June 23, 2024

Blog – Meeting Friends in San Francisco from my Berlin Ballet Years

About the Author: Suzanne Wagner
By Published On: June 23, 2024Categories: Blog Daily

Suzanne Wagner Blog – Meeting Friends in San Francisco from my Berlin Ballet Years

What a lovely time I have had the last few days in San Francisco. My friend Lea Havas and her husband James Gourlay came to San Francisco for a visit. I had danced with Lea in Berlin in 1981. And my other friend, Marina Hotchkiss, who was born and raised in San Francisco lives and works in Marin also came down to the city and we met at the Inn at the Opera. It was so wonderful to be with friends from my youth and to reconnect now at this time in our lives.
I met Marina at the School of American Ballet in New York City my first year in 1985. Only to be blessed to discover she was also in the Berlin Ballet in 1978 when I got there. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have one person from America that I knew in the company when everything was so very different and foreign. Marina showed me the ropes. Took me to my first coed and nude spa in Berlin with other dancers, taught me how to cook very different things with our Sunday Brunches and on so many levels saved me from the depressingly dark, and dreary world of living in the Berlin during the Cold War.
Lea showed up a few years later to join our motley group of “Ausländers.” Lea was born and raised in Brazil from Hungarian immigrants and spoke 6 plus languages and she brought the warmth of her Amazonian sun with her into the gloomy world of Berlin. She was a ray of sunshine that always had a smile in her face and being around her made everyone happy. Both were amazing dancers and wildly talented. So much so that they danced with many companies and have worked in many various positions in the arts. It was wonderful that we are all meeting once again.
Because we were all not “German”, we had our own special family and the bonds build under the commonality of dance, the love of performing, and the need for all of us to feel as if we belonged, were forged strong and tight as we were all each other had during those times in Berlin.
Together with Jennifer Stanfield, Shane Colquhoun, and Christopher Morley (all from Australia), Cheryl Bernardi, David Roland, Andrea Pell, Janet Popeleski, Laura Cutler, and other amazing dancers from a variety of foreign countries, we were each other’s family and support system living in a city under siege during a very dangerous time in Berlin.
Being with two of them again and being able to catch up in relation to what has gone on in our very diverse lives was like listening to the best stories except these were real ones. Life is always much better than fiction. Dancers live at the edges of reality, as we embrace things and situations that might make others run for the hills. Dancers are not afraid of challenges, though many things have shaped and molded us even as they might have scarred us as well.
Since I am in the final processes of editing my book to send out, it has been amazing to realize that Gert Reinholm (the director of the Berlin Ballet) did to them exactly what he did to me. It is good to know that I was not singled out randomly for his targeted rage. Clearly, he put every dancer that wanted to leave the company through the ringer is similar ways.
We are at that age were many dancers and costumers that we worked and lived with are beginning to leave the planet … and so … such precious moments are even more special as none of us know how much time we might have going forward. It is important to celebrate such moments together and share our hearts. What is clear is that the bonds forged in such intense fires can never be broken. Clearly, these two ladies have been and will always be my spiritual family. I look forward to the many lives ahead where we get to connect once again and continue this journey of self-discovery.
It has been an amazing journey … then and now. I am grateful to all those women in the ballet that taught me so much about life and art. We were all so very young, but we were also so powerfully strong in our innocence. It was lovely to feel that again and … remember.

~Suzanne Wagner~

Go to Top