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