Student Blog: Berlin Maymester turns a dream into a three-week reality

June 25, 2024

USC Kaufman students in a masterclass with Justin Kennedy | Photo by Bruce McCormick

Summer Vu (BFA ’25) turns backs the clock to her time in Berlin during USC Kaufman’s Maymester program.

Hallo! My name is Summer Vu, and for the past month, I have had the privilege of exploring the beautiful city of Berlin through USC Kaufman’s Maymester program. As a first-generation student, I would have never imagined having the opportunity to visit such a rich and vibrant city—learning the history, art, and culture embedded within its cobblestoned streets and spray-painted walls. Thankfully, through the Maymester program, this dream became a three-week reality. While I participated in a number of enriching activities, here are a few of my personal favorites from my time in Berlin.

Peers, Places and Performances

During our stay, we watched three performances. Of all, my personal favorite was the showing of Overture by Staatsballett Berlin. From the moment I stepped into the theater, a feeling of complete wonderment rushed through my veins. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden was one of the most stunning spaces I have ever stepped foot in.

From its ornate ceiling to its grand chandeliers, my peers and I were in awe of the beauty of the space, unaware of the life-changing performance we were about to experience. The show left us buzzing. Not only were we able to see a spectacular performance, but we were also filled with the pride and amazement of seeing Kaufman alumni Anthony Tette shine on stage. To this day, the resonance of awe and inspiration still echoes through me. It was a night I will never forget.

USC Kaufman students capturing a moment with alumni Anthony Tette | Photo by Bruce McCormick

Masterclasses with Berlin Artists

In addition to seeing professionals onstage, we were able to take classes with them as well. From learning breakdancing and popping with Niels “Storm” Robitzky to experimenting with Orlando Rodriguez’s contemporary devices, we took a variety of different masterclasses from local artists immersed in Berlin’s dance community.

In particular, I enjoyed our two-day workshop with former Pina Bausch dancer Pau Aran Gimeno. Not only did we learn excerpts from Bausch’s infamous work Rite of Spring, but we also got to experiment with a few improvisational tools through partner work. I enjoyed learning about new approaches to movement and what Berlin’s dance community is like through the eyes of a local. In all, these classes gave me an abundance of new ideas, ones that I cannot wait to develop once I am back in LA. 

USC Kaufman students exploring Berlin’s vibrant street art scene on a walking tour | Photo by Bruce McCormick

Exploring the City

While this course centered around the dance capitals of the world, dance was not the only subject we focused on. Throughout our stay, we immersed ourselves in the culture and history of Berlin—visiting the Jewish Museum, learning about the significance of street art, and taking a moment to pay our respects at the Holocaust Memorial. In all, this trip was filled with rich and invigorating new experiences. Over these past few weeks, I have broadened my horizons and seen sights beyond my wildest dreams. There is no doubt that Berlin has left a deep impression on me. With a sureness in my heart, I know that this will not be my last time seeing this city. Till then, tschüss Berlin!