{feature} Artist, where do we meet? – Sasha Waltz Open Studio with Rosabel Huguet and Steffen Döring

The act of listening – We sit down and listen to each other. It was after I simply wrote a letter to somewhere unknown and see what happens.

Part I

Quoted Sasha Waltz open studio, ‘’It’s all about listening to each others.‘’ Imagine you wrote a letter to a person you admired the most, and she/he wrote you back. Sasha Waltz open studio open arms to me while I requested for a interview. It is my favourite improvisation space in Berlin. Why? The diverse of movers, artists and musicians gather every month in this breathable architecture, it is a celebration. The event is free and no particular purpose at all—purely for sharing and learning from each other. This kind of meeting point is rare and precious.

My first time there was a coincidence. I was very young in exploring the body practices, a Greek Choreographer invited me to join after a day long of training in studio. Such a blast! There were more than fifty artists through out the whole night, moving in a synchro rhythm. That night was still so deep under my skin. I could feel the lift of improvisation and those gifts I received.

And we met again. For this interview, we came across the room and sat around a white round table. Her name is Rosabel Huguet and his name is Steffen Döring. They are the organisers of the open studio. The dialogue we had was regarding education, open source, network and rituals. Following up, please read the conversation we had for knowing more.

© Lena Kern | Open Studio Berlin #1

© Lena Kern | Open Studio Berlin #1

How did open studio start?

Steffen: In a way the company is in a good position with regular funding and studios that we can afford. Sasha is well known artistically. It’s always been part of her profile to open these resources she had to broader people who are not necessarily connected to the company. It’s always been very important to her. From the education side, there are workshops we are doing. The open studios is part of that philosophy somehow, to give something to the community of the dancers and artists in Berlin who are the audience as well.

Rosabel: That’s one of the core thing which is important for Sasha that the open studios is a free event. The people who comes to participate and improvise don’t have to pay for the entrance, because it puts immediately someone in position of expecting something or exclude people who are not able to afford it. The core of the open studios is based on the extreme generous philosophy of trying to open the space because it’s there and make it free for everybody.

Steffen: That’s basically the resources we had which is the studios belonged to the company that we rent through the whole year which is available 24/7. That’s our access somehow that we put into idea into the project. I have contract with the company so I am also doing other thing in the production. Rosabel are also getting paid for it. So we organise it together as part of the company. We use our resources to publish it.

Rosabel: And expand the idea. Because something that it is happening here has been almost three years. It had happened in Budapest and Amsterdam. We also have request from Israel asking if we would also do it there. This is sort of work because there is no place that people can actually just meet and share without any purpose. It is like you come and just meet and do it; ‘’You are a musician. I am a dancer. You play. I play with you.’’ This basic of doing, I think, shows us through the three years that I work in. That’s why actually we keep on doing it. That’s also reflecting a need of the social meet from the city. There is many many artists, but where are these artists meet and exchange? Well, you can meet in the premiere or classes, but where can you exchange? That’s fundamental big question. I think Sasha is also super concerned with how we exchange, how in a way we keep on sharing the knowledge and information, and keep on talking and listening with each others.

© Lena Kern | Open Studio Berlin #2.jpg

© Lena Kern | Open Studio Berlin #2

On 31st January 2015, the open studios start. It has been three years already. It seems like yesterday. It’s so important to actively create and exchange. The open studio makes itself happen. The room has sort of moving feeling. It’s amazing that it’s always something moving in this room. The light changes very much. It keeps you as well that something is going on in the room. It’s part of the concept of the architecture to keep the space open.

Steffen: That was quite crazy that we didn’t really advertise it so much. We just invented the mailing list.

Rosabel: I told a lot of people that I already knew they would be interested, asking them to invite someone would also be interested to come. That was the first way of doing it.

Steffen: We didn’t post it on Facebook or anything. But then, the first day was super crowd. Last time was again full of people.

Rosabel:We don’t have a fixed date because we keep it flexible. It allows us to have different atmosphere. Sometimes there’s more kids coming because it’s Friday and they don’t have the school the next day. So they can be. There’s all these interesting constitution of people depending on the day.

Steffen: The average ages is really wide. For example, it’s really beautiful aspect of the open studio to see the teenager dance company between 12-15 years old. They comes every time and looking forward to it. They are such good improviser because of they are doing this physical work for at least 5-6 years.

