Everything comes from struggles. It is not about being rich or poor, black or white, man or woman – it’s about the struggles you go through as the individual you are and then about what you make out of those struggles. Like everyone else, I too have struggles, but instead of dragging myself down because of them, I use them to fuel my fire. I spent most of my childhood feeling lost. By the time I was 12-years-old I quit school. By 13 I was working and before I reached 14 I had already become bored and exhausted by life…the standardization of it all and the daily routine of fulfilling expectations put on me by others pulled me down. More often than not, this boredom led to countless hours spent in front of the computer watching endless videos on YouTube. I often stumbled across dance videos and before I knew it, I was actively searching for ‘break dance’ and ‘street dance’ videos on YouTube because somehow this was the only thing that helped fill the seemingly endless void of life I was stuck in. Not before long the occasional online dance videos become constant which later led to my watching dance movies, which eventually led to sitting alongside my friends and strangers break dancing along the tight wound streets of my neighborhood. It was on these familiar streets surrounding my home that I began to turn my slow walk into a rhythmic bounce. Next thing I knew, I was dancing along and spinning on old cardboard boxes to the beat of the base blaring from old speakers as it pulsed through my body. I was finally home. On the streets of Damascus, Syria, the same little boy who had nearly given up on life had been reborn. My name is Mohamad and I found myself through dance.
By the time I was 17-years-old I was a self-proclaimed street dancer destined for greatness. You could find me performing anything from hip hop to breakdance. I even joined a dance company for two years where I even practiced ballet and folklore – it was great! I learned so much not only about dance but about myself. The more I danced the more serious I became about it. Not only as an art form but as freedom of speech…dance became a way for me to express all the things I felt about the crumbling political system, the hard times life threw at me and the struggles I endured. Despite the freedom I felt from dance, I continued to get restless under the institutional formalities and constructions of the business world, so naturally it didn’t take long until I started my freelance career. My artistic freedom flowed like the never ending rhythm of my favorite song, and I flourished. I worked with several dance companies, first in Syria and later in Lebanon, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, and finally Germany. I felt (and still do!) unstoppable. It was been seven years since I left home, and while the last seven years have led me to pursue what I love most, it hasn’t always been easy. Dance isn’t recognized as a profession the way banking or engineering is. So being a dancer, let along a Syrian dancer has come with a lot of discreditation and racism, especially from a political perspective. I moved a lot, I saw and experienced even more, and most importantly, I learned so much.
I truly believe you can never learn too much. Education, whether it be a new form of contemporary dance, a new language or even a new programming code, is the only way to keep moving forward in life. I finally found not only one, but two places where I can study and learn in ways that work for me! I am a student at University Konstanz in Berlin where I am studying dance and choreography for my bachelors…it is very conceptual which is different from anything I have ever learned but surprisingly very helpful! Secondly, I am a student at Kiron, albeit not a very good one, but I’m trying. Structured courses have always been hard for me, but through Kiron I am able to tailor the online courses to my own pace and style. I’m taking business and marketing classes, something I imagine as a career I’d like to get into later on in life. I mean, the idea of Kiron, the functional education platform, the flexibility of it all, and the social meetings and events where I can meet other students and even local Germans is great! The actual studies are slow going for me, but I am still beyond appreciative for what I have learned not just in terms of language and business courses, but from the positive culture and incredible people working with and for Kiron. Living in Berlin makes being involved with Kiron so easy – it would be foolish not to take advantage of the networking and connections! Despite the simplicity of it all, I must admit my priorities lie in my dance studies..if I don’t take the chance now to pursue my dreams I don’t know when I will.
I truly believe you can never learn too much.
Through my dance courses I feel I am finally finding and fine-tuning my artist identity. The best parts of my day are when I get to find time to work on my side projects. I have already done two dance projects since being in Berlin – both of which were even funded! These are my most proud achievements since being in Berlin. It has been nearly two years since I arrived in Germany and while a lot has changed and happened, I am proud of the man I becoming and the passions I am pursuing. My dreams are coming true and I feel I owe a lot of gratitude to Berlin for its multicultural and artistic openness. I just want to be myself and be logical, and here that is possible. Life is life and people are people, and by living life in a way that makes sense to you is the only way to make sense of it all. People might look at me and see a refugee or an outsider, but I don’t like to be defined by these negative stereotypes. Yes, I came to Germany through a refugee status, but this is a political term, one I don’t want to be associated with on a social level. I am just a simple a man who is following his dream. And since my student status it has all been that much easier! My networks have expanded and I am really becoming a part of a community and society I want to be in. Sure, racism exists and you can find problems under nearly every rock you look, and while sometimes it’s hard to ignore I just remind myself it’s about the way you choose to look at things that determines the kind of life you live.
I am a busy guy but I prefer it this way. I’m currently writing a book that I want to turn into a Hollywood film. It’s about my experiences of war in Syria and how dance for me is a powerful form of communication and even more so, how it was my savior. I want to build my own art production and help normalize the idea of street art. It is art, it is beautiful and it is real. I want to help give street art the recognition it deserves. I know I have a long way to go to turn my dreams into realities, but I am positive. I never imagined I would be a student at a university nor living in Berlin, yet here I am. Of course my dreams have shifted since I left Syria, but a lot remains the same. The realities I envision are solidifying, the once far-off is becoming the tangible and I am thrilled by what the future holds. Simply being in Germany feels good to me, I have hit a rhythm that works, one with a steady and consistent beat, I am no longer running around lost in the winds of tomorrow. But something is missing. For me, home isn’t a country or a place it is the people. For me, home is my sisters and my mother. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them. I’m working hard to earn more money, to establish myself so that I can be of more support to them. My mother is my heart – as soon as I can I will send for her and bring her to Germany. Once I’ve accomplished that I will continue to work just as hard to bring my sisters. Life for me is nothing without the love from my family and without the freedom to dance to whichever beat flows through my blood on any given day. I am proud of the man I am becoming and of the way I have turned my struggles into a positive source of energy that fuels me to be a better person.
Interview by Alisha Merkle