Karmit Burian


When Israel-born Karmit Burian moved to Brussels, she expected to dance more than anything else. She heard that Brussels was a center city for dance where a lot was going on in terms of workshops, classes, auditions,… Also, life in Brussels was not as expensive as in cities like Paris, Amsterdam or London. She was curious about other dance techniques and wanted to mingle with people from different cultures. Her goal was twofold: on the one hand she wanted to exchange and meet people, on the other she wanted to establish herself and become a dancer in a company. Israel has a quite interesting dance field, but it is less colourful than in Brussels where she encountered a whole range of dance styles. Brussels is also more open to experiments than Israel where it is more difficult to experiment, even for well-established choreographers.
At her arrival, Burian found a very welcoming and supporting community that helped her to find places to stay, furniture etc. In terms of dance, however, it proved to be less supportive. It is hard to pass an audition, especially when you are new and do not belong to the community long enough. She found out that P.A.R.T.S.-students are always one step ahead because they are provided with a network of connections in their training. She also sees how big companies exchange dancers. Once someone is ‘in’, he goes from one big company to the other. Choreographers also choose their friends to work with (a way of working she values more than organizing big auditions, but the consequence is that it is virtually impossible to enter for outsiders). As soon as you have one big name on your CV, it rolls. Her conclusion is that except for going to class and being a good dancer, she should also be friends with the right people.
She pushes herself to attend auditions, although she hates them. Auditions organized by big companies are often huge (500 candidates is not unusual) and the chances to be picked out are very little. A few times she flew all the way from Israel to be sent back after 20 minutes. She does not believe in auditions: whether or not someone is a good dancer does not always show in such a short time. Someone might give his all in an audition, but that does not mean that that person will be as motivated once he is engaged by the company. Meanwhile, Burian discovered that what she wanted to achieve in Brussels (becoming a dancer in a company with a monthly salary) barely exists. Even a lot of big companies work on a project basis.
She feels part of an unemployed community in Brussels that consists of hundreds of dancers and that seems to grow bigger every day. They meet in classes and workshops. The constitution of this community changes constantly: new people enter and others leave because they find a job or because they go back to their home country. There is an information exchange between the people belonging to it (information about auditions, classes and workshops). She sometimes wonders why the unemployed community does not come together to combine forces and realize something together. The employed and unemployed community partly overlap: there are relations between people who know each other or who come from the same country.
Burian likes the work a lot but not everything around it. She does not like to network because she prefers things to happen in a natural way. She takes classes because she wants to keep moving, not because she hopes to increase her chances to get a job by meeting people. She is reluctant to go to performances where the audience consists of people who work in the big companies. She avoids them because it is very hard to feel as an outsider, to feel that you are not involved. She often flees from theater lobbies because she wants to avoid people asking her questions like “what are you doing?” or “where are you working?”.
Her unstable life also affects her personal relationships very much; her Israeli boyfriend followed her to Brussels but felt miserable there, being illegal in the country, not knowing anyone and his girlfriend being in a dance project in Vienna at the time. The uncertainty about the future is hard for a relationship. Because dancing is her biggest passion, work is more important in her life than personal relationships.
Burian is not sure about how long she will stay in Brussels. She is illegal in the country and cannot register. Her future and financial situation are uncertain; her future plans only extend one month. If she decided to do a part-time job just to keep going, the language problem would pop up: she only speaks English and Hebrew. She does not feel at home in Brussels but assumes that if she had a job she would feel more ‘grounded’ in the city. An income would allow her to do more things that would connect her to city life, like going out. Now she prefers to spend her money at taking classes or traveling to auditions. She does not like the city itself and hides her Israeli identity. Nevertheless, she wants to stay in Brussels because she thinks it is easier to get a job there than in many other European cities. It scares her that some dancers she knows have been without a job for three or even five years.
Her priority is to find an artistically interesting job in the dance field that also provides some money. She often experiences how freedom depends on one’s financial position and would like to be less restricted by money; not always having to be careful and not always having to choose the cheapest things… At this moment her artistic needs lose out to her survival needs. When she has to choose between two classes for example, she will choose the one that is free. She expects that if she wants to stay in Europe, she will have to take any job that is offered her, whether it is artistically interesting or not. The hardest part is to keep believing in yourself and to start all over when you get kicked out of an audition. Wanting to dance is not even a choice for her, it is an urge, something she has to do. Other unemployed dancers give up, but she still believes in it.

New Year’s Eve 2005 – van – Why not? – mingle – fringe – soft landing – clique – illegal – Hebrew – babysitting – trap – second hand passport – obsession – drive – intense – jump in – feel worthless – start from zero – dilemma – money – keep going – European mentality – grounded – park – bills and rent – struggle – Cinderella-s


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