Since leaving Paris, I’ve now travelled to Berlin. I met up with my fiancé Marc who was presenting his research in Turku, Finland. So great to exchange what we individually learned and be back on the same continent. We count our blessings every day!
We stayed in a great new boutique hotel, i31 in the Mitte District. Despite having to change rooms because of the jackhammer at 6:00am, the hotel was completely accommodating and had a chaise lounge in our new room. A great way to snuggle up with the books Marc brought for my research this summer. Currently I am reading, An Introduction to a Visualizing Dance Form Contact Improvisation by Cheryl Pallant.
The Mitte area of Berlin contains parts of former East Berlin and many historical landmarks including Museum Island, and the Reichstag. The translation of Mitte to English is middle and is relatively located in the center of Berlin.
We found some great Thai food and I was also able to find a place to take classes only 20 minutes away by foot called Dock 11 Eden. There are two locations actually, Dock 11 and Eden that offer classes, intensives, and workshops. The studios also present a number of performances and films. Down the small alley off of Kastanienallee, Dock 11 was the perfect place to take class. They offer profittraining, usually a contemporary masters series class Monday-Friday from 10:00am-11:30am and ballet from 12:00pm-1:30pm. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend these classes but I did take an open modern dance class with Katrin Pohlmann.
It was an interesting change for me to take class in a foreign language. All the while my fellow students in Paris were mustering up their courage to face the language barrier and here I was coasting because I spoke the language. The last time I took class in a foreign language I was on tour in Korea and took a ballet class. That being said it was ballet so most of the language was the same. I noticed being slightly overwhelmed when I first walked into the studio but as we began to move the fear of not understanding subsided and dancing began.
Katrin’s class began first with the feet in contact with the floor, eyes closed in German and English, she asked us to feel the weight of our bodies into our feet and then into the floor. Soon after she asked that we shift our weight side to side, then front to back, eventually allowing the knees to move, then hips, then the ribs, then the limbs, moving first in place, then around the room. At some point, I can’t remember when she asked us to open our eyes and the rest of the class was taught in German. We found a partner and were asked to move with our partner without actually touching but simply feeling the essence of the other dancer. Then we were asked to make contact with only the forehead leaning into one another. I loved the opening of this class because I never knew when one task was over and the next began. We had ample time to investigate each one and never did they feel rushed or tedious. Her understanding of time in each exercise was incredible. After the improvisation-based warm-up we were lead through a short yoga-esque stretch with downward dog and long lunges. Again I can’t tell you how the atmosphere of each exercise flowed so seamlessly into the next. Shortly after the above series we began the more formal part of a modern dance class, using over curves and under curves to travel across the floor, shifting weight and allowing for the weight of the pelvis to dictate our movements. I loved her combination at the end. It consisted of full and rich movements that utilized space and time, levels and dynamics that encouraged dancers of all levels.
Seeing shows in Berlin proved to be difficult because we were only there Monday and Tuesday night and all the shows at Dock 11 Eden were finished. We wanted to see if we could get tickets to the Staatsballett Berlin but found out through calling that the dancers were on strike. Since Marc speaks German we tried reading the newspaper to see why the dancers were on strike and talking with other box office workers but we couldn’t find any information except for the three sentence notice on the Staatsballett website:
“Due to a strike by the dancers, today’s performance of “Sleeping Beauty” at 7:30pm at Deutsche Oper Berlin will be cancelled. The Staatsballett Berlin regrets the cancellation of the performance. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the cancellation.”
There were of course other shows that we could have seen but instead we decided on a Spree River Boat tour crossing under 63 bridges and learning about the reunification and future plans of Berlin as well as a visit to the Check Point Charlie Museum. I was enamored with how much Berlin and the museum has changed even since 2009, when I last visited. I toured Germany in 2004 and the changes in 2009 were plenty. But even now from 2009 to 2015, the changes are immense! The rebuilding and the forward progression seems to be moving faster than I could ever imagine. The rate of change was like being on Space Mountain and the rumble of transformation in the air was thick and intense. I imagined dancers running across the stage with task based choreography, picking up a block, moving a stone, replacing a stone, and moving the old block back to where it came from without ever having an end in sight. Moving to sheer exhaustion had some meaning for me while I was in Berlin and I’ve been mulling over this for a few days now. I certainly feel some movement creation happening!