Rosabel: I think it’s really good example of what we are talking about the education. How we get our youngest to move, but not to move in doing something formal? These kids when they go on the street, they move completely differently. They are aware of the space differently. When they are in a station full of people, they know exactly what to do because they are used to confront of people, in the meanwhile feeling the space. It’s also very much feeling the philosophy of how art or movements in this sense can actually bring forward generations of new visioneers. Young people has everything to learn yet, everything to do yet. So that’s of course in the open studio when you have a fifteen years old kid, a baby on the floor, and you confront someone who has been dancing all its life, people to people together, and you face them with no words, it doesn’t matter if you know German or you are Korean. When you meet a child, you just try to listen. It’s the relation and how you communicate. For me, it’s the basis way of constructing. This happens a lot in the open studio, because it has this long way of agents. So we can feed each other and we can learn from each other, the youngest to the oldest and the oldest to the youngest. Of course, as old you get, there’s more experiences of how you move. But there’s someone completely free that you have to see. That’s also interesting to see what happens. The age ranges is very important for me.

Is there a certain ritual or guild to start the session of open studio?


Rosabel: We try to keep it simple because we don’t pretend to teach no body or to give any example of anything. Our job to host them, to make them feel comfortable, welcome, and to know if anything happen we are there. That’s why in the beginning we always do a short talk to welcome everybody. For the one who’s the first time, we just go very fast to these basis rules—we listen to each other. We respect with everybody. We start from the side and free the center. And we start. We try to do so because it’s not about us talking, it’s about ‘’us’’ talking.

Steffen: We sometimes try experiments of a structure, format or proposal. We don’t give any rules or framework. Let’s see what happens, if we filtering something to start as a proposal. Sometimes we looks for connection to what’s happening in the studio or workshop during the week.

Rosabel: For example. we would invite that artist of the workshop to define one set of structure or a score. Let’s start improvising by that and see where it lease. For instance, we cover all over the space with papers, and inviting some graffiti artists and painters to come. We invited them and everybody was on the floor. In a normal sense, you move the movement and it’s gone after a second.

© Mark – r | Open Studio Berlin #13.jpg

© Mark – r | Open Studio Berlin #13

For example, there’s another day called the cooking day. We asked an artist Pei Pei who was working a lot with the leftovers. Then, we asked every participant to bring one leftover from its fridge. So everybody brought something.  And then, he was improvising in dish as a cooker during the time we were improvising on the space with the product each one brought. Of course, this meal and the sound of pods sounds like a soundtrack. In the end, we all shared the dish. That’s also a way of improvisation. We also improvised a dish. To Steffen’s saying, to put something and to see how people react to it.

© Jefferson Sofarelli | Open Studio Berlin #6

© Jefferson Sofarelli | Open Studio Berlin #6

The first session we did in Budapest, we were improving together through skype. We put a huge TV in the studio. We went into skype, opened studio Berlin and studio Budapest, said hi to each other.Then, for two hours improving together. In the meanwhile we could see what’s happening from the other city. At certain point, it was chaos. Because here and there are different. Technically issue for example like sound quality were horrible. It was sometimes challenge. So we said goodbye at certain point. But there is an aim to really try to exchange and share. Not trying to put too much imitation, but some inputs. It’s sort of part of our time that we had to start to get used to technology. I am also not from Berlin, so I do talk a lot with my family through Skype. It’s a way of keeping in touch. So we thought why we don’t improvise with someone? It was really fun.

© Jefferson Sofarelli | Open Studio Berlin #8.jpg

© Jefferson Sofarelli | Open Studio Berlin #8

How is going with open studio in Budapest and Amsterdam?

Rosabel: Well, this year is not happening anymore. Because it’s something quite experimental. Berlin can host something like this quite easily, because the city invites these sort of exchanges with many people. People are maybe more open to it. In Amsterdam and Budapest, you need to work like some sessions, but then, the space also needed to reconsider if it’s something worth it. But the time it happened, it was indeed interesting, to realise how different the scene format can be influence by cities and other elements. That’s why it’s also great to see if we do it in Tel aviv.

There’s also another dancer and choreographer from the company for many years who is now based in Madrid, asking that he would like to do it near the canal. We sent him some info and pictures. I have a feeling it expends. I see us more like a revolver point, it’s like every time you come to Berlin you would have the open studios. The other place is more a pop-up which is happening for a while. It’s interesting and understructure.

© Silvia Boschiero | Open Studio Amsterdam #1

© Silvia Boschiero | Open Studio Amsterdam #1

© Silvia Boschiero | Open Studio Amsterdam #1

© Silvia Boschiero | Open Studio Amsterdam #2

© Silvia Boschiero | Open Studio Amsterdam #2

Steffen: It’s not an amazing invention that we created. Things like this also happened in 70’s and 80’s of New York. In the same time, when people ask us if they can also do it, I am always surprised. Of course you can do it. Anybody can do it. How can we even help you? We don’t own the idea.

Rosabel: I have a feeling that Berlin has the spirit of…after the wall fall down, a lot of places were occupied, becoming a cultural center in the end. All these places actually allow this crazy mix of people with completely different idea but still wanna share something. I think Berlin has a little bit of this essence from the history. That’s why also the open studio here works like that.

