For Laura Reuss, Dance Is Life

We talked with the classical/contemporary ballet dancer about her upbringing, the evolution of dance, and why she gives it her all every damn day.

All photography Filiz Serinyel

Meet Laura Reuss, a born-and-raised Berliner, a traditionally-trained classical/contemporary dancer and a total badass. She is constantly expanding her horizons and reaching for her purest form of self-expression, despite the challenges that come along with being a highly trained dancer in the industry. Reuss is a creative powerhouse and, in a city filled with dreamers, one of the fortunate few who are able to transfer passion to profession.

What’s your background – where are you from? Did you grow up frolicing around nature and stuff, or more in a city/town setting?

My grandmother is half Bulgarian half greek but the rest of the family is German. I am proud to say that I am a true Berliner, and I grew up and started my career in this tough city. Berlin is a mix of both, nature and urban landscapes so I experienced both.

How did you first get into dance?

My mum’s favourite anecdote is how I acquired the ability to sit. She was browsing at a store. All of a sudden she hears the bewildered voice of a woman saying “This baby is dancing!” I was sitting upright in my stroller jamming to the store’s background music. The woman was amazed at my dancing skills and my mom at the simple fact of me sitting. At 3 years old I started going to a local ballet school.

How has your relationship to dance changed since childhood? Were you always infatuated with classical dance?

When I was 5 I saw my first classical ballet piece and was in total awe at how gracious and beautiful those women looked. Having started to go to an actual ballet school I was a little disappointed though: I imagined it being more fun and less technique, more being me and less playing a role. The disappointment vanished with time because I realized how important and hard to gain the skills that I received at this school are.

Luckily a lot of teachers saw my potential to move beyond classical dance into more experimental realms. One of them was our school’s director Gregor Seyffert. In my last year he suggested me to stop my studies for half a year to be a part of his company.

He did really freaky stuff. One of the things I participated in was a piece about Marquis de Sade. It naturally had a very erotic subtext and the stage setting consisted of 50% latex. (lol) I had a role where I had to act as well and it worked really well. When my mother saw the piece for the first time she did not recognize me. But she liked what I was doing and the piece itself and ended up seeing the piece three times in a row. Since then I participated in lots of cross-disciplinary experiments. Photography and dance, fashion and dance. One of the most challenging parts was earning money with dancing. I do a lot of jobs for for different companies.

It can’t be simply about the money though. Dancing is a vital part of my life that I wouldn’t be able to function without. My relationship to dance has changed because dancing isn’t just something I do anymore. It is life.

How has your career progressed from childhood dance training until now? What are your biggest highlights thus far?

My dance style has changed from classical dance to a more neoclassical, contemporary and modern mix. Due to the fact that I had the opportunity to dance a lot of great roles, my spectrum has widened and my view of dance is changing. One of my greatest projects was to work with the painter Gottfried Helnwein for ‘Paradise and the Peri’. In addition, I was allowed to perform several times with the ‘Staatsballett Berlin’ which was a great experience.

You posted this quote on Insta a few months ago: “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion” – Martha Graham. Yes, we stalked you. What does this mean to you and how do you implement this in your own style?

Technique is very important for the viewer’s eye. But passion is what nourishes your soul. There are dancers that dance for the audience, they try to master the technique. When I dance I do it to express and process what is inside me. Things that can’t be put into words.

The way you express yourself in dance is absolutely beautiful. Do you draw strong inspiration from the great classical and contemporary dancers, or more from influences outside of practice? How do you interpret this into your own style?

Yes there are plenty of dancers who give me the inspiration for my dance. When it comes to my technique I try to mix ballet’s precision and the flow of the modern dance.

How do you feel about the modernization of dance? Do you think that the traditional art of ballet, for instance, will eventually become a lost art?

With time – for sure. Things are moving and changing. New things appear and old ones disappear. But new things wouldn’t exist without the old ones. Modern dance and contemporary dance for instance would not exist without ballet. Nevertheless I do hope that the traditional ballet style will not disappear.

When do you feel like you can express yourself most purely or instinctively?

When I can dance my own creations or when I devise something together with a choreographer. I am most self-confident with people I know and places I am familiar with.

Where do you find strength in days when you feel exhausted or frustrated in the studio?

I learned quite quickly in school that a dancer always has to go beyond her limits and I mostly try to keep in mind that when I go on stage, the feeling will be unbelievable. Sometimes I give myself a break and I start exercising the next day.

What is your process like with choreography? Do you come up with an idea or concept first and break it down, or do you start with, say, a piece of music that moves you and go from there?

Mostly I start by listening to the music from which I get my inspiration.

How does it feel when you’re dancing for video as opposed to performing on stage? Does video disconnect you from the real-time energy of connecting with an audience?

Performing for a video means not having this real-time energy the audience gives you. It is completely different because you’re missing the adrenaline you get while standing on stage. (But) I always give 100%.

For many of us, dance means just moving and shaking, most of us like absolute buffoons. How do you balance, like, everyday dancing with your girlfriends to Beyonce and your life as a professional dancer? How do you feel when you’re dancing at, say, a club?

Ok. I need to withdraw my last statement… I definitely do not give 100% in the club. About the work-life private-life balance: there are certain restrictions I have but given the fact that I grew up with them they are simple facts to me and not restrictions. I keep a healthy routine. I don’t go out with my friends on a night before a concert.

Most people have a love/hate relationship with whatever place they’ve lived for a while. Does the city of Berlin inspire you?

I really love berlin but I also want to move on to see more in this world and get some different inspirations and emotions. For me it’s really important to see something different and meet new choreographers too.

What are the best and worst parts about being a dancer?

The best part is that you are doing what you love each and everyday and that you can be creative. The worst part is definitely the financial aspect.

You’re 26 years old, which is a baby by all standards – except in dance. How does your age factor in to your profession as a dancer, when most dance careers traditionally start in the teenage years?

Yes, I am not the youngest dancer anymore. But my career did start when I was in my teenage years. I was part of Gregor Seyfferts Ballet Company when I was just 16. Most women’s careers end at 35 and I have still a lot of years of dancing to look forward to which I am very grateful for.

What advice would you give to young girls who are aiming to follow their passions?

Never give up and be yourself!

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All photography Filiz Dubois and Laura wears footwear from adidas Originals