We all have our cycles. Our idiosyncrasies lead us to certain patterns. It is our job to learn from the ebb and flow that is inherent throughout the mortal coil. Some struggle with becoming well-rounded despite the need to adapt to the unexpected.
For me, my life does not run in a circle but more of a quadrilateral. At times it feels as though I am a remote controlled car, heading in straight lines of varying lengths and when I reach the end I keep pushing against the obstruction until inertia takes over and my course turns down another straight line. I am no stranger to hurdles whether spawned by external or internal forces.
Each line of my square relates to each other and they are all connected. Each sharp turn is another beginning but yet an extension of the previous line. There is no steady standard. I am creating a box.
This pilgrimage to crazy Berlin has been a humbling experience as well as a validating one. I have exceeded my own expectations and the iota of doubt regarding my propensity for success has dissipated. This rite of passage has been an imperative part of my emotional and artistic evolution, one that is indelibly etched into my life force.
Today I stand at an inexplicable crossroad as I succumb to ambivalence once again. It is uncharacteristic for me to rely on the urges of my id though it builds so much character for me. To relinquish oneself from the confines of societal standards is a great but dubious feat indeed. It is like climbing high without a safety net.
Despite the complications of technical details regarding my sojourn, I have managed to adapt to this leap-before-you-look lifestyle. I would be lying if I said I had little regret and that this wasn’t a maddening experience. Throughout my life I have become accustomed to walking with one foot in front of the other and now I am floating in this amorphous procedure.
I think back to the early inspirations of my urgency to create art. This fodder is a constant reminder of why it is that I do what I do. Though life is my biggest muse, I gave myself the opportunity to be stripped away from my comfort zone and experience a world anew; there have been so many benefits.
Through this ethnographic experience, I have developed even more fuel for my aesthetic arsenal. What I once thought was a Renaissance here in Berlin I now know is more of a way of life. Art is an age-old entity and creativity is part of our DNA. Those who have chosen to exploit this gift are brave and cursed, and they are a vital part of our world culture. They are abundant here and very zealously drawn to this city.
Recently I went to a cultural event called The Living Room Festival. The show took place in a flat that boasted a film screening and a live dance performance. Before the choreographer/dancer began his work in front of a highly varied audience that sat on blankets in the empty living room, he talked of that particular experience taking him back to his roots as so many of his performance pieces had their birth in his living room.
It took me back to my earliest days where dance was created in front of mirrors in my bed room and other parts of the house. I would also gather my friends in my front yard or in the playground, boom box blasting, teaching them dance steps I couldn’t bear to keep to myself for much longer. I thought of all the times I watched music videos on MTV and learned the choreography on the living room carpet. And then in high school I would treat my friends to private performances in my living room, dancing out what I thought was my own personal genius, my movement a gift to them. Then in college, with head phones on, I would compose dances for class in my small dorm room, and then when I started working on my own, again, my small apartment became my dance studio.
There are times when I am so inspired I feel like I could implode if I don’t let the dance out. While waiting for trains and buses, my feet move on autopilot, composing the next big thing. At parties, the music always cajoles my body into swinging with the beat. My artistic athleticism is always coming out of myself, even when I am sitting still. I might stretch one way or another and think of the movement structure like a dancer and this could become the motif for my next work.
I now have the next major piece for a work in my head. There have been a lot of catalysts for this idea and part of my primary function of coming to Germany was to come up with a well-researched proposal for a dance work in order to seek funding for development.
What started as a big idea has been narrowed down. I am no stranger to larger than life ideas when it comes to my work but through conversations, writing and research, I’ve managed to come up with this abstract:
Project Title: Diaspora
Artistic investigation of the aesthetic influences caused by ethnic minority immigration in Berlin from the 1920s-1940s.
This dance theater project will engage in a thorough investigation of the effects of cultural integration in Berlin, Germany pre and post WWII. More specifically, the final performance work will be a modern narrative of the histories of contributions of black people to the cultural landscape of the arts in Berlin. Through examination of the many styles of dance, theater and music that have been exploited in Berlin through migration of blacks from Africa and America and the cultural contexts of its origins, the project will develop a group of dancers who will become versed in the techniques utilized in the corresponding forms. Furthermore, through the exploratory research of the styles using historiography and other methods, the training program of the dancers and the choreography will establish a new, original vocabulary melding historical styles with traditional and contemporary dance motifs.
Though much of this could use some grammatical correction, syntax adjustment, and a more clear point of view, it has been quite a beast for me to narrow it down this much. I love a challenge, and so much of what I want to explore is undocumented evidence of black European history. I am especially interested in the black victims of the holocaust whether it is those that fled Berlin during the war or that were held in concentration camps. The most compelling literature I found involves the “Rhineland Bastards” (children of white German women who were impregnated by black soldiers during the war) who were sterilized.
The other big issue is whether or not to make this a solo piece. I hate solo works, I think it is Narcissistic and masturbatory to engage in a one-man show. Also, from an audience point of view, it can be quite boring to watch the same person on stage for over an hour. Though, I keep getting this very clear image of how I want the show to start if I were to do it alone or have another dancer perform this work. The trouble is, there are so many facets of this (I will be focusing on Jazz mostly) that it would be a shame not to have big composed works with a variety of dancers in order to make a full portrait of the stories I want to tell.
I have other ideas for new works that the culture of Berlin has much blame for. These are not only dance works, but written pieces as well.
Right now I am undergoing some self-imposed scrutiny for the technical details of my trip here. It is like I threw a proverbial boomerang and I am back to square one. I hate not knowing what stands before me, though the mystery is alluring.
I have a lot of hope though I am losing my faith. It is my goal to come back home to Philly to regroup but the chore is proving to be somewhat of an impossibility. I can’t help but to be seduced by the ideas seething in my soul, but my pragmatism is starting to take over. I’ve made another sharp turn and have to start over again, not knowing how far this line will take me.