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.
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.
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.
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