Trading Places

Sisyphus has got nothing on me.

Here I am, climbing up that proverbial mountain again, heavy burden on my shoulders. I’ve come to the superstitious belief that my life changes drastically every 3 years; 2010 has been no exception.

Of course, in many ways we control the reigns of our destiny and no matter how tumultuous the terrain, we guide the ride. Though my Euro move was kind of arbitrary, much thought went into how I would conquer the difficulties and fears involved with such a hasty move.

Within my first week I was in touch with a photographer I found online to help me build up some pictures for my portfolio. I saw his work and loved it, plus it had an edgy style that screamed DeVo. I got in touch and offered my “services” and he obliged. This was before I crossed the ocean. As luck would have it, he was doing a test shoot right when I arrived and I spent one of my first days in Berlin on set taking marvelous photos.

Luck came to me in the following week as well. I was in the café job hunting and doing research when a film producer noticed me and asked me to audition for his film. I did so the following week, then a callback a little while later, and I was cast. Also I offered my services as the choreographer. My offer was excepted.

The change is not easy and though I can glorify the aforementioned as serendipity or some sign that I made the right decision, I still have a steep climb before I get to where I want to be. And then when I get there, I will find a new challenge to riddle myself with. This is part of my nature.

The struggle is always worth the success. Success is the Life Force that makes me feel like everything I ever wanted to be (and more, and more, and more…always MORE). To compare, my quest for success is much like the quest for love that most people endure – no matter how much it sets you back and distracts you from the rest of your life, it is something you crave. It is the closest things humans have to instinct. Each lover is a lesson, and each mistake is a catalyst to try to do it right next time. Unless of you’re just lazy.

I now have a shortlist of artist residencies, theater troupes, dance schools and performance venues that I am developing proposals for. For my next production I have honed in on a general idea that I need to streamline. Right now I am doing research on ethnic minority immigration in Europe and its effect on the arts and culture, more specifically Germany and Berlin, though there are so many topics that are expounded from this thesis.

I met with a producer of a play development programme (sorry, I have to spell it like this now) and I was nervous about submitting my script to him. He works with a pretty reputable theater and since I was not familiar with their audience, I was dubious about whether or not we were a good fit. We had a nice chat over coffee (a constant theme here) about what I had to offer and vice versa. I got the feeling that my play might be a little too unstructured and amorphous, free of conventional theater specifications, but I gave it a shot anyway. I got a scathing review of the first act (he didn’t bother to read the second) regarding my lack of exposition, rising action and climax. He then went on to comment about my meaningless banter and went so far as to quote Aristotle back to me. It was no surprise, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt my ego a little bit. I know my work is not intended for more traditional venues. I was taking a chance with this particular play because it had already been workshopped (with an arousing response, might I add) and I wanted to really work out the details before I moved on to another project.

I understand the business of show business, something many artists struggle with. You are like a salesman and the product is yourself, in every genre. Sometimes people just aren’t buying it, which is where marketing comes into place. I have received at least 100 rejection notices and I know I’ll receive 100 more. It’s all part of the game, and you can’t always win.

In another twist of fate or luck or whatever you want to call it, I saw an ad for a dance class that was taught in English. I pondered the idea of it for a while and then I finally sent an email to the teacher saying that I was new to Berlin and again I offered my services in the chance that there were any openings for teachers. Almost immediately I got a response and we met for coffee (that magically turned to wine).

Turns out the teacher just found out she is expecting and needs to divert her attention to motherly duties. The timing of my email couldn’t have been better as she was going to need to take off in two weeks. I went and watched the class and the next week I filled in. The students loved the class and it was great to be in the studio again. The best part is, I have another hour once a week to use the studio for whatever I want, so this is the perfect opportunity to rehearse my new project or teach private classes. It’s all happening!

Soon after this discovery, a good friend of mine here in Berlin introduced me to the director of a burlesque show that plays several shows a week. We went to see the show (reviewed here) and it was out of this world. I was so impressed with the work that I saw that I was intimidated about offering my services, I didn’t feel I was good enough. I swallowed my whatever and emailed the director. Next week we meet for coffee.