In Amsterdam, there is a huge community of improvisation. But they would never think of improvising with someone from different disciplines. How and why? This is like part of dialoguing and listening to each other, sharing and constructing something, instead of keeping ourselves in our own perception. The city invites us to open it up. It’s inspiring and happening.

I know that through the open studios many artists got to know each other. They met afterwards and did projects together. It shows how interesting to meet by doing. For example, someone is looking for a dancer. How I know there is connection or no connection? Of course, you go to place like that you do immediately feel if or not. I know a lot also happen there because of this openness. It works because of people are coming and feeling welcome.

A long collaborator of the company, Yoshiko Chuma who is specialist in improvisation. She is one the figure who start in 80’s New York. She opened one open studio with one score. After awhile the session was going on, it got wild. It almost seems like sort of a group therapy. So I approached her saying, ‘what do you think? It’s chaos that nobody is listening to nobody.’ She said, ‘first, don’t say nobody is listening to nobody. Because it’s not true. Nobody is hurt here and nobody is rushing against the wall or each other. So they are listening to each other but just not the way you are expected. They are listing to each other. Second, it get wild because it is what is needed to go through for finding something else.’ She was very much into don’t judge it.  That was a very nice thing to do.

© Roger Rossell | Open Studio Berlin #5.jpg

© Roger Rossell | Open Studio Berlin #5

A three years old has different way of listening than a eighty years old.

Steffen: To see people are independent the whole evening without any interaction, yet if you think about this person, surely there’s interaction which is what happened on this person depended on the group surrounding.  The other people who are constantly with others, always be involved from one person to the other is the same as the person who are independent.

Rosabel: We try to offer bouncing and reflecting who is needed. This is also something which is important to create the online archive where all the things are generated arrive here somehow. It is something we are all doing together. Everybody can go there to look at the drawing or recording to reflect on it, and keep the conversation alive. It is very generous that the photographers and painters would pass and scan the pictures. It all takes time to do so. We don’t force them to do it, they only do it out of spirit of sharing.

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Is there challenging situation during the open studio happening?

Steffen: Sometimes I am worried about the people who is going really crazy, but there is nothing you can do. Nobody really got kicked or hurt. It’s really incredible. I think it is going really smooth. I sometimes worry that there’s no musicians come, because it’s important that the music is there. I think it only happened one time. Somehow the room created its own rhythm. With the music there’s a clear framework. It is so open but somehow everyone is respectful.

Rosabel: When it gets late, the place get dark. But no one steal things on the back sneaky.

Any word you would like to share with our audience?

Steffen: Message has to be meaningful…?

Rosabel: Share and listen. It’s sort of the motto of the open studios which is to keep on open channel instead of closing them.

Part II

Now comes in some personal story telling. It’s not necessary directly relating to the open studio itself but more personal aspect of how things happened. I am always curious about how different characters get involved into a certain degree, and they are having fun with what they do everyday. Here are some questions I request as follows.

How did you become a part of open studio and Sasha Waltz & Guests?

Steffen: I was still a student in Berlin in the 90’s. The year was 1998. I saw one piece from Sasha Waltz which was called ‘’Na Zemlje’’. It was sort of the last performance in Sophiensæle. She did it with a group of Russians actors/performers who is kind of grampy, musical and humorous. I was sitting in the audience thinking ‘‘oh my god I have never seen any like this.’’ I love it. I wrote her saying, ‘’I want to know how she do it and what’s going on. I would love to be part of process sometimes.’’ Somehow it was a good timing. We met and talk. She said yes it would be nice to have you. I was there assisting her in that transformative period, moving from Sophiensæle to Schaubühne. I wonder how this kind of letter turned out successful which is writing a letter into nowhere. I feel like I was really lucky with right time, right place and right kind of thing.

This was one of the first thing. Then, I moved to England for studying dance. I worked as choreographer that I did my own work. In 2004, I wanted to come back to Berlin. Again, the situation was good. Sasha Waltz’s company expended a little bit. So she said, ‘’yes, come back. I need an assistant again. It would be good if you do this.’’

Rosabel: He does it amazingly. It is not a easy job.

Steffen: Sasha is great. I think in term of artist she is one of the most sane and ground people I can imagine. This makes work with her very easy in a way. It is the peak of organisation, there is a lot of people so it’s the challenge of it. We tour a lot and I am always traveling. I only have one time having sushi in Japan. But there is so much stuff to experience. As a dancer and performer, it’s part of the past. So in the open studio I am not in the improvisation anymore.

