FANCY

When my friend Olympia Bukkakis asked me to perform as part of her show FANCY at Ludwig in January, I got really excited. I love the word, and the idea of, fancy. To me, it's something that is dressy but not necessarily formal; something suggestive of cocktail parties and carefree, laughter-filled evenings; something that takes effort but omits an aura of ease and self-assurance. It's a word one of my girlfriends would say to me when I got dressed up: in a very specific tone, full of little-kid awe and grown-up attraction, she would say, You look fancy. I knew that was a compliment, especially from someone who took pride in dirty fingernails and 10-year-old t-shirts. And it was her voice - both affirming and aroused - that went through my head as I began creating my piece for FANCY. 

And also - the inauguration. 

This performance was on January 25, less than a week after Trump's Inauguration. I went through all of the stages of grief around this time, with anger, denial, and sadness being the main three. There was no escaping the reality of the world at this moment, whether through performance or cocktail party or drunken escapade. Grief and despair followed me around very closely, and I couldn't relate to the word fancy (or anything else) without them.

This combination of things - self-assurance, arousal, denial, despair - were the ingredients of the piece. I used intuition to combine them, folding the past in with the present and stage-life in with real-life. The video below was recorded at the show and unfortunately there wasn't a single shot of the whole thing, but here is what I have.

Enjoy!

THE NOTHING IS COMING

aka "The Coming of Age of Cookie Monster"

This 3D Virtual Reality movie is a project I'm really proud of and it premieres tomorrow evening! A month ago my wonderful friend Josephine Decker came into town for three weeks during which she directed this strange, funny, unique work. I played many parts in the creation of the film - choreographer, actress, and dancer among them. I also hosted Josephine in my flat, and together we conceived of the film. With the support of Wolf Kino and help from people around the world, we created an 11-minute virtual reality journey that started with the question, "How would Sesame Street teach sex ed to kids?"

The answer?

Find out tomorrow night at Wolf Kino in Neukölln!

THE NOTHING IS COMING

18:00

Wolf Kino // Wildenbruchstrasse 6 // 12045 Berlin

see you there!

It's Been A Long Time

I'm trying again - to keep a blog - in order to record some of the events, experiences, excitements, excesses, energies, early hours, and elements of life right now. Aaliyah and Timbaland support this. I encourage you to enjoy this track as you read these reflections.

This story begins in 2016. In numerology, 2016 is Year 9 (2+0+1+6=9), the end of a nine-year cycle that begin in 2008 (2+0+0+8=10, 1+0=1). Globally, 2016 was the end of the Obama years and the end of the European Union as we know it. David Bowie, Prince, and George Michael all died, and left us to mourn the void they left in the worlds of pop music and performance art, and, depending on your generation and proclivity for social deviants, your heart.

RIP Jareth

A lot of things also ended for me in 2016, including a two-and-a-half year relationship and thirty-three years of living in the US, my nation of birth. It was a year of challenges, surprises, and emotional trials. I lived in four different places, including a tent, and none of them felt like home. I met a lot of new people, my physical movement habits changed dramatically, and I made almost no money. These things are all distinct from one other and yet somehow related. They are each a result of the risk I took when I decided to move to Berlin. Somewhere along the way, I recognised that in order to meet all of these challenges, surprises, and emotional trials, I would need to let go - let die - some parts of myself.

All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realising you already are what you are looking for.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Many times last year, especially when I felt lost and confused, the words "I don't know who I am anymore" floated through my head. This thought was the source of both terror and, somewhere deeper and quieter, relief. It was/is terrifying to not know who I am, because it leads me to question so much about my life and values and dreams and how I spend my time and how I treat myself and others and what I say and who and how I love and... you get the idea. It leads me to question everything and know nothing. It is a real ego-breaker. Not knowing who I was meant I didn't know what I had to give to others and the world. This insecurity can silence me, and there were many situations last year where I sat quietly, observing all the motion around me, all the while distancing myself from its swirling life, convinced I had nothing to contribute.

DANCE BREAK!