The toughest part though is that instead of doing all of my own producing, for the first time in a long time, I am working for other people. I am not only just beginning my climb up the mountain, I have a new base camp altogether. I figured that I would switch gears and start doing more performance work in order to make a name for myself.

I’ve been running around the city like one of the “America’s Next Top Model” girls doing go-sees, getting ridiculously lost, and being embarrassingly late to appointments, meetings and call times. It is so weird to be on the other side. It used to be me who did the bitching, “Excuse me, you’re like a fucking month late. Time is money, people!” but now it is me who is the diva actor, dancer, performer who can’t get his shit together.

What’s worse is that it is really hard for me to hold back. I always have so many suggestions to make things more DeVo, not to say they are better or the right way, but they are my favorite: my way. This may take some getting used to.

This is all great that I have this stuff lined up. Terrorist threats notwithstanding, I have no intention to leave Berlin. I do in fact have to apply for a longer Visa. This is something that I am quite nervous about, but it’s more the matter that I am scared of German authority (don’t make me say it) and there is a lot of paperwork. I know it will work out, but right now I’m dreading it like a dentist appointment. Luckily I have a German friend coming with me to speak the language while I give my best Jackie-O smile/stare. Having all these things lined up will help, plus I have a few friends vouching for me to offer me work after I get my permit.

Wish me luck.

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A Little is a lot – Burlesque Review

Kleine Nachtrevue
Saturday, November 13th
9:00pm, 11:00pm
Das Theater der Enthüllung
Kurfürstenstr. 116
10787 Berlin

Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay mayor of Berlin, may want to retract his statement, “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy” [Berlin is poor but sexy]. While this frank (and very German) catchphrase has adorned t-shirts, travel campaigns, and news reports since its inception in 2004, the statement has spurred an almost ironic reaction to the city’s burgeoning cultural climate.

Berlin is well on its way to becoming “rich and romantic” with the increasing blend of old-world style and modern sophistication. The rapidly augmenting number of hopeful residents and current transients in Berlin is staggering, too many times I have heard the now clichéd, “I came here on holiday for a few days and fell in love with the city.”

Berlin is a breeding ground for artists looking to catalyze their stagnant careers as the entire city is a variable playground and petri dish for creatives. Inspiration lies behind many crevices the metropolis adorns thanks to the landscape full of commemorated and veneered secrets; this is the constant struggle for the denizens to relinquish their historic guilty conscience. Berlin is regaining its stature as the cultural epicenter of Europe. It is a model for world-class cities.

It is no wonder then that one of its main attractions is a popular burlesque theater that is a throwback to old Berlin’s cabaret customs. Kleine Nachtrevue [Little Night Show] boasts a solid entertainment extravaganza that is classy, naughty and humorous.

Residing in Das Theater der Enthüllung [The theater of revelation] at the hotel Sylter Hof, a room many times used as a shooting location for film, old meets new in scene and atmosphere. Many original details remain including a scalloped ceiling fashioned similarly to an oyster shell, with a dazzling modern light chandelier. Adjacent to the auditorium seating (with streamline chocolate leather furniture and metal café tables) is an elegant bar full of mirrors, fine marble details, shiny weathered brass and plush velvet bar stools. The centerpiece of the room was the mini-thrust stage with two little wings and housing red and gold velvet curtains. There is an intricate beauty in the simplicity of the space with the (very Berlin) commonplace taper candles throwing a dimly lit shadow throughout the charming space.

The evening’s host and much of everything else was Sylvia, the brainchild and workhorse of the burlesque show. She greeted us with an über-smile and salutation, wearing a slim, blue velvet dress, perfectly revealing in the most latent way, her pale blond hair wrapped in a tight and effortless bun, her feet devoid of shoes. Her amiable spirit was infectious and as she touted off some clauses in German to my escort for the evening, I couldn’t help but succumb to giddiness in spite of myself.

The unique aspect of the way Kleine Nachtrevue operates is that it has two shows: a theater program with skits revolving around a theme, a series of unrelated skits and solo routines with a host that performs cabaret style.