Rosabel: I moved to Berlin in 2012 from Barcelona, Spain. I was just finished my study in the university there. I knew the work of Sasha because I was studying it in the university. We had the great respect of European theater artists. That’s why I choose Berlin, not because of Sasha but it’s great to be in the incubator of the amazing artists. When I moved here. I have been working with several people in the different projects. Then, I got to work in Schaubühne. There I got to work with a choreographer who is actually working in the company years ago. He told me sometimes they do workshops there. You can write Steffen for this. Then, I asked him for the workshops. It was a workshop about improvisation. I did it. Sasha was there some days as well. It was all about improvisation. The group and atmosphere was so great. That was so nice and a lot of things happened. In the end of the session, there was a small showing. At the showing I remembered we including Sasha were saying it would be so great that we have an improvisation session here in the house. We are full and we are busy, so when and where and how? I remembered that it happened to me as same as Steffen’s letter. I purpose a concrete plan for the company. I remembered Sasha said this is the dream I always had since I had been in New York and doing it myself. So it was not a completely new idea for her to be requested. It was sort of out of contact although she has been inviting someone and group of people to improvise.

Steffen: I think it probably trigger something to hear from the dance community expressing the real need and wish for it. I think that triggered something.

Rosabel: It was a wish already there. It was maybe the right moment to try it. It’s somehow how I got to do it with Steffen. It’s been wonderful. Personally, I need this exchange as well as a person. This is what I wish for myself to be able to be in a space and improvise with people. That’s ideal.

What’s a daily ritual for you?

Steffen: It’s really an interesting question because I do not have rituals. As soon as I need to do something, part of I brush my teeth and have breakfast everyday. Because often times it’s proposing my characters somehow. My life has no routines; two weeks I would be in the office, and another two weeks I would be on tour. Then, I have two months of being in this building everyday. So somehow, if I have rituals, I could not do my job. I would be really unhappy.

Rosabel: It’s exactly the same for me. I am two weeks in Berlin, this Saturday I am going to Australia, five days ago I was in France. I change completely space-wise throughout the year. I learn to be flexible enough to not have too extreme routines which it would be distracting if I don’t do that. Of course, hygiene and coffee in the morning. But I try to not attach too much with those things. Because our life is not for that. It’s actually being flexible.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Rosabel: I have a lot of good advices from many people in many moments of my life. It sounds a little bit of romantic, but I guess it is ‘’follow what you believe and what you want to do. Don’t limitation with what you think.You can do it.’’ It came from the fact that nobody in my family is into arts, and I wanted to do arts. I left and it works.

Steffen: What I like is some kind of philosophy which is ‘’pretending to be stupid would save you fifteen minutes of work.’ It means don’t jump. Just digest, observe and try to understand. Maybe by then, the problem had been solved. If not, you go for it. Often it happens surely in arts when you are working with people are very close to their emotions and feelings. It comes out very quickly. You need to filter it somehow and try to stay calm and try.

What’s the questions in your head this week?

Steffen: It’s regard the projects which we want to do for next half year. There’s a lot of think about what’s the final thing.

Rosabel: I am doing this workshop. My question this week is about gathering and expanding. We are doing this all day long. So the big question for me is how to get into the floor and out of the floor. Because I am going into the floor and out of the floor at least five hundred times a day.

Yin: The dialogue between three of us ended for now. The openness and encouragement are still echoing inside of me. I feel incredibly grateful for how it went. Thank you Rosabel, thank you Steffen. It was a great pleasure.

With many thanks to Rosabel Huguet and Steffen Döring
Please see open studio’s online archive here
Photos credits/ Please see the descriptions of each photo. Cover photo by Roger Rossell photographed Open Studio Berlin #4
Original article in Mandarin contributing to Red Bull please see the link

{feature} 27 dance monkeys’ free playground – Be van Vark & Sven Seeger

Her house was located in the backyard of a typical Neukölln building for the residents. As I was invited to visit, Be van Vark opened the door asking me if I would like a tea. There it was, surprisingly, a concreted pumpkin standing in the backyard. You can have a 360 degrees view of the garden from the big windows inside. She dressed casual, matching quite well with her long hair tiebacks. It all felt very familiar. I stood around the kitchen with a dormer roof. She said it all starts in 1996 when she started working in Schlesische 27. I was delighted to hear the story unfolding itself in that way. Be van Vark was one of the founders of 27 dance monkeys together with Sven Seeger. They started it in an organic way without a name. She continued, ‘’Schlesische 27 is an international youth, art and culture house. It has always been the same: networks and people.”

While she continued to share more about their history, Anna Katalin Nemeth and Julek Kreutzer came into the room with the Turkish dessert. They are the younger generation who help organize the projects. Together, they offer a space to play and create with one another. They found the name ‘27 dance monkeys’ in a bar later on. It showed how important to give it a name that it has been existence. Without a name, they did one project after another. It didn’t have this kind of commitment.

