Performing every night in a huge theater while traveling the world? It’s my dream job - and I’m in rehearsals for it as we speak!
I’m one month into my contract dancing with TUI Arts & Entertainment in Berlin. TUI is the German subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises, and in October I’ll board a ship and perform every evening en route to Morocco, Senegal, the Canary Islands, and more. We have two months of rehearsals at brand new studios in Berlin – and we’ve learned 4 of 10 different shows so far!
I auditioned for the company back in January in NYC, my home for the past decade. In early February I received the exciting news that they offered me a spot in the cast starting in August! It was the first time they held auditions in the United States and I was one of the first American dancers they’ve ever hired. I’ve been trying to dance in Europe for the past few years, spending lots of money (and time and energy) traveling for auditions only to hear repeatedly, “We can’t hire Americans because of visa issues.” So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to fulfill this dream and see more than one new place.
Knowing in the spring I would be leaving the country for 6 months in the fall was difficult. I was counting down the days and dreading goodbyes at the same time. I am used to moving my life around for my dancing (I left home at 14 to attend ballet boarding school in Philadelphia) but leaving New York City after 10 years is hard. I had an apartment, jobs, friends, and a whole life to put on hold.
On August 2, two days after my 27th birthday, I took off.
My first stop was Nice, France, where I took a few days of real summer break before I got to work. Besides visiting beautiful seaside of Cannes and Monaco, I took class with a former Paris Opera dancer in 100-degree weather (I’m still not used to reading the temperature in Celsius…)
I arrived in Berlin, my home base for rehearsals, later that week. I had booked an AirBnB apartment online before I left and just had to hope it would be suitable. Luckily it’s cute, clean, and safe. And for 1/3 less than what I paid in NYC, I have a balcony and laundry in the apartment! I’m in the Kreuzberg area, which is a cool area comparable to NYC’s East Village. It’s about 20 minutes from the rehearsal studios.
I was so excited for my first day of “school.” We had an orientation meeting in the Crew Mess area at the studios where we met the full cast. There are 4 female dancers, 4 male dancers, and several singers and actors. One other girl from New York City dances with me, but everyone else is European. ALL the other dancers are Italian. The singers and actors are mostly from Germany and Hungary. Everyone was really nice BUT our teachers are also Italian…so in morning class and most rehearsals a lot is spoken in Italian instead of English! It’s taking some getting used to but I’m excited to try to pick up the language. I already knew I’d take German lessons when I get on the ship, but who knew I’d need to learn Italian even more, haha.
We take class every morning, which is great. As a freelance dancer in New York City it is a luxury to have time, money, and energy to take class more than a few times per week. Here, we take ballet but sometimes modern or contemporary to start off the day. I get to the studio around 9am to warm up and class starts at 9:30am. That seems SO early for my body to be up and active, but I’m getting used to it now that the time change is normal for me.
Class is usually an hour and 15 minutes and then we have a short break until rehearsals start at 11am. We go straight through until 6pm with an hour for lunch 1:30-2:30pm. Unlike union jobs I’ve worked in the past, there are no official breaks built into the schedule. The “Daily Plan” is emailed to us every night but the breaks and actual schedule change depending on how the rehearsals are going. That’s been an adjustment. When we do get our “pause” (pronounced pow-suh) I usually lay down to rest my back or roll out my calves.
The first week we learned the show, “Beatles Forever.” Just like it sounds, it features all Beatles music with cute choreography and partnering. I have a featured part as the main character’s daughter with some acting involved, which I enjoy. They introduce every new show to us and explain what the order looks like. Then we learn the choreography in blocks of songs and put together each block with the singers and actors. At the end of the week do a work through of all the blocks and then finally a run through of the show. The first run of Beatles was so much fun!
After Beatles we learned “Rock Show,” one of their most popular shows. This one doesn’t have a story but is more like a rock concert. The dancing is sassy. Last week we worked on their newest show, “Lied Der Getzeiden,” which means story of the tides. It’s all in German and is crazy sci-fi. And this week we start “Blue Elements.”
As much as I enjoy the dancing, I’m also loving exploring Berlin and nearby cities. There’s so much to see and do. I’ve done all the touristy Berlin sites and ventured outside the city to a pretty lake. I spent last weekend in beautiful Belgium eating waffles and walking in the North Sea. In September I’ll go to Vienna for a weekend.
I’m trying to maximize every opportunity while I’m in Europe, dancing and otherwise. I’m excited for the adventure ahead! Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more photos and look for another blog entry here soon :)