Friday, October 26, 2012

My favourite kind of magic...


About 4½ years ago, I witnessed a magic night at The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Nikolaj Hübbe, principal dancer of the New York City Ballet, had returned to Copenhagen to become artistic director of the ballet company he grew up in. And he would be wrapping up his career by dancing James in La Sylphide – an absolute masterpiece and my favorite ballet! Needless to say, it was a night I will never forget.
After the performance, the man (who has recently become the fiancé – more about that in another post) and I were walking the dog. We lived right down the street from the stage door of The Royal Theatre, and running into dancers and actors while walking the dog was nothing unusual – albeit still exciting. And lo and behold, while walking along and minding our own business, I realized that the slender man with the ridiculously turned-out feet who was walking in front of us was none other than the man we had been applauding a few hours earlier – Nikolaj Hübbe. Now, 4½ years ago, I was still at university. I had begun doing internships in the dance world, and had met a few people that would later become close colleagues, but The Royal Danish Ballet was still a closed world to me. I didn’t know any of the dancers personally, and still found myself giggling quietly when I spotted one of my favorites in the street. And Hübbe wasn’t just a favorite – he was a superstar. Strongly encouraged by the man, I decided to be bold –I caught up with Nikolaj, introduced myself and told him what an honor, what an unparalleled experience, it had been to witness his last performance. He was very sweet, thanking me and saying that it meant a lot to hear that. I thanked him again, and skipped back to the man and the dog – probably with a rather stupid smile on my face. 
A few weeks ago, I got to experience another one of those nights. As I mentioned in this declaration of my undying love for La Sylphide, Thomas Lund, principal dancer extraordinaire, retired from dancing on September 29th. And boy, did he go out with style! So much style – and emotion – that his Sylph, the superb Gudrun Bojesen, forgot to bring the conductor onstage during the curtain calls… Definitely a night that will go down in ballet history. And not only was I there to witness it – I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Thomas a few days before the monumental performance. During the interview – in between taking notes, asking new questions and anxiously eyeing the flashing battery light of my recording device – I had to remind myself to appreciate the moment. Because I was in a situation that I wouldn’t have dared dreaming of when I caught up with Nikolaj Hübbe in the street that night 4½ years ago – not only was I backstage at The Royal Theatre, I was interviewing one of the best ballet dancers in the world!
Now, my work won’t ever make me rich. And I will never have a normal 9-5 career. But working alongside the idols of my youth and childhood is something I will never get tired of. And after Thomas Lund’s monumental farewell performance, as I was having a drink and a chat with Nikolaj Hübbe – much more relaxed, now that I actually know him – I considered telling him about that night after his own final performance – that I was the star struck girl, trying to put into words my admiration for him. Did I? Nah… Some things are better left unsaid.

PS. Head over to The Ballet Bag to check out my interview with Thomas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Olympic Bug

Okay then. I’ll admit it. I caught the Olympic Bug. It must be a strong little fellow, because it managed to creep past a gigantic wall of cynicism, as well as a dislike of anything associated with too much tacky and overpriced merchandise. It even wiped out the three months of corporate mumbo-jumbo and too many Power Point presentations that are apparently a prerequisite for working at the Olympics. Then again – somewhere deep down, I always knew it would. I always knew, that once I was released by the high-rises of Canary Wharf and let loose in the Olympic Park, the magic would start. And it did!
Now, obviously working at the Olympics is not only fun but also a good bit of hard work - for everybody involved. And getting up at 5 am every day doesn’t do very much for your social skills. At least not in my case. So while I didn’t get to enjoy any of the live sites around London, I have to say I felt quite privileged to go to work every day in a place that a lot of people would literally sell their soul to get in to. Walking through the Olympic Park to get to my venue at 6 am, with only a handful of people around, was a lovely way to start the day. Needless to say, trying to get home towards the end of the day was a rather different experience…
Early mornings and crazy hours aside, what probably surprised me the most in this whole process is how London’s attitude towards the Games seemed to almost change overnight. Up until the 27th of July, it felt like London 2012 was completely drowned out by Games Lanes, G4S and just a general expectation of complete chaos. But when the magic Friday came, and Danny Boyle blew everyone away with his beautifully British Opening Ceremony, it was as if London caught the bug… And lets be honest – if the Opening Ceremony didn’t do it for you, then at least Super Saturday must have dragged you in and given you a full-blown Olympic infection!
I for one have never really cared about athletics. Or ball games. Or cycling. Every once in a while I’d watch the odd gymnastics event or a bit of equestrian. And that was it. Well, fast forward to Super Saturday and I’m the crazy lady jumping up and down in front of the TV screaming »Come on Jess! YOU CAN DO IT!!« The only thing that amazed me even more than the exceptional performances given by Team GB that night, was the way the crowd carried them across the finish line. To see how much energy Mo Farah got from the roaring fans in the stadium and how he just left everybody behind with that energy – I think that’s when I really, really realized how big a deal this Olympics business actually is.
But to be honest, I caught the bug a bit earlier than that. At around 3 pm on Friday the 27th of July, to be exact – that’s when my boss asked me if I wanted a ticket for the Opening Ceremony. And while athletics have never really been my thing before, I have always been a sucker for just about anything that happens on a stage and involves some sort of dancing. So obviously I jumped on my bike, raced home to change out of the poppy and purple nightmare that I have been required to wear, and raced back to Stratford to take my seat in the Olympic Stadium. And I won’t even try to describe that night – partly because you probably all watched it on TV, but also because there are no words to describe how it felt to sit in that stadium and witness pure magic. And while the show was everything I expected it to be  and more  I was actually surprised by one of the things that touched me the most: when Lord Seb Coe gave his speech and he started out by welcoming the entire world to London. That triggered one of the biggest roars of the night! Now, I don’t have an ounce of British blood to my name, but that evening I was very proud to be a Londoner.                
Of course my cynicism hasn’t disappeared completely. I still think that the uniform is the most frightfully ugly thing I’ve ever worn. I still find the London 2012 font utterly ridiculous. And I still can’t look at the logo without seeing Lisa Simpson doing something very R-rated that has definitely never been an Olympic discipline. But nonetheless, helping deliver London’s third Olympic Games has been an experience that I wouldn’t want to be without. Now bring on the Paralympics!       