Now for the good part of being lost and confused. For one thing, it's such an honest experience of life (who hasn't felt lost and confused?), and accepting the processes of life - including the difficult ones - is so much easier than fighting them. For another thing, being quiet means that I got to observe not just myself but other people too - people from all over the world - and see how they do things differently. I learned so much! There's such freedom in letting go of the idea of that things are only done in one particular way (My Way) and witnessing, and adapting, to other ways. Plus, I have met and made friends with some of the most inspiring, creative, magical people I've ever known. Lastly, "I don't know who I am anymore" has allowed me to let go of some of the beliefs I had about how myself and others should be. This is where the relief rushes in, because when there isn't a belief that people/events/me/anything "should be" a certain way, I can appreciate so much more how things actually are.

The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover there is no reason.
— John Cage

I look back and wonder, How did I move through all this letting go, how did I let parts of myself die or even wilfully destroy them? The answer: hours upon hours of meditation and self-help podcasts; an everyday commitment to healing through food and movement; and a lot of trust. It was definitely not possible without the encouragement of two incredible communities of friends and family in Berlin and Durham, and the blessed combination of privilege and luck that conspired to allow me the time, resources, and support to take big risks.

Meanwhile, all that I've lost - all that has died - has left space in me for new things to grow. I've said yes to situations that I knew would make me uncomfortable in order to stimulate growth in new directions. I've practiced trusting my intuition in questions of art and love, emboldening my gut to guide my life in its own mysterious, creative way. And I've generally just chilled the f$*& out.

The earth in its devotion carries all things, good and evil, without exception.
— I Ching

I don't know the future, but I do know that 2017 is a year of beginnings (2+0+1+7=10, 1+0=1).  Already in its first three months I have reaped so many benefits of this awkward and wonderful dying/rebirthing project - including a month-long residency at an almost-abandoned nearly-defunct concrete factory in rural Germany, and a three-week long dance pilgrimage to Israel with a group of artists from around the world - and I have never experienced so much generosity and gratitude in my own and others' spirits. While it hasn't all been easy, and it hasn't all been perfect, there's a lot of beauty in this life, and I want to love it while I still have a chance to.

In loving memory of Tex Hobijn (1994-2017)

Creative Block

At various points in my life, creating dance things has been as allusive to me as respectable behaviour is to the current president elect. To name a time, the past two years. Because of a few things that happened a few years ago which kind of killed my desire to be alone in a dance studio, to collaborate or dance with others, and to take artistic risks, I've shied away from making dances. Deep in the turmoil of self-doubt and distrust, the very idea of making a piece about something I cared about was way too threatening to attempt. I tried to not-care about what I made*, but it's really hard to care about making something you're trying to not-care about. In tandem with, and not unrelated to, this dance-studio-dread, a real-or-imagined creative block has taken hold of my body. Despite all this confusion, I kept putting myself in the way of dance - at residencies, onstage, and as a dance teacher - and I even cited it, honestly, as one of the main reasons I moved to Berlin this summer. So why have I kept inserting dance into my life, and vice versa? A dash of masochism, a lot of stubbornness, and some faith that this block won't last forever. But since it hasn't budged in awhile, I decided to document what happens to me in the studio when I'm both insecure as hell about my creative abilities, and also creatively blocked.

A lot of what I'm dealing with in the film "Creative Block" is that my ego, in its drive to make "good art" (which is a whole different conversation), takes control of my body. I, along with my ego, try all sorts of things to try to get over myself and out of my head: repetition, yelling, and emotional self-manipulation are some of my tactics - which creates an awkward and uncomfortable amalgam of creative expressions that I recorded. Far from what I've always been taught is "good," this piece is about moving through, instead of trying to avoid, the crap** the ego puts in front of us.

*I'm terrible at this, so everything I did make in these past few years I did, actually, care about. But it also came with an overwhelming anxiety about how inadequate the thing, and hence I, was.

**Including the compulsive desire to be perceived as profound, polished, unique, intelligent, responsible, interesting, entertaining, poignant, and sexy.

How I got a Freelancers Artist Visa in Germany

Since I got a Freelancers Artist Visa last week, several friends have asked me to describe the process in detail. Here goes!