The discussion between four women including me turned into an enthusiastic dialogue. I hope I could warp up those amazing memories they shared with me, but it took so much energy of me. I decided to let my artist write instead of myself. It is very simple. They did amazing things with community. And this is an short introduction of what they do.

Roter Flohmarkt

Bringing people from different ages, background, and styles to merge inside the framework of dance & theater work. It was all about meeting at the moment, doing something together.

What is 27 dance monkeys?

27 dance monkeys have been funding by the government- The Senate Chancellery, the center for funding programmes which has different cultural projects running from different programs. We only have basic funding from the government. Then we find other funding commentary for each project.  

At the moment, the some money comes from a school. Basically, every school in Germany can use three percents of their budget for anything they want. A lot of schools use it for artist’s projects. The school who funds us wants their students to integrate with fantastic monkeys people. Some of them are already there. Last year, the project black mountain was fund by cultural education Kulturprojekte Berlin in Berlin. The thing is, we always have to look because the funding is coming from different places to see what is there. Sometimes we are a part of a big project . One of the strength is we are open, adapting to new situations and projects. For example, it’s our first time letting something like Tensegrity Lab over a period of time. It was a project that one of us came up with the idea that everyone jumped on later on. All of us can think of that under that root. With the strength, I would also consider it’s so open to people that everybody can join. It is really working against the biggest problem of our society-”education”. We had the whole world joining us, such as students, refugees, teachers, dancers, non-dancers or people who come for the first time. It is what I like. It’s great all these people grow together.

What is the most challenging situation at the outset of the process?

Continuity or the openness of the project. There were no rules of joining. You don’t have to pay, you can come whenever. If you come, we would do the best. We are always there for you. This fact- always be able to offer means it’s challenging all the time. If someone drops it at the last moment, it’s fine. We have different people coming in and out; it seems like people are more committed to things that they have to pay. It’s such a tragedy. Togetherness, we find an art project together, and, people think they are not paying. Obviously, it’s not everybody.

This is the education side of it. There’s an interesting thing in this project now that we start with the new generation to teach, be there and let people know us. There are some of the people don’t understand what they have because of the system which they grow up with. They were like ‘It’s no value because I don’t pay for it.’ There are some friends think about this training as ‘I don’t know, maybe I come, maybe not. It’s interesting, but it’s not a prestige.’ Because it’s not in Marameo or you are not paying three hundred euro for it. It’s a thing you learn to understand.

What if we make another circumstance with another project we say to people that you have to write me a motivation letter and CV for participation? Sometimes, it’s easier to get people. Maybe it’s something about people wanna be selected, but it’s really deep in our society. It’s open source. It’s the challenging part to change the value; For being a teacher, it’s also challenging to deal with this. There are people who have the same kind of understanding. Such as ‘it’s my decision to decide what is valuable or not.’ Do we really communicate this by words, openly talking about this now? Or you rather keep back waiting for the other person to discover it by oneself. We choose to do the second. Still, it’s a challenging process to see your own creation. It’s way to grow for us.

How does the creating process go in the project?

In dance monkeys, there’s no such thing as a failure. You can just go, play, and search, which is the beauty of it. There is always an outcome, but there’s no high expectation. You make your own rules with the monkeys. Most of the time, you decide the performance gonna be then and there. It’s an experimental, political playground.

Be:I have inspirations from everything, but Ballhaus has been my main resources of inspiration. It has been so much time involved. They have been really inspirational for me in any kind of aspects. Not only the architecture, design or performance aspect. It’s everything. It’s the philosophy of how people work together, how the thing can be nonhierarchical. In the work to build something in different ways of interacting with one another which is quite flat in the hierarchy. Still, find out how much hierarchy it needs to be.  I have really decided the long time ago that my art is not independent of the society. Therefore my art is always more political. This is the things I am looking for. This is the things we have been doing together.

Kreuz Mountain College   Reenactment „theatre piece no.1“

What is Tänzer ohne Grenzen about?

It’s the same kind of the structure, bring professionals to nonprofessionals. In 2011, we found our NGO. It’s really like our baby growing slowly. We did projects ever since then. It’s something that everybody is evenly involved. Everyone finds their own parts in it. The main thing is not just us. We have a session that we offer our structure and how we function to apply for funding and realising projects. It’s a very special thing to offer. We offer our blueprint to people who are not so experienced, enabling them to work in this structure and find the funding. We always come back to help now and then, having a look at what they do. It’s also good for people to find connections with one another. For example, one of the TOG people connects with the other TOG person to do a project. The project doesn’t have to be us. It’s just there to offer the structure. It’s important.

What is the Blueprint?

