-2 minute read-
The Sunday Session welcomes Uwe Paris.
Today I am in Berlin, journeying from East to West with ease, although the biting cold of -7°C is eating through the double layer of gloves I am wearing. I meet Uwe in an upmarket restaurant, as with most of Sunday Session subjects I haven’t met him before but spot someone by the window eating alone, I’m sure its him. He catches my eye and I’m struck by his piercing blue eyes and slicked back grey hair. “This place is very un-Berlin” I crack. The Berlin I know is a place a pounding techno music, opening beer bottles with lighters, spoon ends, god forbid opening a beer in Berlin with a bottle opener! “Well, this is the old Berlin!” he cracks back, smiling.
He begins to tell me of his life in Germany and successful career as a leading ballet dancer. Back in ’66 at the age of eight, Uwe was discovered by the producer of a children’s dance company that travelled around East Germany, and a few years later it was agreed he was gifted, then moving to a ballet boarding school in Dresden where he graduated in ’73. After passing his exams with flying colours he was then signed to the Leipzig Opera House, at only 18. His notable performances included the principle dancer of Swan Lake and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. We talk about the strangeness of performing, holding a crowd’s attention for over two hours. Uwe recalls the protected world that he was privy to, which he likens to being in a cloud.
Uwe became very established in Leipzig, but felt the draw of Berlin, East of course, as for those times there was not a choice between East or West. Moving to Berlin in ’78, and joining a new theatre crowd, he remembers seeing New Romantics, skinheads and punks. Restless again and looking for more creative outlets, Uwe applied to leave East Germany in ’81. After a long process of political manoeuvring between East and West Germany in 1984, 40,000 people were granted a one-way journey to West Berlin. It was on March 16th that Uwe found himself with only two suitcases, and for that moment without citizenship, in a spot not far from where we start our session today.
We prepare for the cold with our coats, scarves and some positive energy. As we walk down the idyllic wide street, it opens up into a beautiful square bathed in light. Uwe knows these streets (near the aptly-named Pariser Strasse) well, since they are where he chose to settle with his partner.