have been trying to strip this away through the rest of the trip. 
    • I actually have a friend in the company from San Francisco Conservatory so it was really great to see him! Jared Marks, beautiful dancer. He took me out to coffee afterwards and showed me around the cute little town! Also gave me the rundown on what its like to work in the well-payed but beurocratic Staatstheater system. He said that though it was a decent first job, he wants to do some smaller project work. The company is doing a children's piece right now and Jan Pusch has only set old pieces on them, not created new work. As a dancer I think we all crave to be part of the creative process. This was a good perspective to hear - in the end we should be choosey, even if at first we all just want a job with decent pay.
    • I made my way home on the train and wa sback in Berlin for dinner - one day travel on my eurail pass that woudl have cost 80 euros!
  • Tanztheatre Kassel Audition: Two days later  back in Berlin I made my way to an old factory the Wedding offshoot of the studio Kreutsberg-based studio Tanzfabrik (Wedding and Kreutsberg are regions of Berlin). About 60 people in the audition, crashing into each other during a warm up that was almost entirely floorwork. REALLY good class, though - very acrobatic as Europe has proven time and time again to be. I was picking up combos poorly and again felt too trained - not grounded enough. I was sure they would cut me, but they didn't. Then came the rep, two Americans in his company teaching it. They are doing a traveling show that I would see the following day, and that the rep was from. It was somewhat theatrical and very physical, with motions taken from every day life turned into dance, and sound affects through the mouth. I felt good about it, but of course things are always the opposite of what they seems and they cut me. Kept some people that surprised me. Johannes Weiland, the director/choreographer, told us all that he would give us individual feedback if we wanted. He was very calm and open, with large half-closed eyes. He told me that I was just a little (and only a little) too presentational for what he wanted. Maybe performative, not sure the work he used. He siad he felt I could do the movement well, though. This was good advice, and I realize here they don't want presentation like we are taught in the U.S. (see my articles I want to write in the entry following this one). A good first cattle-call audition. I liked doing the work, but I was not impressed by his show. I've heard the company is better from a friend, but the two performers didn't feel genuine to me - they felt exactly what he told me not to be! Too presentational/performative. But se la vi. I would definitely audition for him again, and I think I would enjoy the work. They invited us to come visit the company also, which I may do later in my trip.
  • Berlin Nights: after watching the Kassel show, I ended up in a nearby studio chanting in Sanskrit and dancing for the end of a meditation (can't remember the official name of the gathering - certain kind of yoga). Two girls from London and I were invited in when people saw us lookign through the window. It was a nice feeling, and the band said they might even travel to Seattle/Portland! (: I went home and got ready to go out with Lea, the cousin of my host sister Olga who is my age. (I met her at a house party in which the parents were up dancign and drinking till 1:00 am in the morning!!!) We went out to a bar with her friends, and then out dancing. I was up til 5 am!!! This is normal - my host family expected this of me when I first got there so I was glad to finally oblige! (: It was nice to come home and hear the birds start chirping, a little tipsy from two Becks beers and rockin out in a basement club to 80s/90s music.