To situate myself a little bit, I am a freelance dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher from the United States*. I've lived there for my whole life, and been actively involved in the dance worlds in North Carolina and New York for the past twenty years. I graduated from College with a Major in Psychology and a Minor in Dance, and while I've never fully supported myself from dancing, art-making, and dance-teaching, a fair amount of my yearly income has always come from these activities.

I moved to Berlin in July 2016 with the intention (or hope!) of getting a Freelancers Artist Visa here to live and make work. After combing the internet for helpful tips, printing off more than 50 pages of documents at the local library, and biting my fingernails down to the cuticle, I have successfully gotten a two-year Freelancer Artist Visa to live and work in Germany (and the EU)! Below are the steps I took, some random things I learned along the way, and the most helpful websites I found.

Steps

  1. Make an appointment at the Auslandebehörde (you can do this online). You can also just show up at the office and wait in line for a number, but that's just not how I did it.
  2. Get together all materials for the visa, and start early. There are plenty of websites detailing all the materials you need, and I included a list of some of them at the end of this post.
    1. Different visa officials ask for different documents. Mine asked for: my Visa Application Form (everyone needs to fill this out); a verification of my degree from University (a transcript would also suffice); my CV (I included a portfolio in my CV as well); proof of German health insurance; and two Letters of Interest.
      1. Be prepared to write your own Letters of Interest. You will need at least two (three is better) for this visa. The office is very interested in whether or not you are connected with potential employers here so that you can make money. While I don't suggest inventing imaginary organisations, I would be prepared to ask favors of friends and organisations that are more established here. And once you've asked for one, and they've accepted, offer to write it for them so all they need to do is edit and sign. After all, they're doing you the favour (at least in my case, where both letters were not actually binding in any way).
    2. However, PREPARE ALL THE DOCUMENTS. You never know what they will ask for at the office, so be ready for anything.
  3. Wear something kind of nice looking, and be sure to arrive at the Auslandebehörde early if you can. It's a pretty huge place and there are people everywhere, so buffer in some time to find out where you need to go. Be sure you have your appointment confirmation document, as it will have your number on it. Your number is how they call you from the waiting room to your meeting, so this is very important.

Random things I learned along the way:

  • As long as you have booked an appointment at the Auslandebehörde, you can overstay your 3-month tourist visa. I don't know if your appointment needs to be within a certain time frame after your tourist visa expires. The sooner the better, but I never heard of any specific cut-off dates.
  • The one thing I heard over and over was to have a certain amount of money in my bank account - between 3000€-5000€ (the more the better) - because this is what the visa office REALLY cares about. My visa person never looked at any of my financial documents, bank statements or budget, but I'm the only person I know of who has had that experience.
  • Be organised. Have all of your documents with you and create a system for accessing them easily. Not only does it help speed up the process, it makes you look good.
  • Try to learn a little bit of German before your appointment. I took a German course some months ago, which made it possible for me to have a very basic conversation with my visa person. I also expressed (genuine) interest in continuing to learn the language. I think this made the difference between my getting a one-year visa and a two-year visa.
  • Unless your German is really good, bring someone with you who speaks German. I did, and while she didn't have to translate much for me, it eased some of the stress of not-knowing if I would be able to communicate with the visa official.

Helpful websites

*I'm also white, American, female, college-educated, and come from class privilege, just to give you a little more context - because let's not pretend these things didn't matter.

Queeries

QUEERIES_LOGO_final_2.jpeg

I'm participating in this! September 16 - 18 at Ausland Berlin

queeries into collective feminisms - public events at ausland Berlin:
16 September 18-23h
17 September 12-23h
18 September 12-23h

queeries into collective feminisms is a ten-day exchange of experiences and practices at Ponderosa in Brandenburg, followed by a three-day public sharing at ausland berlin.

queeries into collective feminisms examines the ways that queer feminisms may function as lenses/frames/telescopes in our personal, political, and artistic lives. The program invites collectives and individuals from international contexts, working with queer feminisms.

The participants share ten days of communal living and exchange of artistic practices at Ponderosa, working with questions of queer feminisms, collectivity, non/hierarchy, and non/structure. During these three days at ausland they will share their approaches in different formats, yet unknown. 

The event is an experiment, shaped by the inputs and desires of the participants and may continue developing throughout the public events. Visitors are welcome to share their insights regarding these questions as well.

