Timmorie’s Time at the Staatsliche Ballettschule Berlin
My Time at the Berlin State Ballet School
Hi Guys!! It’s Timmorie. Ready for another Guest Blog? This one is a little different because I’m going to talk about an exchange I took part in while I was at Ballet West last year.
The Staatsliche Ballettschule Berlin, Berlin State Ballet School, is one of the best in the world. The school produces beautiful, technical artists and dancers. I was offered an opportunity to take part in an exchange through the University of Utah’s Modern Department, Ballet West and the Berlin State Ballet School. My experience there was unforgettable.
We left Salt Lake City the Sunday after our final show of Beauty and the Beast and landed in Berlin on Monday. When we arrived at the airport in Berlin, we were met by host students, families and teachers. Papers were distributed with our schedules, contact information and who we were staying with. I was staying with another Ballet West Trainee, Madi. We were driven to the ballet school where we met Gabi Rolle, a teacher at the ballet school who was hosting us. We went to her apartment about a mile from the school and it was absolutely adorable! Madi and I spent the rest of our Monday visiting a lake nearby that Gabi had suggested. It was beautiful! We walked around the whole lake once and then just sat people watching for about an hour.
On Tuesday, our day started promptly at 8:00 am with a welcome and tour from Herr (Mr.) Olaf Höfer and Frau (Mrs.) Katrin Baum-Höfer. The school was absolutely incredible with 10 spacious studios including a black box theater, a cafeteria, the academic school attached, the dorms attached, a costume shop, storage for the 25,000 costumes of the school, a physical therapy room and plenty of space outdoors to just be a kid. The acrobatics school wasn’t attached, but was on the other side of the big outdoor space. Our welcome was followed by joining an English class for the students to practice. Our ballet class was with the boys from Ballet West, Zeek and Cole, and the level B9, graduating class, boys. Technique was followed by lunchtime and a pas de deux class.
On Wednesday, we began at 8:40 am with a class called Gymnastik taught by Herr Tendas. This class was a mix of stretching, strengthening and cardio. We had technique again with Herr Höfer and the B9 boys. In the evening, we were supposed to see John Cranko’s Romeo und Julia at the Deutsch Oper, but our tickets were actually for Friday and no one had checked before we got to the theater. Instead, we all went to get dinner at an area called Alexander Platz that had an amazing view of the Berliner Fernsehturm (Berlin TV Tower).
Thursday, our technique class was with the B7 girls and Frau Svitylchenko. This class was more challenging because the combinations had been set for exams and Frau Svitylchenko didn’t know that Madi and I would be in her class. We had another pas de deux class after lunch, learning part of a pas de deux from John Cranko’s Onegin. That evening, we saw a show called The Wyld at the Friedrichstadt Palast. The show was a mix of acrobatics, stunts, singing and dancing.
Friday began with an Improvisation class from Herr Assohoto. Our technique class was back with the B9 boys, however, it was taught by Sharee Lane from the University of Utah. Classes were followed by a sightseeing boat tour on the Spree River, that runs through Berlin. We saw the Reichstag (Parliament), House of World Cultures, Berlin Victory Column, the Berlin Cathedral and plenty of other interesting buildings and museums. The evening was filled with the enchanting music of Romeo und Julia performed by Staatsballett Berlin. It was interesting to watch Staatsballett Berlin’s take on the same choreography that Ballet West performed just a few months earlier.
At 7:55 am on Saturday morning, we had our technique class followed by another improvisation class with Herr Assohoto. We then met our Italian friends Andrea and Michele at Alexander Platz. They were our tour guides to the Yumiko store and then to a delicious little cafe.
We had a free day on Sunday and were invited to a brunch with our Italian friend group. Then we headed out to the Carnival of Cultures. The Carnival of Cultures wasn’t what we would consider a carnival, but was like a parade instead.
