Photo by Ida Obediente. Illustration by Kaitlyn Clevenger.

Dance has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I began at the young age of two, and when I turned 13, began pre-professional training. Coming to NYU has been an extension of that training, and so had my other travels within the U.S., but never had I ventured outside the country. Being accepted into one of NYU’s study abroad programs felt a bit unreal at first; actually, going abroad at all was a dream come true. I’m from a place where kids that look like me don’t have much opportunity to see what the world has to offer. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois  — many children there don’t get to see what’s beyond their neighborhoods, so being granted the chance to see another country while studying a contemporary art form I’m passionate about was a huge blessing. 

On July 6, 2019, I arrived in Berlin not knowing what to expect. Berlin was a city I had only heard about on television or in books. City culture wasn’t too far from what I was used to, Berlin is one of the most progressive cities in Germany. In New York people are creative and curious about what the city has to offer. The possibilities are endless—that’s why people work so hard to reach their goals, because the quick pace of the city forces you into a hustler mentality. In Berlin, people are focused on their own path, placing a lot of time and energy in their artistic endeavors (but the nightlife will definitely give you a great sense that everyone works hard and plays even harder). Going out with my peers after a long day of dancing was rewarding and exciting. While club hopping and dancing the night away, we met people from all over the world that were looking for a good time just as we were. 

The art culture is welcoming and limitless. Artists are open-minded and willing to take more risks in comparison to the states. For example, NYU Tisch Dance Associate Arts Professor, Jeremy Nelson and his partner performed a show that used audience interaction, text, technology and props to enhance the concept and understanding of the letter “I.” This environment allowed me to receive information more freely and effectively. Throughout the residency, I studied under various pioneering dance artists, including Judith Sanchez-Ruiz, Meg Stuart, Eva Duda, and Ami Shulman, who taught me more in three weeks than I’ve learned in an entire semester. In each guided improvisation, my peers and I danced past the point of exhaustion, amazed at how far we were able to push our bodies.

Email Imani at [email protected]