Soon the first program for the earlier (9pm) audience began. Entitled “Be a Stripper, Be a Star”, the show was advertised as a lighthearted take on some of burlesque’s stars and faux pas in theater history. Opening with a skit satirizing the classic stripping genre, we were treated to a dancer in a construction worker’s costume. As she gyrates between bouts of elaborate and almost too-pretty choreography, two veterans look on, writing off this T&A display as being the opposite of what burlesque is all about. After the stripper suddenly rips off her shirt revealing her (pasties-less) boobies, she dances again displaying her extensive dance training and then gyrates off the stage.

Next, we are introduced to Baby June and the recurring characters from “Gypsy” as the “Let Me Entertain You” routine is parodied. At this point of the show, there is already a rich balance between funny and sexy.

Soon Baby June is dancing with a lifeless male doll in a hilarious bit that never takes itself seriously, creating a hilarious unforgettable sketch of super-stardom desperation.

A highlight of the first act was a multi-dancer fan dance, though at first I forgot for a moment that I was in Berlin, and the prevalent lack of g-string and pasties felt odd to me. The girls were totally naked besides their headdresses, and though there were teasy moments with the feathered apparatuses, there was little choreography to hide the nakedness of the dancers, but rather a pleasant combination of complex movements and a celebration of the female form.

Routine after routine, there was an obvious commitment to spectacle shown off – the dance was spectacular, the costumes were incredible, the acting was lively and the creativity was off the charts.

A nice twist on the classic balloon striptease was mounted by our host, Sylvie, who had already revealed herself in several numbers. But in this one she displayed her aforementioned effervescent personality, in abundance. She pranced around stage with her balloon costume, dancing, bumping, gyrating and smoking, using the cigarette to pop balloon after balloon, the audience full of bright smiles.

More solos including some softer cabaret singing and some more uproarious comedic dances that paid homage to the hilarity of old burlesque, with a modern flare.

Again our host rewarded our presence with a balletic strip danced to an instrumental version of a duet by Alicia Keys and Jack White of The White Stripes, and the first set of pastie tassels revealed themselves on the rear of Sylvie the dancer during her number, an inventive and hilarious way to defy their historic importance of the cover-ups in more inhibited venues.

In an off-the-cuff homage to Betty Paige, there was a calendar girl skit (danced to the song of that namesake) in which the girls pranced delicately and slowly in a straight line across the stage, each representing another month on the calendar and posing for the invisible camera. This was a very simple routine but the inventiveness was devine and we were all in stitches at the arrival of each month representative, again, mostly nude sans the appropriate props for their respective months and their identical bobbed wigs.

Though the show fell in and out of English in some parts it was mostly acted in German. There was an apparent sincere current mocking the attitudes of American-style burlesque. Dita von Tease and the modern burlesques were virtually laughed at. In a hilarious skit for a stripper class where a world famous burlesquer (from the USA) that proclaimed to be the best, the actress showed the audience and her students all the traditional elements of bad burlesque, everything borderline stripper tactics that have been glorified by performers and audiences. Even the gaudy costumes and cheesy choreography helped to further illustrate the less-desirable traditional American style.

The second act was especially lively and the energy was on a steady crescendo until the final number. The construction worker returned, this time with metal accents on her costume and brandishing a mechanical sander which she used to melt metal off of her body in hot, flashing sparks – uproarious applause ensued. There was funny a number to a classic Beatles song where the dancer dressed up with elements of a car and during the great reveal, she showed off two pasties made out of little tree car fresheners. There was a salute to The Dance of The Seven Veils, a leather and bondage dance and the show ended with a witty rendition of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” from “Gypsy”.

By the end I was almost exhausted by the talent that exuded off the stage and was shocked when I realized during the curtain call that there were only four girls in the entire show. All of them chameleons, but distinctive, the show was so jam-packed with entertainment I hadn’t realized that the cast was so small. Though called “The little night show” it was big in a big way.

Though the first show was geared towards a more tame audience, it would have done well in a much larger theater, though the lounge space was conducive for an intimate, cabaret feel. The onlookers were primarily upper-class tourists and family and friends, with the occasional young couple here and there.

The second program was less formal but still had the same smooth-running technicality as the theater show. The night show started closer to 11pm and for a slightly lower fare, the mostly younger crowd was dispersed in the lounge seating and at the bar, watching mostly solos that went up every few minutes with short pauses between each act.

