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!),


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