Hello Holland! So much in Store:
  • Upon crossing the border, Holland felt different. It was a subtle difference, and maybe it was just my excitement at seeing a new place, but I had a relaxed, warm feeling wash over me with the sunshine coming in through the tain window. (sunshine that is rare in Holland, but accompanies me for my two weeks there!) I zoomed by expansive farmland dotted with baby lambs, and criss-crossed by dikes and water bodies (much of Holland is arficicial and below sea level, for those of you who don't know). My heart is in Holland right now.
  • Arrival in Amsterdam: I arrived and it was hot. I managed to figure out how to charge my ov-chipkart (which makes transport much cheaper) lent to me by a dancer in Berlin orginally from Greece. I will send it back to him by post soon. There is little underground in the city center (unless you are going far), so mostly trams are used. I found my way to the hostel called the "Shelter Jordaan" in the residential, relatively quiet Jordaan district. I was greated by Josh Oh of Colorado - Hello Josh I miss you! This was only the beginning of meeting yound friendly hostel volunteers from around the globe at a hostel that would feel just a little like home. I became their "forever guest" as I just kept coming back over the week. I arrived during hostel dinner and they invited me to eat with them (5 euros for a hostel meal - pretty cheep and tastey). I proceeded to meet the cleaners (clean for free room and board) and former cleaners that stop by to visit with friends. One of the former cleaners - Marcio of Brazil/Barcelona - showed me around the city that evening. Our first stop: the Albert Hein Grocery store (which is everywhere) for Stroopwafel - the classic Dutch sweet of two thin waffles slapped together with syrup. Delicious!!!! I ate four in a row. We ate them warmed over a cup of tea. After that it was the red light distract, which I am NOT okay with because it is so unbalanced - only women on display and no men, same old same old. But the canals lined with lights were beautiful!!! A great first evening in a new place.
  • The following day I went ot HJS (Henrsy J S something...its the main studio in Amsterdam). There they have open classes with teachers that rotate by the week. Took ballet and then contemporary. Liked both, but I wasn't connecting well with the contemporary teacher. I liked his movement, but his combinations were so long and complex and he used the same words to describe everything that I felt I couldn't get into the movement and try out the concepts he presented. I took classe there for the week, ran one day and walked around the other, hung out with new found friends at the hostel, but other than that not much dance stuff. Luckily I was pretty well set up for Rotterdam the following week...
  • More was to come when I returned to Amsterdam the weekend after my trip to Rotterdam. I really like the Amsterdam, with all its bycicles and canals, people carrying kids or groceries in the front bike box, a lover/friend sitting on the back bike rack. I did the later once, sitting on the back while my firned cycled me around the city. No helmet, bruisin my butt and workin my abs to stay on through the crazy traffic, but so fun! You see a lot on a bike. If I lived here I would definitely get one. Also if I lived here I might consider living outside the city in a cute town called Monnickendam, but that is a story for later....
More to come, I will finish later. I'm heading out to have dinner with a friend that lives in London, but was originally from France (William Perry for those of you who know him). Up next: Tulips and Rotterdam Rocks

Monday, April 4, 2011

First Five Days In Berlin

Hello Everyone!

I hope everything at home is well. I am here in Berlin on a quiet Monday afternoon, sun coming out after the rain. I arrived on Thursday afternoon, the 31st of April, and managed to find my friend Olga's street after essentially pulling an all nighter (no, I did not sleep on the plane). The journey here was emotional but low-stress. On the plane everything was free! Food, blankets, unlimited movies, even checking my luggage which was too heavy to carry on (no more than 12 Kg allowed carry-on Air France). I guess that's how it is on international flights, I'm so used to the American pay-for-everything. I had a quick layover in Paris, which is an insanely complicated airport. I arrived at gate 2E and was set to leave at gate 2D. You think those should be close together, right? Think again!!! I followed 2D signs for a good fifteen minutes, tunnel-visioning blindly through the airport.

When I exited the underground in Berlin I was struck by how QUIET the street was, with birds chirping and many young people lounging in cafes below appartments, and people peddaling lazily along on bycicles with no helmet, sometimes in heels. As I have told some of you, in this way the city feels like a combination of country and city, with lots of nature and quiet intertwined with shops and nightlife.

My greeting at Olga's was really warm and wonderful. She and her family live in an appartment in Söneberg, an area just south of Tiergarten (the "Central Park" of Berlin, but better). The appartment is on the third floor overlooking the street, with high ceilings and beautiful old doors and molding. Her mom does a lot of cooking, and when I arrived she and her friend were working on a wonderful dish - every meal I've had here has been very good - "lecker" as they call it, "delicious." They sat me down right away to tea, bread, spreads and tomatoe/cucumber. Though jetlagged, I was very happy to have come to such a good first place.
- For those of you who don't know, I know Olga through the German exchange student Jasmin who is living with my family in Seattle. They were both in Seattle, but Olga came back to Germany in January, and I asked if I could visit her. A wonderful connection to have made! (:

I could go into lots of detail about the city, but I'll just give a little here. I bycicled around the second day to look at tourist stuff. Most notable was the Jewish memorial to the West of Tiergarten and just below the Brandenburg Gate (former checkpoint in the Berlin Wall). It consists of an entire city block filled with a grid cement blocks, short by the street and up to 15-20 feet tall in the middle. You can walk (or run, as the kids did) among them and it feels like a forest - or perhaps a prison. It is very visceral and appropriate for what it represents, can't quite describe the feeling.
Tiergarten is also beauitful, filled with little canals and trails through the bushes, beautiful old bridges and statues, and many flowers carpeting the mossy grass between trees. I went jogging there on Sunday and it was wonderful!
Sidenote: I've used my spanish lots here. Lots of spanish tourists I guess - sometimes on the underground I feel like I'm not in Germany anymore! Can't wait for Barcelona.

Dance Stuff:
I started dancing on Saturday at studio on Eberswalder Strasse housing the company cie. toula limnaios. The studio is in a lovely little courtyard away from the street - again, you feel like you're in the countryside. Toula Limnaois is the director/choreographer of the company, and she's originally from Belgium. The class was really good (and my butt was super sore afterwards). It was release based, with lots of floor work and interesting combinations I never would have thought of. I felt really good afterwards. The dancers are really nice - they say they're in their third week of rehearsal with the new group (international, some from Spain etc.). I'll have to come back next year if I want to audition! (: The class cost 5,50 euro, about 7-8$ U.S. - this is SO CHEEP.

Today, Monday, I went to Dock 11 one of the studios where you can take open class, kind of like Velocity in Seattle. Again, back in a cute little alleyway/courtyard. I took ballet, a fast contemporary class, pretty small so everyone knew each other. Of course I couldn't understand anything that wasn't French or English, so most of the jokes were lost on me. The teacher was very entertaining, and I felt I learned by just watching him. Christian, I think his name was. That class was 6,50 euro, or 10 for two.

For Dancers: What I know about the scene so far.
  • Taking class:
    • Dock 11 (ballet, modern, yoga/pilates nearby, show venue),
    • cie. toula limnaios (open company class),
    • tanzfabrik (this apparently used to be big but isn't anymore? haven't checked it out yet)
    • Marameo (supposedly like Dock 11 but bigger studios and more people. Haven't visited yet)
    • Die Etage (my host mom just told me about it, her friend works there, seems like a school for training young people, may have some open classes - including ausdruckstanz, for all you history junkies!!! Thank you Tonya Lockyer DANC 493 or whatever it was)
  • Companies:
    • Sasha Waltz & Guests appears to be the most famous around here. Dancetheatre. My host mom catered for a site-specific work they did in an old building now museum. Sadly they are out of town performing in Belgium so I can't visit them.
    • Costanzas Macras / Dorky Park - haven't been able to get in contact with them, but again dancetheatre, youtube her stuff, its cool. Learned about her in Tonya's class.
    • cie. toula limnaios dance theater described above, probably the smallest (about ten dancers). When I was in the studio there were many high heels / normal walking shoes on the windowsill.
  • Nearby:
    • Tanz of Staatstheater Braunschweig, choreographer Jan Paul at the moment (male). I will take class with them on Wednesday in Braunschweig. Its about a 2.5-3 hour train ride (80 euro round trip, but I'll use the rail pass).
  • Underground: I think there is a big underground scene here, but I don't know much about it. Again, only been here five days!
I'm sure there's more I'm missing! Lots of people come here to hold auditions. I am auditioning for Tanztheater Kassel (from Kassel, GE) here in Berlin on Friday.

Alright, I need to get off the computer. Wow, it just started raining buckets, but it was like summer yesterday! ADD April weather. As they say often here: "Tschüss!" (bye!),