The most captivating and inventive routines were shown here, with girls pulling out all the stops with their costumes, make-up and tricks. There was a girl in a big parachute tube that moved around the stage like a dragon snake, the light reflecting the silhouette of her beautiful frame until at the very end she released the tube and exhibited her bare naked body. There were indeed lots of other gimmicks, all tasteful and more alluring than the next. Between dancing girls and sexy magic tricks, there was the co-host of the enterprise, a lively chap named Bodo who charmed us with classic ballads and musical comedy. Between acts, the audience was invited to dance in the intimate space near the front of the stage. It was romantic and reiterated that in Berlin, life is a cabaret.

A Little is a lot – Burlesque Review

Kleine Nachtrevue
Saturday, November 13th
9:00pm, 11:00pm
Das Theater der Enthüllung
Kurfürstenstr. 116
10787 Berlin

Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay mayor of Berlin, may want to retract his statement, “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy” [Berlin is poor but sexy]. While this frank (and very German) catchphrase has adorned t-shirts, travel campaigns, and news reports since its inception in 2004, the statement has spurred an almost ironic reaction to the city’s burgeoning cultural climate.

Berlin is well on its way to becoming “rich and romantic” with the increasing blend of old-world style and modern sophistication. The rapidly augmenting number of hopeful residents and current transients in Berlin is staggering, too many times I have heard the now clichéd, “I came here on holiday for a few days and fell in love with the city.”

Berlin is a breeding ground for artists looking to catalyze their stagnant careers as the entire city is a variable playground and petri dish for creatives. Inspiration lies behind many crevices the metropolis adorns thanks to the landscape full of commemorated and veneered secrets; this is the constant struggle for the denizens to relinquish their historic guilty conscience. Berlin is regaining its stature as the cultural epicenter of Europe. It is a model for world-class cities.

It is no wonder then that one of its main attractions is a popular burlesque theater that is a throwback to old Berlin’s cabaret customs. Kleine Nachtrevue [Little Night Show] boasts a solid entertainment extravaganza that is classy, naughty and humorous.

Residing in Das Theater der Enthüllung [The theater of revelation] at the hotel Sylter Hof, a room many times used as a shooting location for film, old meets new in scene and atmosphere. Many original details remain including a scalloped ceiling fashioned similarly to an oyster shell, with a dazzling modern light chandelier. Adjacent to the auditorium seating (with streamline chocolate leather furniture and metal café tables) is an elegant bar full of mirrors, fine marble details, shiny weathered brass and plush velvet bar stools. The centerpiece of the room was the mini-thrust stage with two little wings and housing red and gold velvet curtains. There is an intricate beauty in the simplicity of the space with the (very Berlin) commonplace taper candles throwing a dimly lit shadow throughout the charming space.

The evening’s host and much of everything else was Sylvia, the brainchild and workhorse of the burlesque show. She greeted us with an über-smile and salutation, wearing a slim, blue velvet dress, perfectly revealing in the most latent way, her pale blond hair wrapped in a tight and effortless bun, her feet devoid of shoes. Her amiable spirit was infectious and as she touted off some clauses in German to my escort for the evening, I couldn’t help but succumb to giddiness in spite of myself.

The unique aspect of the way Kleine Nachtrevue operates is that it has two shows: a theater program with skits revolving around a theme, a series of unrelated skits and solo routines with a host that performs cabaret style.

Soon the first program for the earlier (9pm) audience began. Entitled “Be a Stripper, Be a Star”, the show was advertised as a lighthearted take on some of burlesque’s stars and faux pas in theater history. Opening with a skit satirizing the classic stripping genre, we were treated to a dancer in a construction worker’s costume. As she gyrates between bouts of elaborate and almost too-pretty choreography, two veterans look on, writing off this T&A display as being the opposite of what burlesque is all about. After the stripper suddenly rips off her shirt revealing her (pasties-less) boobies, she dances again displaying her extensive dance training and then gyrates off the stage.

Next, we are introduced to Baby June and the recurring characters from “Gypsy” as the “Let Me Entertain You” routine is parodied. At this point of the show, there is already a rich balance between funny and sexy.