Monday was a holiday, so it was also a free day. Cole and Zeek’s host student Glauber did an amazing job taking us to see so many things. We saw the Berlin Mauer (Berlin Wall) East Side Gallery and walked on both sides. While the East side of the wall had a lot of graffiti, the West side of the wall had so much art. It was beautiful to see something that stood for separation, bring people together through art. We then walked around a gorgeous plaza with enormous buildings, a concert hall and a violinist playing beautifully to top it off. Next we went to Checkpoint Charlie and then to Hofbräuhaus for dinner. Dinner was followed by walking by the Reichstag, the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral.
On Tuesday, the Modern Department of the University of Utah put on a modern workshop. It included conditioning, modern, improvisation and afro-cuban. The workshop was followed by a dinner party put on by the ballet school. We continued the evening with a bit more sightseeing.
We went to a place called Bebelplatz that was between the Staatsoper and Humbolt University. We were walking for the longest time trying to find this plaza. In my butchered German, I was asking people where it was and they had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually, we saw a bright light shining from the ground and when we walked up to the plexiglass on the ground Madi, Cole and I went silent. We couldn’t believe our eyes and I had chills. A memorial of sorts was underneath the plexiglass. White, empty bookshelves were there with enough space for 25,000 books, the number of books that were burned in that plaza. It was such a simple, yet powerful display.
Wednesday, we were back in class with the B9 boys and Herr Höfer. After class was a showing in the black box studio. The Modern Department had a group piece, followed by Madi and Cole performing a pas de deux from the Bournonville Ballet, Abdallah. One of the grad students performed a solo, followed by my contemporary piece called Power, choreographed by Preston Miller. Then was a modern duet and the showing concluded with Zeek performing the male variation from Raymonda. I thought that my performance went well and I had so much fun!
After the showing, Glauber took us walking around again. This time, we walked by some of the museums to go to St. Hedwig’s Cathedral. It was absolutely beautiful. We then walked to the Holocaust Memorial. I found the design of the memorial interesting. It’s lots and lots of these wide, rectangular columns ranging in heights. You can walk between them or around the plaza that they occupy. As you walk between the columns, you realize that the ground isn’t even. The closer you get to the center, the higher the columns are and the more uneven the ground is. The columns were so large and overwhelming, it would be easy to get lost or separated from the people who you were with. This actually happened to our group, so we had to wait until we found everyone. We then continued to the the Schloss Bellevue (Bellevue Palace). It was BEAUTIFUL. The Bellevue Palace is the equivalent to the White House, except that it’s just for working, not living.
Next we took a double-decker bus to see the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirsche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church). This church was ruined in World War II, but still stands. Seeing that church with big spaces where a design or a window used to be gave me a sort of empty feeling. It was sad seeing a positive place that was taken down by a hateful situation, but it stands as a reminder.
On Thursday, it was our last day of classes. We had class with the B4 boys and Herr Höfer. This was also the first day that the Ballet West people and Modern Department people had a ballet class together. After class, we took plenty of pictures and our little Ballet West group took a picture in front of the old entrance to the ballet school. Following the pictures, we quickly went over to the Deutsch Oper for a viewing of the Staatsballett Berlin doing Jewels. It was a full dress rehearsal and run through, as if it were a show. During the intermission like pause though, one of the students who had come to Ballet West in October came into the audience to say hi to everyone. She’s now in the company! Also, Iana Salenko was INCREDIBLE in Rubies!!!
The “next day” we were actually gone before the day started 🙁 We ended up staying awake all night because we had to head to the airport at 4:00 am. Gabi was kind enough to not only wake up to say goodbye to us, but arrange a taxi to pick us up and then pick up the boys. Using my handy, butchered German, I gave directions to the cab driver and we got Cole and Zeek. After arriving at the airport, we met up with the whole Salt Lake City group and headed to our gate. Everyone was unhappy to leave such a beautiful city. We flew to Paris and then to Salt Lake City.
I am so incredibly grateful to have been a part of this exchange! It was a wonderful opportunity and experience that I will not forget. As always, thank you thank you Robbie and Gina!!! Stay tuned for some exciting announcements!! -Timmorie