The discussion for us is like how can we open up ‘Tänzer ohne Grenzen’. How can we actually make it available for other people to organize things? How it works is basically we come up with an idea like ‘I would like to do this musical in a football club that only with girls and with a clown’. You come up with some idea, finding out what you need to do for this to be realized. In this example, you need to find a clown, football club. You also need to decide what kind of music you want to do, who are people I want to work with. You figure this out by yourself. Then you approach us, saying ‘this is my idea. Are you interested?’ Besides, Tänzer ohne Grenzen has always offered project which is in a context with the society. It’s about social and caring. It offers an opportunity to someone who feels alone to deal with this big thing. They can somehow approach us for some supports. It’s also something valuable to go through an artistic process. It makes you learn a lot. You can point to things, such as how do you relate or respect each other, how do you create or build up things together. There is a lot of knowledge that it’s another part of our society/working field. For instance, we work a lot with youngsters in the school. It’s such a big drama to go through school. You can settle a lot of seeds in the field during the process.

How do work together? How can this system be accessible to people? How can structure and hierarchy establish themselves over the time? How can we break them apart and restructure them?

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Be: Take a break.
Julek: Stay wise and soft.
Anna: I just wanna have fun. For me it’s a sentence I remember somehow. It’s great you are doing it, but you should not forget it. Because it’s you every day twenty-four hours, you should enjoy that.

What’s the question you had this week?

Be: When do I gonna have the break? Honestly, if this going to be good? This is normal. Every time you create something, it is always the point of doubt. It never changes. I have never had one project without the doubt. I think it’s a good emotion.
Anna: Is it me or is it them? It’s related to many things, work or personal life. It’s the relations with your behaviors.
Julek: Do I get stuck with the thinking pattern or is the thinking pattern still actual? It’s like the question of how to think of your experiences and imaginations.

Be like the music to be composed for her work and her preferred composer to work with is Alexandre Decoupigny from Psycho and Plastic. 

Any word you would like to share with our audience?

Be: There’s a sentence from someone else describing very well with my artistic and in private life. That is: ’ To empower people to take the decision is the core of democracy. I think it’s so fantastic. It’s political beautiful in the education. It is something that stirs me.
Anna: She just ate a heart of a horse?
Julek: Experiences are concrete.

For more videos of their projects please see the link. For further information, please see their websites: Tänzer ohne Grenzen, Be’s current projects, and 27 dance monkeys

With many thanks to Be van Vark, Anna Katalin Nemeth, and Julek Kreutzer
Photos credits/ 27 dance monkeys
Original article in Mandarin contributing to Red Bull please see the link

{feature} A ”modern” Flamenco woman dancing on the stage – Anna Castillo

I walked into the cafe in Wedding, waiting for Anna Castillo to enter. She showed out shortly, wearing a black top, black pants and a black pair of boots. Her hair was hanging down, unlike her stage image as I remembered. She is such a bright woman that you would easily recognise anywhere once you have met her. Anna Castillo is half German half Chile, a young flamenco dancer growing up in Berlin. She used to dance in her room with her parents. People used to tell her: this looks so flamenco. So she got into flamenco first. Describing flamenco as ‘painting the air’ at age five, Castillo got inspired by usual things with their simple movements. One step afterwards, she got inspired by flamenco festival at age eight.

That was the first time she saw the Spanish flamenco. There was an amazing young dancer called ‘La Moneta’ dancing on that stage. Castillo told her Mom, ‘I loved it. It was amazing!’ Her mom went straight to talk to that dancer. She expressed, ‘my daughter wants to dance with you.’ That was a big deal. They even went to the backstage to talk to the performer. The performer replied, ‘ok, you can take the solo classes with me. You just have to come to Granada to dance.’ That’s how Castillo starts flamenco. She went to Spain for the first time, following this specific dancer. Castillo still appreciates her mom did that. It made her first understand flamenco in a deeper way.

It was very personal and strict. She used to cry when she took classes with her. It was professional flamenco. La Moneta comes from Granada, dancing a lot at ‘Cuevas’ which is a place Gypsy used to live. It was the houses on the mountain near cacti-studded countryside. It was a deep flamenco setting. She basically understands the sense and the difficulty of flamenco. It’s not just dancing. It’s also a cultural thing we are transmitting.

What’s flamenco?

It’s a dance which comes from people who suffers a lot. They’ve never been accepted by the society. They are kind of like the outsiders. That’s why this dance has a lot of suffering and fighting in it, which makes it really strong. What does interesting to me is the ‘solo’ thing. It pushes the women into not as anyone’s background on the stage, which is really nice. A very strong woman dance of who has been discriminated for a long time. It has an important message.