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I heart London

This month marks the 1-year anniversary of our move to London. The man, the dog and myself. So, as any sane person would do, I've spent some time looking back on the past 365 days. Here are some snippets of what I came up with.
I have become self-employed. And I am loving it. It feels like it legitimizes my work in a completely new way. I no longer feel like I have to list every single performance I have ever worked on – I enjoy simply telling people that I am self-employed and work with performing arts.
I have also, more recently, taken on a job that I knew would be a challenge for me – not necessarily professionally, but personally. And while it has definitely turned out to be a challenge, I am quite enjoying it – the professional experience, as well the things I am learning about myself. And just to make that last bit sound a little less like I am on some journey of self-discovery – I also really enjoy it when my new colleagues think I’m 25.*
I have taken up gardening. Well, the big city version of it anyway, which means that I grow tomatoes, strawberries and herbs on my rooftop terrace. And I’m loving it. Every day I climb on up there, to check on the tiny green bumps that have started to show on my two tomato plants. They’re coming along quite nicely, in case you were wondering. The strawberries on the other hand – not so much. Which leads me to my next point.
I have learned that I don’t need snow. After 3 crazy, snowstorm-filled winters in Copenhagen I was beginning to suspect it, but my first lovely and mild London winter really settled it for me. I like not needing gloves. Yes, sometimes the weather here is less than perfect. And yes, Great Britain is currently experiencing the wettest and coldest summer in, like, forever – hence the struggling strawberries. But still, the weather here is much better than its reputation. And after a winter where the temperature hardly ever went below freezing, I can forgive just about anything.
I have become very well acquainted with Pimm’s & Lemonade. And I have no idea why I didn’t start drinking it decades ago, because that is one delicious little beverage.
I have realized that there is no reason to be suspicious of every person that strikes up a conversation with me, be it in the park, at Starbucks or on the tube. In 99,9 % of cases, they’re just being nice. Some of them might even become friends.
I have started cycling. Well, that is not actually true. Having lived in Copenhagen for 6 years, my bike and I were obviously attached at the hip. So I guess I’ve rediscovered cycling. Because, I’ll be honest with you here – London traffic is kinda bad sometimes. And while the lovely Boris Bikes and the even lovelier Cycle Superhighways have done wonders for cyclists’ safety, I still found the concept of riding around London on a bike somewhat daunting. Partly because all the aforementioned traffic is a mirror image of what this mainland Europe gal is used to. But I got over it. And boy, am I glad I did.
On a more serious note, I have found out that my friendships are strong. I am still as close as ever with my lovely ladies in Copenhagen. Though we had never been in long distance friendships before, I think we are handling it very well indeed. That being said, handling it well doesn’t necessarily mean handling it in the same way. For some of us it means playing scrabble through our iPhones, for others it means regular hour-long phone calls. Both are excellent ways of staying in each other’s lives. (And just so you know, dear ladies, not a day goes by where I don’t miss you.)
Sometimes I still forget that I live in London. Because the London that I experienced during my 10th grade class trip – Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Oxford Street – has absolutely nothing to do with the London I have come to love very dearly over the past year. My London is magic. One of my favorite parts is that it’s filled with wonderful markets – Columbia Road, Brick Lane, Spitalfields, Broadway, Borough and of course our own little farmer’s market here in Angel. It is dotted with beautiful green parks, charming pubs and amazing restaurants. And it is a place that makes me happy every time I step outside my door. Happy 1-year anniversary, London Town!