Soon Baby June is dancing with a lifeless male doll in a hilarious bit that never takes itself seriously, creating a hilarious unforgettable sketch of super-stardom desperation.

A highlight of the first act was a multi-dancer fan dance, though at first I forgot for a moment that I was in Berlin, and the prevalent lack of g-string and pasties felt odd to me. The girls were totally naked besides their headdresses, and though there were teasy moments with the feathered apparatuses, there was little choreography to hide the nakedness of the dancers, but rather a pleasant combination of complex movements and a celebration of the female form.

Routine after routine, there was an obvious commitment to spectacle shown off – the dance was spectacular, the costumes were incredible, the acting was lively and the creativity was off the charts.

A nice twist on the classic balloon striptease was mounted by our host, Sylvie, who had already revealed herself in several numbers. But in this one she displayed her aforementioned effervescent personality, in abundance. She pranced around stage with her balloon costume, dancing, bumping, gyrating and smoking, using the cigarette to pop balloon after balloon, the audience full of bright smiles.

More solos including some softer cabaret singing and some more uproarious comedic dances that paid homage to the hilarity of old burlesque, with a modern flare.

Again our host rewarded our presence with a balletic strip danced to an instrumental version of a duet by Alicia Keys and Jack White of The White Stripes, and the first set of pastie tassels revealed themselves on the rear of Sylvie the dancer during her number, an inventive and hilarious way to defy their historic importance of the cover-ups in more inhibited venues.

In an off-the-cuff homage to Betty Paige, there was a calendar girl skit (danced to the song of that namesake) in which the girls pranced delicately and slowly in a straight line across the stage, each representing another month on the calendar and posing for the invisible camera. This was a very simple routine but the inventiveness was devine and we were all in stitches at the arrival of each month representative, again, mostly nude sans the appropriate props for their respective months and their identical bobbed wigs.

Though the show fell in and out of English in some parts it was mostly acted in German. There was an apparent sincere current mocking the attitudes of American-style burlesque. Dita von Tease and the modern burlesques were virtually laughed at. In a hilarious skit for a stripper class where a world famous burlesquer (from the USA) that proclaimed to be the best, the actress showed the audience and her students all the traditional elements of bad burlesque, everything borderline stripper tactics that have been glorified by performers and audiences. Even the gaudy costumes and cheesy choreography helped to further illustrate the less-desirable traditional American style.

The second act was especially lively and the energy was on a steady crescendo until the final number. The construction worker returned, this time with metal accents on her costume and brandishing a mechanical sander which she used to melt metal off of her body in hot, flashing sparks – uproarious applause ensued. There was funny a number to a classic Beatles song where the dancer dressed up with elements of a car and during the great reveal, she showed off two pasties made out of little tree car fresheners. There was a salute to The Dance of The Seven Veils, a leather and bondage dance and the show ended with a witty rendition of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” from “Gypsy”.

By the end I was almost exhausted by the talent that exuded off the stage and was shocked when I realized during the curtain call that there were only four girls in the entire show. All of them chameleons, but distinctive, the show was so jam-packed with entertainment I hadn’t realized that the cast was so small. Though called “The little night show” it was big in a big way.

Though the first show was geared towards a more tame audience, it would have done well in a much larger theater, though the lounge space was conducive for an intimate, cabaret feel. The onlookers were primarily upper-class tourists and family and friends, with the occasional young couple here and there.

The second program was less formal but still had the same smooth-running technicality as the theater show. The night show started closer to 11pm and for a slightly lower fare, the mostly younger crowd was dispersed in the lounge seating and at the bar, watching mostly solos that went up every few minutes with short pauses between each act.

The most captivating and inventive routines were shown here, with girls pulling out all the stops with their costumes, make-up and tricks. There was a girl in a big parachute tube that moved around the stage like a dragon snake, the light reflecting the silhouette of her beautiful frame until at the very end she released the tube and exhibited her bare naked body. There were indeed lots of other gimmicks, all tasteful and more alluring than the next. Between dancing girls and sexy magic tricks, there was the co-host of the enterprise, a lively chap named Bodo who charmed us with classic ballads and musical comedy. Between acts, the audience was invited to dance in the intimate space near the front of the stage. It was romantic and reiterated that in Berlin, life is a cabaret.