However, there’s a lot of amazing male dancers. They dance a little differently. Flamenco is a very traditional thing with a traditional image, such as a woman in the red dress and a man in the black suit. That’s changing a lot. I was taught by a man how to use ‘petticoat’, which is like a big long wedding dress. Flamenco is a traditional thing but changing very fast and floaty. There’s also women dances a male role. It’s getting more and more free from that cultural perception. In the meanwhile, you have to respect the culture. It’s difficult to say how modern and traditional you want to be. The transformation is happening individually.

modernizing flamenco

Perhaps it’s my interpretation of movement. Flamenco is just changing a lot from last twenty years. People get to have for example ballet and contemporary dance so we can mix traditional flamenco movement with other movements. This is unusual. Because of like I said, fifty years back flamenco was a discriminated dance. That was not very usual to dance it. Now it spreads all over the world. It’s amazing. If flamenco dancers get very famous, they tour around the world. They go to Brazil, Tokyo and China. Fifty years back, people would not imagine that. It’s becoming so international. That’s movement of modernization and globalization. If you talk to professional dancers in the school, you would know you normally need to take flamenco classes. Because flamenco has its own character which is interesting to get to know, such as Arabic dancing and American tapping. It’s a weird combination of totally different backgrounds. It’s quite complicated including the rhythm. It’s an amazing way for people to learn different perceptions of the dance. For example, our communications with guitarists. We always work with live musicians, which is such an incredible experience. Obviously I am alone on the stage, but actually, I am not. Although I am not with other dances nor my partner. We have unspoken rules regarding the communication with the musicians, which makes us able to dance and improvise together. That’s how flamenco start.

We have rules, for example, starting a phrase. It’s called ‘Llamada’. If I do this specific movement, everyone would know the new phrase is gonna happen. Even though we have never spoken to each other, I could jump into a session doing this movement. I think that’s a really important thing people/dancers all over the world could learn from flamenco. It is an interesting way of improvisation. With the strange undercover rules, it’s almost a bit like jazz sometimes. They also communicate in a non-verbal way. Flamenco maybe is richer than jazz regarding this communication. Instead of communicating on the stage in jazz, flamenco dancers need to know specific melodies and lyrics. If you know the lyrics, you know the song has to end at some point. For example, at the end of the phrase comes ‘flowers’. You wait to improvise. The flowers are the change. Everyone knows that. Then we change to the solo of guitarist, singer or foot-tapping. It’s kind of complicated structure. I have to say myself I don’t understand it fully. It takes years to understand. From the popular dancing forms, there are twenty-four types of flamenco. We have to know all the rhythms, the singing and the melodies of the guitar. It’s a difficult art to manage. Different flamenco also has different characters. That would kind of define the improvisation as well. That’s why I sometimes like to choose my song so I could improvise freely.

Gestures & unspoken rules

I learnt these rules from stage experiences. I start doing improvisation. That’s really good to start at the young age. After going to Granada, I went to Plaza de Saint Nicolas, which is a beautiful platform to exchange with all the other live musicians there. That’s where I learn the improvisation rules. They are very free, however, the stage performances are difficult. Especially in Germany, it’s difficult to get taught. My teacher taught us doing choreography, explaining what are we dancing. We as the dancers also contribute to the way how flamenco piece gonna transform on the stage. For example, if I would dance ‘subida’ to suggest speeding up gradually, or Salida as a closer. There are workshops/ lessons for pure techniques. If I want to share or understand more of flamenco, Youtube channel is also a great resource. It changes flamenco completely. Before that, some steps and classes are secret and exclusive. Now you can go on Youtube, watching everyone dancing. You see how the structures are, how everyone respects the singers, the guitars and what the melodies are. Some people just learn on Youtube all the time. You can also google different lyrics and ways of singing. Flamenco’s textbooks are actually the internet. Every day I wake up, I watch a flamenco video. To entertain myself, or get to know the dancers I am curious about. That’s the way I get inspired a lot.

The turning point of life

One of my most important experiences in a professional setting was a dance in the flamenco centre of Berlin by Raphaela Stern, who is my main teacher. She has a flamenco night in a big church. The performance includes two singers, two guitars and two people clapping. That’s always in October. I dance twice with it. It’s always an amazing experience because we prepare a year for that. Even after 15 years of experience, it’s challenging to understand all the steps for dancing nicely. This year, there was another experience which changed my personality and dancing. It was a participation in the Club Oval Battle. The reason is I am pretty young in flamenco scene. There are two or three other ones in my age. But I feel lonely sometimes. I needed to learn more. I was desperate to learn more. I wanted to know how the dancing world looks like in Berlin. Although I am from Berlin, I have no idea about other dance scenes except flamenco. That really depressed me. After seeing Club Oval on facebook, I decided to participate the next time.

