Tarren © Tarren Johnson
Tarren
© Tarren Johnson
Dancers are nomadic creatures by nature – they are always in motion, which is perhaps what makes the prospect of relocating geographically not necessary jarring for them. Tarren Johnson made the leap from Los Angeles to Berlin six months ago – straight after graduating from CalArts, "I was always the black sheep of my school," Johnson says, and like many young artists flocking to the city over the last decade Johnson was looking for more than just job prospects: "the lifestyle appealed to me most…having the resources and space to do research." A few months into her stay Johnson took part in SMASH, an experimental performance laboratory that brought together 16 international performers for 3 months. "[We] were dancing everyday for 6 hours – it was very experimental, and that created culture – it created a scene."

© Tarren Johnson
© Tarren Johnson

Patrick Faurot, another transplant from across the pond, has been a Berlin resident for six years after leaving New York. "It was specific," Faurot says. "Berlin was going to be this great place. It was central, and I really liked the European dance companies I had seen in New York, much more than the American dance companies." Unlike Johnson, Faurot was convinced that Berlin would be the platform to kickstart his dancing career, "I had this idea that in Europe it was possible to get a contract and live as a dancer – which is true – but it's not automatic." Faurot ending up taking a hiatus from Berlin to live in Buenos Aires for 10 months which was where he began to develop the work köpfmaschine. "It was really the shift where I [realised I] wanted to focus my energy as a choreographer rather than a dancer, and when I came back to Berlin choreographing became my main priority."

Patrick © Patrick Faurot
Patrick
© Patrick Faurot

The hype surrounding Berlin as a hub for creative activity is distinct from other European cities. "It's not easy to be an emerging artist here but it is much easier for instance than Los Angeles" Johnson says. Faurot believes that it is Berlin's economic structure that allows artists to pursue their art more actively than other places, "because Berlin is so cheap and there are so many venues to present work – this is what is positive about Berlin, if you have something to show, you can find a way to show it." It also means that penetrating the dance community is only a small hurdle compared to finding a way to sustain yourself in a foreign country full of new funding hierarchies. Faurot emphasises that "one of the challenges of being an emerging artist is that you have to legitimise yourself." Creative City Berlin, supported in part by the city's cultural affairs department, is one virtual platform specifically created to help artists migrating to the city find funding opportunities, while venues such as TheatreHaus Mitte offer low-cost rehearsal space and the chance to network with other artists.

Performance shot © Tarren Johnson
Performance shot
© Tarren Johnson

For Faurot and Johnson, and the 1,200 visitors that arrive every hour to explore the city, the dynamism of its creative scene is what makes Berlin a landmark destination, but the city's independent arts funding has suffered greatly in the last fiscal year. In 2012 Berlin allocated €360 million for its entire arts budget, with only €8.6 million being distributed among the city's 300 independent theatres and dance ensembles. More established independent choreographers such as Sasha Waltz joined forces with leagues of small-scale arts organisations, performers and venues to form the Independent Scene Coalition, serving the city with an open letter, calling for "an increase in cultural spending within the overall Berlin budget and in particular a substantial increase of the funding specified for independent projects."

© Patrick Faurot
© Patrick Faurot
Faurot and Johnson represent two very different waves of relocating dancers, but both see a vast amount of creative potential in the solidarity of Berlin's community of artists. As they discuss their different upcoming shows at the AckerStradtPalast, both Faurot and Johnson make the distinction that Berlin allows them to evolve as 'makers' rather than just dancers.

"I don't feel like I have found exactly where I fit yet," Johnson says "which I consider a blessing because it means I have to create that space." You can see Birthing Self by Tarren Johnson 20-22 February 2014, and Un(_)requite(_)d by Patrick Faurot 13-16 March 2014, both at AckerStradtPalast, Mitte, Berlin