Given this planned mystery, we will share time on Friday the 16th of September from 6pm, through the whole days on Saturday and Sunday, until a closure on Sunday evening. 

For updates about the program please follow the updates on this event.

Supported and hosted by Ponderosa e.V in Stolzenhagen, Brandenburg and Ausland in Berlin.

A year ago last May I set off on a trip that would change my life. I flew to Berlin, danced in and out of the city all summer, and fell in love with life there. On July 29th of this year, I will retrace my steps, this time for perhaps somewhat longer. While I can't control the future, I can say that I would like to make art, perform, choreograph, learn about German language and culture, and possibly stay there for awhile. I am full of hope and excitement for this change. I'm also full of anxiety and self-doubt, but I think that's pretty normal when going through big life changes.

My life here is wonderful. Making art in Durham has been an incredible experience. I've come up under the wisest mentors and alongside the most inspiring peers. The local dance scene has grown both deeper and wider in its reach, and I'm honored to be a part of that. I've connected to theater people and film people and writers and musicians and magicians and visionaries and most of all, friends. Generous, kind, encouraging, patient, fiery, fierce, loyal, crazy, wild, beautiful friends. Thank you. I will miss you all the most.

There's one more thing I would like to do before I head to Berlin, and that is to have one more show. One More Time is a quartet of dances I've made over the past few years (actually, they are all collaborative pieces and in one case, an improvisation for three dancers).

I hope to see you there!

I hope to see you there!

Of Gods and Sea Creatures

Dance, water, time, and numbers. These are the four elements I wanted to investigate last summer when I began working on (what would become) Of Gods and Sea Creatures. As I explored what each element felt like to embody on its own, I also searched for connections between them. I manifested a huge (invisible) telephone in the space in front of me that just wouldn’t work, no matter how many different numbers I punched. I ran around the dance studio with a sheet on my back like a cape, channeling my inner two-year old. I spilled water everywhere and soaked it up with my clothes. I danced to my favorite song (which, unlike everything else listed here, actually made it into the final cut of the piece).
The fifth element (after dance, water, time, and numbers) came about serendipitously. At the time, I was living in (what was once) East Germany, and there I found an old rusty pipe that had lots and lots of strips of weather-worn fabric wrapped around it. Most of the fabric is unrecognizable as fabric at all; it looks and feels more like plastic, or rubber. Some of it, however, has retained its fabric-like integrity and its patterns and colors are discernible. It is beautiful and kind of repulsive at the same time. The owner of the land told me that the women who lived on the farm before her had probably wrapped the fabric around the pipes to keep them from getting too cold and bursting in the winter. I was so transfixed with the material - and with the story of the East German woman - that I made a mask out of the strips of fabric.
And somehow, Of Gods and Sea Creatures came to life.
This piece is a moving collage of images, the meaning of which is constantly shifting according to a logic that is sometimes mysterious, and at other times very clear. Using recognizable music, movement, and materials, the audience can go on this ride and experience through the dancer moments of joy and surrender, calm and tumult.

To watch an excerpt from the piece, visit  https://vimeo.com/155318347

Opening Doors Full of Fear

Retreat retreat! We are blocked here and there’s no getting through

I don’t care where you go from here but you’re not coming in


And you don’t move
And neither does it
And you start to notice the atmosphere around you meaning the door is floating literally in the atmosphere, the universe, the galaxy of stars.


There is a door, it is white. Floating in the universe and you are also floating, and the door stands open and the guard, a cross-looking cartoon creature, is on the other side with its arms crossed shaking its head. You hesitate, not knowing what to do or where to go. You could simply leave but you’re curious about things, like the door, and even more so, this creature blocking it. So you say,

Do you live here?

It stares. Says

Yeah.

You say

For how long?

It stares. Says

A long time.
You say 

What’s it like to stand there all the time?

It says

Boring.

You say

Yeah, I bet.

More staring.

You know that it’s a door in the vastness endless solar system, right? That there’s endless endless here, there’s forever, and this door is somewhat, well, arbitrary. (you blurt this out before you can think about it)

I catch the guard off guard. He slams the door. I sit down to wait for the guard to open the door again. I don’t wait long before the guard opens the door just a little, looks around the corner, and, clearly upset, says

What do you want?

