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  • Writer's picturekieseljanmarie

It's all somehow connected....Cancavallblau

Honestly I started and restarted this blog at least four times! My notebook is full of scratched out texts. It's so difficult because there's just so much to Cancavalloblau. Katja says "It's all somehow connected ". Yeah, right; but where to start? With the farm and the polo ponies, or the products and the projects, or the theater productions and the plans?

Perhaps it's best to start with the epiphany.

Katja Lebelt, stage and costume designer , had been pushing herself...working in theaters all over Europe with up to 11 productions a year. Coming out of the dark cellar rooms of the Kammerspiele, Munich, after a heavy work session, she hit the bright daylight of a Munich morning. "This is it. This is reality." Katja left the theater and moved to the countryside. And that's where we found her, with her husband, Dirk and son, Theo, polo and ponies being our connection. However, we weren't the only ones to find her. Actor friends gravitated to the large, welcoming farm house, enjoying sunny afternoons in the garden. These actors also found the big barn and decided this was the perfect theater - open, airy and just a little dusty. Katja was drawn back into the theater with productions that successfully bridged the gap between city and country. Chekov's "Cherry Orchard" had polo ponies wandering on as extras. It fitted, somehow.

We met up with the family again in Mallorca, in their holiday house which had become a permanent home, bursting with life, crowded, colorful and carelessly chaotic.

In 2015, looking for a place to stable the family's 11 polo ponies, Katja came back from a bike ride saying she'd found the perfect spot - lots of old shady trees, its own well and a million dollar view. The only hitch was the fact that it was not for sale. But biking past again two weeks later a sign was up "Se vende " Coincidence, serendipity, magic? They bought it. Cancavalloblau was born. The word "blau" means blue in German but also, surprisingly, in Mallorquin. The name, Cancavallblau, leans heavily on Der Blaue Reiter, an art movement of the early 1900s based in Bavaria. The path was set. An agricultural project with a cultural twist.

The family now had 4 hectares of land, being slowly overtaken by scrub and weeds.After clearing the rubbish out of the old building on the property and discovering the beautiful tiled floor, they had to decide what to do with the surrounding fields. Clearing the land, they found more treasures - the old trees, bitter orange, nispero and mandarin, but what to do with the fruit? Katja's not keen on marmalade and so they experimented with a bitter sweet aperitif, harvesting and pressing the oranges themselves, taking the juice and skins to a distillery, bottling and also producing the logo for L'Apéro Amargo. It's a success, being on sale in Germany and Mallorca. And it's proudly Mallorquin, 100% natural. Then there's the pomegranate vinegar, the nispero confiture and not to forget the first harvest of grapes and the development of two different wine types. All this, of course, combined with testing and tasting sessions on the property.

And if you thought that was enough and it was time to take a breather, watch some Mallorcan sunsets or something, you'd be so wrong! Katja has started a polo pony breeding program with her stallion and her polo mares. She could do some of the training of the off-spring herself, but felt she required some professional help. And so as part of the no-plan-master-plan she met Charlie of CAV who just happened to be a former polo professional and was not only happy to market her aperitif, but also to come out to the farm and help with the ponies and the polo training. Friends have gravitated to the farm's sand arena to enjoy keeping the ponies fit with stick and ball and forming a vibrant polo-enthused community . And the manure feeds the trees. "You see, Jan? It's all somehow connected ." Ah yes; I'd forgotten.

Do we get to watch some sunsets now? No, no chance. Katja still works freelance in the theater and a group of young drama students from Berlin arrived in Palma de Mallorca for her to shepherd around. Among them were 3 young refugees from Damascus. Katja was intrigued with their conversation, the way they loved the old city of Palma de Mallorca feeling at home in it and seeing similarities to Damascus. She realized she knew very little about Damascus, had only some vague romantic "1001 Arabian Nights"-type picture in her mind. It didn't fit at all with what these young people were chatting about.

Katja started researching Damascus. Looking for a more personal, inside story of the city, she phoned a friend whose wife was from Damascus - Roua Horanieh. But Roua was extremely reluctant to talk about her city. It just hurt too much. Katja kept asking and finally Roua started to talk and then started to write.

From this came "Damascus Journals" which was premiered in 2021 with the Berliner Symphony. This has since morphed into a dramatic piece called "Home" produced by Katja for her teatreBLAU

Yes, you read correctly - yet another project - a multilingual production by an international team, all from countries with dictatorship experience, an intoxicating blend of cultures and digital technology ."Home" deals with personal memories, conflicts and difficulties of leaving one's country, and spotlights the Kafkaesque experience of dealing with immigration authorities, mixing memories with reality. Katja's developed a mobile production, with three projection screens which can be adapted to, any space, not needing a formal theater. In line with her idea of theater, Katja's also been developing techniques for digital and hybrid rehearsals and performances. Fascinating!

Phew, don't know about you, but I'm done! The woman's a high-speed, multi-tasker. I did mention to Katja that her story might not fit the beautifully edited work/life balance articles I saw in the glossy magazines lying around the house - unread, of course - no time! But she's a creator of stories. That's her life, her work. And she balances it. A bit precariously, but she balances it.

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Nov 10, 2023

Katja is a powerhouse, visionary, horse lover, stage conjurer, and much more. Thanks for sharing the story of Cancavallblau with us. Wishing her and her family many more victories over the impossible.

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