BERLIN – Dancer and choreographer Nir de Volff arrived in Berlin 10 years ago, before the German capital became a pilgrimage center for every young Israeli seeking to flee the country for a while.
Both de Volff. and Berlin have gone through a lot since then. The unique connection created between the artist and the city is an appropriate expression of one of the most significant changes which has happened to both of them: The mutual discovery of Israelis and Berlin.
A new show created by de Volff, "Diary of a Lost Decade," has been chosen to open the Berlin Dayz event – a cultural festival organized by the Goethe-Institut. A long list of events will be held as part of the festival throughout October and November, mainly in Tel Aviv, in the fields of dance, theater, cinema, music, photography, architecture, literature, fashion and Berlin nightlife.
The show created by de Volff will be performed this Friday and Saturday at the Choreographers Association's Warehouse 2 at the Jaffa Port by an ensemble of dancers from around the world.
De Volff, who is the grandson of Dutch Holocaust survivors, is very excited ahead of his show's premiere in Tel Aviv. "Germany is sending me to represent it in Israel,
and that very much reflects what is happening in this city, the relations between Israel and Germany and the openness and Berlin's opening of doors to Israelis," he says.
"Israelis are being accepted not because of the Holocaust and feelings of guilt, but because they work hard. I would run away from here if I found out they supported me over feelings of guilt."
De Volff was born in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva and began his dancing career in folk dances. He then moved on to modern dance with the Bat-Dor Dance Company, but says that he quickly had enough of the suffering the body must undergo, especially in classical ballet lessons.
Over time he realized that "dance in Israel is indeed productive, but there is a richer and more complex world. I packed a suitcase and arrived in Europe at the age of 24, with hope, a dream and very few personal belongings."
"Diary of a Lost Decade" is a sort of personal summary of de Volff's 10 years of living and creating in Berlin. It's a dance theater show inspired by the "Cabaret" musical, which commemorates the last years of Weimar Berlin until the Nazis' rise to power.
"It's not an autobiographic show. It concludes what there is now, what the city looked like when I arrived in it and what it looks like today," ," the artist says. "When I arrived in Berlin, the city was filled with grey, rickety buildings, filled with graffiti. It looked as though nothing had happened since the end of World War II.
"When history remains before your eyes it's heavy and powerful. A completely different atmosphere than the one in Tel Aviv. You leave the sea, the sun, and reach something very massive and grey, quiet. I can't say I was drawn to it. But there were empty places which really wanted something to happen in them. And that is something which I was extremely enchanted by."
Ten years later the magic has worn off, and de Volff is more critical about Berlin and about the Germans.
"Throughout a period like this you learn to get to know the culture, but you are always a foreigner. I learned from personal experience, for better and for worse, the meaning of the German way of life. There is a very small distance between love and hate. I can't say I'm in love with Berlin, but I definitely can't say I hate it."