Good question, I say. I don’t know what I want, that’s why I am here, outside the only door in the universe, talking to the only thing I can find that will talk back to me. I’m hoping you can help.

The guard stares, responds

Well regardless of all that what you want is not in here. This doorway leads only to pain and suffering - big pokey things made of metal, sharp edges, machinery - and you wouldn’t have a fun time at all. Did it ever occur to you that some places have guards on them to keep you out? The whole universe is yours; don’t waste too much time here.

I hesitate, not knowing whether to believe this cartoon creature or not. I like its poutiness and its honesty. I like its disposition towards grumpy no-saying and its instinct to protect me, despite its orneriness.

Well, I say. I guess I should be on my way.

Part of me is sad to leave this interaction, the doorway and the guard somewhere, somewhere in the universe.
I say Thank you, and nod, and the guard gives a slight nod. Then I say,

You’re doing a good job at your job, you know.

And the guard smiles and says,

See you next time.

And I say,

Yeah, see you next time.

And I look to the right, to the left, up, down, behind me.
I feel my mass and my weightlessness
I see the purple outline of galaxies far, far away, and slowly I begin grow, expand, float like a balloon
Not just up but down and out and all around.
I have no destination, but I don’t care.
At the time being, floating is enough.

copyright 2016 Nicola Bullock

for, to, with, of, trees

I went to California over Christmas. After landing in San Francisco, I rented a car to get me to Big Basin National Park. I hiked in the old growth forest of Big Basin for two days, among the redwoods and sequoias, and then drove further down the coast to Big Sur. Big Sur is the edge of the world, where sun meets sky meets water meets cliffs meets forest. These are two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and the whole experience was spectacular.
In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell writes, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
This quote, along with a poem by Mary Oliver, expresses in words the feeling I had when I was there.

I hope your 2016 is full of the experience of being alive, whatever that looks like  - be it a solo walk in the woods or the loudest craziest dance club at 3am - live it up, beauties :)

When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

OPENING THURSDAY NIGHT! Little Green Pig presents in Association with UNC Department of Communication THE EMOTIONS OF NORMAL PEOPLE December 3-19, 2015 (Thurs-Sat, 8:00pm) Swain Hall University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 101 E. Cameron Ave. Chapel Hill, NC 27514 One family feels the agony and ecstasy of life under the experiment-in-living that was the German Democratic Republic. Love affairs, betrayals and sex with Stasi agents populate this originalmovementtheaterwerk by Durham’s bad kids of contemporary performance. co-directed by Jaybird O’Berski, Tony Perucci, and myself featuring Michael Palm, Samantha Rahn, Lazarus Simmons, Miyuki Su, Steve Tell, Mara Thomas, Katharine Whalen, Dale Wolf, Liam O’Neill, Richard Butner, Jessica Flemming, Shelby Hahn, Jessica Hudson, Alex Maness, Dana Marks, Nancy Merlin, Emma Nadeau tickets http://littlegreenpig.businesscatalyst.com trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jC8EDR64l4

OPENING THURSDAY NIGHT!

Little Green Pig presents in Association with UNC Department of Communication

THE EMOTIONS OF NORMAL PEOPLE
December 3-19, 2015
(Thurs-Sat, 8:00pm)

Swain Hall
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
101 E. Cameron Ave.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

One family feels the agony and ecstasy of life under the experiment-in-living that was the German Democratic Republic. Love affairs, betrayals and sex with Stasi agents populate this originalmovementtheaterwerk by Durham’s bad kids of contemporary performance.

co-directed by Jaybird O’Berski, Tony Perucci, and myself

featuring Michael Palm, Samantha Rahn, Lazarus Simmons, Miyuki Su, Steve Tell, Mara Thomas, Katharine Whalen, Dale Wolf, Liam O’Neill, Richard Butner, Jessica Flemming, Shelby Hahn, Jessica Hudson, Alex Maness, Dana Marks, Nancy Merlin, Emma Nadeau

tickets http://littlegreenpig.businesscatalyst.com

trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jC8EDR64l4