Expat Dancer Liesl Bourke: Let's tango in Berlin

Expat Dancer Liesl Bourke: Let's tango in Berlin

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Australian expat Liesl Bourke is a performer, teacher and choreographer of Tango Argentino, and what better place to be than the second biggest tango city in the world: Berlin!

Name: Liesl Bourke
Nationality: Australian
City of residence: Berlin
Reason for moving to Germany:  My then boyfriend (now husband) won a series of competitions which bought us overseas, and eventually to Berlin.

Can you describe what you wish to communicate through your art work?

My experience of dance is that it is something instinctive and important.  I am constantly impressed when I see small children around music. They start to move without thinking, with no inhibition or having ever been to a dance class.  As we grow up, I think most people lose this.  I want to communicate the ability dance and movement has to transcend the everyday--that one can be a student, mother, office worker or retired and in this simple activity find a connection to themselves, their physicality, music and other people.

Which medium do you work in?

I work as a performer, teacher and choreographer of Tango Argentino, along with my dance partner Federico Fafaro.  A particularly rewarding part of my work is to teach social tango to people from 15 to 75 years from all walks of life. I work with theatres and organisations bringing tango workshops to the community, as well as teaching regular classes in Berlin. I enjoy performing both improvised and choreographed shows with live orchestras ranging from traditional tango groups, electronic tango music and world music. I perform at festivals, concerts, corporate or private events. I also choreograph for stage shows and film and am exceptionally grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with other artists of different mediums, directors, choreographers and dancers incorporating my work with tango.

How has living abroad influenced your work as an artist?

Growing up in the Australian outback was an amazing and beautiful childhood, but somewhat isolated! Living abroad, particularly in Europe where in five hours I can pass through three different countries (as opposed to just getting to the next city) has been a huge catalyst for exposure to different cultures.  I  have been able to travel very easily, meeting and working with different people of varying nationalities and backgrounds and find it fascinating to see the differences in each country and how one dance can evolve.

Which famous local artists inspire you?

I am inspired by anyone, artists or otherwise, who believes in what they do and is actively involved in a creative process.  In Berlin in particular I find inspiration in different people, situations and locations such as street art, buildings and the way people dress.  Although Berlin is changing a lot, you have the freedom to be an individual and I feel one is appreciated and valued more for what you contribute as opposed to how much money you earn. I am also impressed and thankful to people who devote themselves to creating dance venues in Berlin and around Germany, in order to give Tango Argentino a place to exist.

Which up and coming local artists do you find worth mentioning?

Roman Kroke, author and illustrator:  www.roman-kroke.de  / www.facebook.com/roman.kroke
Irina Ileva, gallery owner, curator, graphic designer, architect: www.art.aquabit.com/
Henning Ziegler, illustrator: http://www.henningziegler.de/ Stammzellformation, original musical theatre http://www.stammzellformation.de/

How easy or difficult is it to mix with the local artistic community?

I think people in Berlin are generally open, interested and accepting, so it’s not hard to mix within this scene. It’s probably more difficult to find someone not involved in the artistic community!

Can you offer some advice to people wishing to break into the local art scene?

In terms of tango dancing, it’s very easy.  Berlin is known to be the second biggest tango city in the world (after Buenos Aires) and there are up to four different tango clubs (known as milongas) operating every night of the week not to mention a wealth of schools and places to learn. For information about the tango scene in Germany you can visit www.tangokultur.info

What kind of financial support is available for artists working in your country of residence?

There is artist support in Germany, but this is not something I have been actively following. More particularly I am concerned with the recognition of Argentine Tango as a cultural activity and not as a 'dancesport'. Despite UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage granting tango (the dance and its music) protected cultural status it is not recognised as such in Germany and according to the Kunstlersozialkasse falls into the category of sport.  This means many of the freelancer dancers and teachers of tango are not able to receive the same benefits as for example a children's ballet teacher or contemporary dancer.

How would you describe the art scene in Germany; for instance is it thriving or not in good shape?

The art scene in Berlin has everything, the good, the bad and the in-between.  

This is comparable with the Berlin tango scene and on one evening you will find every level and ability in a 120-square-meter location! The really wonderful thing is that generally people are very accepting of each other and manage to dance and have a good time despite the often wide gaps in their own ideas and experience of what tango is and should be.

Would you like to add anything?

If you wish to find out more or learn tango (in English) you can see the website  www.lieslyfederico.com.  There will be an absolute beginners tango workshop on the 16 and 17 April in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin (please check website for details) and our next performance is at the Berlin Philharmonie, Kammermusiksaal with tango orchestra Cantango on 26 April 2011.

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