I was incredibly nervous at the first time. I only told one friend that I would participate. That’s was a heavy raining day. I came after university with my backpack and computer. My friend told me she’s not gonna have dinner with parents for coming to see me. At that moment I knew I need to go. It turned out Club Oval changed my half of the year completely. It made me a flamenco dancer with more self-confidence, forcing me to dance with non-flamenco music. That’s why I actually participated the Diggs Deeper Berlin. I got to know one of my best friend who I met in the Club Oval in July 2017. I was participating three times in a roll. I won every single one of them. That was something I would have never expected if you would have asked me a half year ago. I was so shy, feeling excluded from this huge dancing scene in Berlin. Suddenly I was so accepted and welcomed by this event. That was a real surprise for me, a most important turning point of my life. I realized this completely new scene that I want to explore and learn. I want to take something from it into flamenco. Club oval is such an interesting place. It is definitely one of my favourite places in Berlin. I feel so motivated by the people I met in Club Oval, that’s why I am going exchange in Madrid Spain for a half year. A lot of things change.

Anna Castillo by Shantel Liao

How does the urban dance/flamenco scene look like in Berlin?

I have no idea what is it like in Hip Hop community. It is really big. I am just myself still discovering it. I was surprised that they are so accepting me as a flamenco dancer. I was able to participate! I would describe it as an open scene. Everything I have seen is inspiring. Every time I went club Oval I met someone inspiring to me. Then I went classes with them. For example, Prince was my judge in the Club Oval twice. He invited me to dance with him in a show ‘BI NKA BI – Tanz in seiner höchsten Form’ at Pfefferberg Theater, which is the same place I met my teacher La Moneta the first time. For me, it was kind of emotional that fifteen years later to dance in that theatre. That was amazing. I also went to another judge’s wrecking class. I am sure you can use the wrecking dance somehow in flamenco. I also met the entire voguing scene. I think the Hip-Hop scene is really well connected. I was so surprised. I would never expect that. I also a little bit of shame of myself that I felt different and afraid. I was not even trying. I lost so much time and energy, instead of just trying. Everyone is so welcoming.

I dance Flamenco since I was five. I tried everyone out in all the different districts. It’s relatively small. Now we have Spanish teachers coming to Berlin two or three times a year in the different schools. That’s really nice because we are not so isolated anymore. I also travelled to other cities for flamenco. It is all over Germany. Berlin has the good amount of people, musicians and other resources. We never dance to CD. There is always singers or guitarists joining.

Which city is the most suitable place for flamenco?

Seville in Spain is the Capital of flamenco. You can find good flamenco in every corner. Once a while, I would go Seville for learning more. It has festivals and crazy good schools. Madrid is also a good spot. There are things happening. You just need to be aware of it. In flamenco, all the different city has its own flamenco atmosphere depending on the circumstances. Granada has its Arabic influences. Without knowing it, there’s a lot of Arabic touch to it. You want to understand flamenco, you have to visit all the different places to be a part of the different scenes. So to speak, travelling is necessary.

What motivates you to continue this journey? What’s your drive?

Oh god! I wouldn’t say I have a specific drive. It’s quite funny. I sometimes try not to dance flamenco, or I can’t dance flamenco because of my study. Then I got really depressed. Like the last two weeks, I couldn’t dance, and I am having nightmares everyday. I would say it’s almost like a surviving skill for me. I don’t know it’s good or bad, but I just need it. It is my deepest way of the communication. It’s also the only way I know to dance. I’ve always been dancing. I can’t imagine myself not dancing in the future. It’s bad for my own health if I don’t dance anymore. But obviously, my drive is also to be a part of this movement, which is ‘modernizing flamenco’, bring flamenco to a wider audience. A lot of people think flamenco with a specific image, like having the red flower in the head. Flamenco is way much more. We are also learning from other styles. We are having new instruments, new dance forms and cooperators into the movement. I want to push that too. I feel like flamenco is such an interesting way of communication. I want to bring it to more people to see it. How beautiful it is.

Anything you would like to share with our audience interested in creativities?

From what I learn from the experiences, not being afraid of the audience is very important for a dancer. It is so difficult. Even I have so many experiences dancing on the street of Spain, I am still afraid of showing myself in Berlin. That’s just because I was feeling different. We need to explore and understand differences. You need to see the different styles, dancing in different battles. I wish people would be willing to show themselves, standing for their own identities. it’s important to show these differences, which is not only important as a person but also for the dance community, even the whole society. So we can explore more, get inspired. I love to get inspired, seeing what other people do. It’s so nice! Not everyone is gonna like you anyways. It’s worth to show a little bit because someone gonna appreciate you.

With many thanks to Anna Castillo
Photos credits/ Ralf Bieniek and Shantel Liao
Original article in Mandarin contributing to Red Bull please see the link