Ich bin hier Berlin.
Just over a year ago I was here on holiday and I knew that I would be back. Though at the time it was a pipe dream, the voice of this great city was haunting me every since I stepped off the plane back to Philadelphia.
My first visit to Europe was a serendipity in itself. I went to Paris with friends (and then husband) and something changed in me. There is the ever-present cliché of black people attaining some sense of cultural freedom in Europe and I was an instant paradigm of this phenomenon. Paris was beautiful and art-friendly and encompassed the ideal of a colorless union of personalities. I was hooked.
Josephine Baker said she wanted to seduce the entire capital upon her arrival to Paris. While it was new to me to be so new and exotic, I really just wanted to get along with the town but a flux of being accosted at every corner proved that there was something special about my particular difference in the vast society of the city.
A few months after my stint in Berlin I returned to Europe and visited Barcelona, solidifying my fascination with the wonderland over the sea, and I knew that it was time to make the trip over.
I spent so many hours researching the process and the opportunities in Berlin. The “poor but sexy” city seemed more possible despite the necessities I would have to get rid of in my established life in Philadelphia. I was ambivalent about the goal but fate had a heavy hand in my planning the move. Though everything was going swimmingly, a change needed to happen; I was becoming too complacent.
Really it was New York City I wanted. There were so many times I had threatened to give it all up for the Big Apple and I came so close but always strayed from the leap of faith due to very specific monetary trepidations. I know that I will end up there someday but I don’t know if NYC is ready for me or vice versa.
The more affordable and logical option was Berlin. The renaissance that is going on here seduced me and the cheap living added fuel to the fire that was seething within. Though Philadelphia was really starting to see the emerging art star within DeVo, I thought better to play the game where the rules were a little more in my favor.
Already there are many things I miss about Philadelphia. I long for time spent with my friends and the wondrously uncanny watering holes I found myself at from time to time. It is such an inspiring place to be and my art seemed to be on autopilot thanks to the blinding local color of that great city. I was fresh off of two shows, two jobs and all was going well, but I was ready to move on. Go big or go home, right?
I am by no means running away from anything. I do not have some fantastic point of view as to finding greener and/or better pastures here, it is just fresh canvas. I am starting from scratch. I have a lot of work to do.
It was hard leaving the studio behind. I was so fortunate to have found Major Moment Studio after the studio I worked in for over two years closed due to lack of funding. I met the owner, Beverly, who was this wonderful angel who shone light back onto my passion and the space and support she provided helped me through the dark of losing my home where I created my art.
“Man Bites Dog” was a success. Though as usual there are many things I would have done differently, the overall aspects of the piece were great and it was the most cohesive show I have ever mounted. Not only that, but I had this great group of dancers that were devoted to my work and really thrived under the pressure of my perfectionism. I wish I could have brought them all with me.
The hardest part for me right now is not rehearsing. I have so many ideas and I am seething with creativity. For now I am making notes and doing research, trying to construct a reputable proposal for an artist residency or a dance project to be produced here. I have been doing a lot of reading about the Afrodeutsch in regards to history, immigration, the arts and cultural attitudes. I am finding out a lot of interesting things about blacks in Germany and it will be the basis of my thesis for my new work. I am even considering doing a one-man solo piece, and I abhor one-man shows. We shall see.
Other than that, life is good. It is a lot of hard work making contacts and trying to get “in”. I have faith. I am in a great position now because I am not bogged down by my “real” jobs and I have plenty of time to work on becoming an established freelancer here. I have already started building a new portfolio of photos for possible work for other artists/photographers. I met a great guy named Markus who took some great shots of me. We will be having another photo shoot soon.
I also met a director who is shooting a film. He needs some choreography done for it and asked me to audition for a part. The call backs are sometime in the next week or so. It would be nice to be on the set of a film again, I love it so much.
The biggest change is getting from behind the curtain. For now I need to make money and make a name for myself so instead of producing my own work I will be looking for performance jobs. My horrid stage fright notwithstanding, it will be nice to be on the other side of the fence. I kind of miss playing characters and memorizing lines and choreography and such. It will be nice to help another artist realize his/her vision. I’m looking forward to it.
The cultural differences aren’t really that big of a deal. I am struggling to learn the language and if it wasn’t imperative to my success, I wouldn’t even bother because mostly everyone speaks English here. I am still getting over the fact that the Germans don’t use gas dryers for their laundry most times and that they don’t refrigerate their eggs, but these are first world problems I’m dealing with, the pretty pretty princess in me has to take a back seat for a while.
More everyday it is becoming quite apparent that I made the best decision. I don’t want to leave Berlin anytime soon, unless of course I find a gig that takes me elsewhere. There is that laid back attitude here and a respect for life…and art. It is very important here that you enjoy yourself. Many times I feel like I am stuck in a modern version of the roaring 20s despite the wretched history that shows its face in the shadows of many parts of the city.
Berlin is a place where there is so much guilt and so much opportunity to start over again. While the town is so old, it (much like me) is starting over again. There are people from all over the world migrating here and many times I hear that it’s easier to find work in the arts than it is in business or science. Funny how that works out.
Still, it is no Disneyland or Oz for me, I am in fact a vagrant working hard to find a suitable space for me here in this motley arrangement of social extremities. And right now, with all its good and bad, there is no place like home.