In 2017, the average American commute was 26.9 minutes. For freelance dancer Shannon Maynor, her travel time between gigs is more like eight to twelve hours. With home bases in New York City and Berlin, she shared with Dance Magazine how she built her transatlantic career, from obtaining her work visa to learning German and more.
"In New York, I'm working with Tabula Rasa Dance Theater, CelloPointe and Movement Headquarters Ballet Company.
"In Germany, I'm working with a Berlin-based Israeli choreographer, Oren Lazovski—when I came to Berlin, Oren's class was one of the first I took. I also dance with Stephan Ehrlich, a German choreographer and former dancer with Dresden Semperoper Ballett. I was introduced to him by a mutual friend, and we just all got along very well."
"Two of my greatest loves are dance and travel. I thought, If I can do both, it would be a dream. In 2015, I took class with Béjart Ballet and was intrigued by their movement, individuality and how they worked. I was happy dancing in New York, but felt antsy. By chance, I had already planned a holiday in Berlin. This is when Germany took my heart."
Getting an artist visa
"I started the process in the fall of 2018 and had my visa by April 2019. The most important requirements were Anmeldung (a registered address), health insurance and letters of intent from potential employers. The hardest part was waiting four months for my meeting."
NYC versus Berlin
"The work I'm doing is not too dissimilar, though I see that mature dancers are more valued in Europe. The idea is that the longer you've been on this earth, the more you have to say."
On finding work
"It requires a lot of networking, like going to class and approaching people. I've also found personal business cards are a useful tool, especially in Europe."
How she affords cross-continental living
"With a lot of planning and the help of very generous humans! Years ago, when the dream of living abroad appeared on my radar, I started saving whenever I could. I sublet my apartment in New York, so I often stay with my godparents in Hoboken or friends who are basically my family. In Berlin, I rent a room from a German artist and close friend who charges me very little."
Balancing jet-setting with staying in shape
"Going to class consistently is the best scenario. Isaac Newton's law that 'a body in motion tends to stay in motion' has become my motto to stay in shape, even if it's only a gentle barre or stretching session. But knowing when I need a travel recovery day is key. I also keep foam rollers and an assortment of exercise balls on both sides of the Atlantic."
"I've been using Babbel and am taking an intensive language course. In Berlin, you can get by with English in everyday life. However, in other cities, it's better to speak German. English is primarily used in the studio, though if you want to teach dance, German is preferred."
Adjusting to life abroad
"I'm hyper-aware of being an American and want to be a positive representative of our country. Also, as a New Yorker, it was hard to adjust to most things being closed on Sundays. It made me anxious because I was used to having access to whatever I needed at all times. I've surrendered to it and found I enjoy the calmness. Oh! And there is no Trader Joe's."