First sharings

First sharings of work

We concluded this phase of the project with two informal sharings: one at the winter party in the centre and one at Uferstudios, where we brought together a small group of children from Kreuzberg with another group of children from a different accommodation centre who are working with me on a separate Mobile Dance project and Abdelkadar Asli, a well-known Syrian singer living in a third accommodation centre. At both events staff from the partner organisation attended and supported the event. 

Project journal entry 

December 17th 2014

Today is out first visit to Uferstudios. Last week many of the children we have been working with left the home. They and their families have found flats. I am delighted for them (mostly their lives have changed for the better). I am not sure if we will have any children to come to Ufer tonight. I drive to the accommodation centre to collect any children who have not moved out. Three come with me. It takes ages for them to get dressed and climb into the car. We are late. Sophie has travelled out to Marzahn where one family has now moved to to see if she can get them to come to the event today. Ben is collecting the second group. We want to bring the groups together. Abdelkadar Asli, a well-known Syrian singer who arrived as a refugee in Berlin 9 months ago is on his way from his accommodation centre. I met him a few weeks ago and he agreed to perform with us. I am happy that we can offer him a humble gig and a humble payment for his work. He may bring some fans. I do not know if we will have 10 people there or 50. I do not know what to expect. Abdelkadar has agreed to sing and have a contemporary dancer, Florian Bilbao, improvise with him. Felix Marchand will perform for us. I am excited by what will happen tonight….and LATE.  The three children keep taking their seatbelts off and bouncing around the back seat. I have to keep stopping to strap them in again. Sophie has not managed to persuade the family from Marzahn to come. She has spent a long time negotiating. She is on her way back to Uferstudios. She is also late. The children were not there to meet Ben. He has had to go from door to door collecting them.  He is late.

I finally arrive at Ufer and we dash into the studio. Around 40 people are sitting there expectantly…many children. Great! But they have been sitting for a while waiting and I do not want to launch into the performances where they also have to sit and watch. Quick change of plan…lets get everyone dancing. So we make a circle with as many people as we can persuade to stand up and we dance together: beating out rhythms, making forms in pairs to go over and under, mirroring each other. We are hot and sweaty and having fun. The childrenshow their dances with much encouragement from the artists working with them and a warm-hearted audience who clap loudly for them. 

Then we come to the experiment of the evening: Abdelkadar Asli comes to the mike; Florian moves into the space. Abdelkadar begins to play; Florian starts to dance. Florian sweeps into the room and rolls on the floor. Abdeldakar looks at me with a disturbed question in his eyes and shakes his head in a small movement. Florian has settled to stillness and I signal him to come to me. Wait for a moment,I say, Let him start first.Florian and I sit side by side looking for the moment when we might find an entrance point for contemporary dance. Abdelkadar starts to sing and many of the audience mouth the words to the songs as he sings. He is a compelling performer. After a couple of songs, I signal to Abdelkadar that I would like Florian to join him and he nods his head – Florian can dance again. Start on your feet,I say, a bit more everyday – maybe a little more folk. Florian is a little irritated: Wont it look like I am making fun?I can see his point. How do we bring these two worlds together in a way which does not offend our guests, but in which our culture is also present? A Syrian man begins to dance. Florian enters the space and gently, carefully begins to take his movements and develop them in his own dance vocabulary. The two move around the space – not dancing together, but sharing the space. It is a cautious meeting of two dances; unsure and unfamiliar for both dancers and watchers – but it feels like a good first step. I am constantly looking around the room, trying to sense the reaction of our guests, wanting to reveal a little of our curious contemporary dance world but also be respectful. 

After the show, I try to explain that anyone can dance who wants to. There is confusion on many faces – agh – the lack of a common language.Then someone shouts: Ah…disco!Yes disco! My music is accepted lukewarmly but after a while a Syrian woman plugs her phone into the sound system and the children and men dance enthusiastically. The women watch, sometimes talking, looking after the little children – often smiling. Then I go to the women and offer them my hand and thank them for coming. A beautiful night,one woman tells me. At this moment, it feels like the most positive and most needed feedback anyone has ever given me. I feel the tension in me release and I breathe out…it feels like for the first time since I walked into the room.

(Fotos: Markus Rock)