Americans in Berlin: Paulio Sovari
Name: Paulio Sovari
City of origin: Ohio
Before joining the Staatsballett Berlin, you danced at the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Could you tell us about your journey getting here?
A piano accompanist at one of our classes encouraged me to audition. I had heard how amazing Berlin was, even when I was in New York; in a way, New York wants to be like Berlin. So I was always just kind of interested in it. I was really excited to get out of the mountains. Aspen is a town of 6000 people and I was in my mid-twenties. I could have stayed there, I loved the company, but I would have really regretted not going out into the world. I took a bunch of classes and rehearsed with the Staatsballett. All in all, it was a 2.5 to 3-year process, over three continents. It wasn't a traditional way to get here.
“Berlin really can accommodate anybody. That’s the nice thing about the environment: it can be an extension of you. Some places aren’t like that.”
How is working in Berlin different from working in other places?
Berlin is very different from the States. There’s creativity and support here. I dance in a state-run institution, the Staatsballett. I have a big fear of finance and need stability. As a child, it was instilled in me: you need to be independent and support yourself. Institutions are safe for that reason, you get a monthly paycheck. I'm very protected that way. It is also quite different to work here socially. The atmosphere is so multi-cultural. We have our Russian group, our French group, a few Germans in the company. There are these little communities, all working in harmony, which is very interesting. Everyone is very cordial, but they represent and retain their culture much more. In the States, you can lose that.
Apart from being a dancer at one of the world’s most elite companies, you’ve embraced Berlin’s self-starter culture and established a side career as a photographer. How did that come about?
Initially, I looked at my environment here and realized how picturesque it was. I was surrounded by 45 beautiful women with tutus, point shoes, costumes and lights. I took some pictures on my phone and they got passed around the company. Pretty soon a colleague gave me a camera he didn't use. I then started submitting photos to the press department and this year, I've been contracted as a photographer for them. But, it takes two: the photos wouldn't happen, if the dancers didn't trust me. They got used to seeing me with my camera. It became a part of me. Then I was able to get the photos that I get. What’s most interesting to me is when you don't know you're being photographed. It's very voyeuristic actually, but they let me do it. It's a trust we have.
“Berlin has made me more flexible mentally. When I see a hurdle or a challenge, I approach it differently now, more creatively.”
Do you see taking pictures of dancers as dancing with them?
Yes. With the musicality, you have to know the moment to capture them and how to move with them. I am able to infuse myself and be part of the experience. I created this whole thing and Berlin supported that as well. The response was very positive and the community here helped me with technical aspects. Berlin is open to helping you.
UPDATE (June 2018):
Check out Paulio’s photography at instagram.com/pauliosovari
More about living in Berlin: www.businesslocationcenter.de
Photos & Text: blogfabrik/Paul Rikeit & Jacob Schickler