*For those of you who don’t know me personally – I am so not 25 anymore. More like 30. Approximately.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For the love of La Sylphide

I went to the Royal Opera House yesterday. And it was one of those nights. Alina Cojocaru danced her heart out as the Sylph in August Bournonville’s masterpiece La Sylphide, and so did her real-life fiancé Johan Kobborg as the young Scotsman James. They created the kind of magic that makes real life in 21st century London become one with the imaginary Scottish highlands of 1836.
Now, I have seen a lot of ballet in my life. A lot. And of course, after spending countless hours in those red velvet seats, I have an opinion about most choreographers. Nonetheless, I cringe when people ask me to pick my favorite ballet. Usually I get around it by picking a few – at least one story ballet and one abstract. However, if I were forced to single one out, it would have to be La Sylphide. In my humble opinion, La Sylphide is the brightest star among the many masterpieces that make up the Royal Danish Ballet’s Bournonville heritage. And part of the reason is that, unlike the rest of Bournonville’s works, it doesn’t have a happy ending. It is, in fact, quite tragic. Which might have something to do with the fact that Bournonville didn’t actually come up with the story himself – he snatched it from an Italian guy named Filippo Taglioni. But that’s another story. Kind of.
So what makes La Sylphide so special? Well, the choreography is timeless and gorgeous. But that can be said of many ballets. What makes La Sylphide unique is the story. The heartbreakingly beautiful love story between James and the Sylph. A tale of love that cannot be, because the Sylph is a creature of the woods, who can never be with a human. A story that, even as it celebrates its 176th birthday, still seems as relevant as ever. Not because those pesky creatures of the woods always show up at the most inconvenient of times, making weak men fall in love with them. No, it’s because La Sylphide has it all. Love – not only forbidden, but also unrequited. Doubt, deceit and despair. An ending that is not only sad, but downright destroying – and therefore never fails to make me cry.
In short, La Sylphide is that ballet. It’s the one that I would choose, if I could only see one ballet for the rest of my life. The one that I recommend, when people ask me where to start. Or, in the words of one of my favorite artists, when asked what he would do, if his career as a dancer were to end tomorrow: »I would say, let me dance La Sylphide one more time.«    
The Royal Ballet here in London ends its run of La Sylphide on Friday. But in a few months, those of you who live in Copenhagen (or are willing to shell out a bit of cash for a plane ticket or a train ride – trust me, it’ll be well worth it) will have the chance to see a very special performance of this heart wrenching love story. Thomas Lund, who is a principal dancer with The Royal Danish Ballet, will be dancing La Sylphide as his very last performance before he retires from dancing. And Mr. Lund is one fine James. Which means that I will be there with bells on. Bawling my eyes out. 

I will leave you with a few more words about this magic masterpiece:

La Sylphide is a love story. But it is also a story about disruption and temptation. And about death.   

La Sylphide is the story of the young Scotsman James. Who is about to marry the sweet, pretty and very plain girl Effy. And he is fine with that. In fact, he is looking forward to the wedding. Until the Sylph shows up. With her, temptation enters his life. And disruption. Because James truly is very fond of Effy. But the Sylph is beautiful. And enticing. And she wants James – all of him.

La Sylphide is a story about a witch named Madge. Who shows up at James’ house on his wedding day, wanting to tell his bride’s fortune. James throws her out, but only after she has declared that Effy’s future lies with another man – the young Gurn, who is watching the events from apart. And who is in fact in love with Effy.

La Sylphide is also a story about a veil. A poisonous, pink veil. That is given to James by Madge, who solemnly promises that it will help him make the Sylph his. Forever. A veil, that James, filled with joy and passion, wraps around the Sylph – and seconds later, with horror in his eyes, he watches as she trembles with pain, loses her wings and sinks to the ground. Devoid of life.    

La Sylphide is a story about revenge. And about a young man who loses everything. Because he loves. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Corporate Mumbo-Jumbo

I am currently working on the biggest project I’ve ever been involved in. Now, considering my professional life so far, that doesn’t necessarily mean very much. After all, my definition of a ‘big project’ pretty much comes down to whether or not it needs more than one office. Quite often, a shared desk will be just fine. Not so in this case – several floors in several different buildings are needed. In fact, this project is large enough to have a social media policy – albeit a somewhat unclear one – which is why I won’t mention any names. Just to be safe. However, if I tell you that I’m going to be quite busy in July and August, and that my commute will take me to East London, I’m sure you’ll be able to add things up correctly.
In many ways this project is unlike anything I’ve ever worked on. And it’s actually not because of the content. No, it seems that it all boils down to size. Amount of employees, number of offices, scale of budgets. And many of the differences leave me quite puzzled, to be honest. Why is it, that as soon as a company becomes big enough to have electronic access cards and intranet systems, things become inefficient? Suddenly they pay people to put common sense into a PowerPoint presentation and make it look like rocket science. And, even worse, they make people like myself sit through entirely too many of said presentations, resulting in confusion and self-doubt – because I seem to be the only person in the room who thinks that it is complete and utter [insert swearword of choice here]. Not to mention a waste of time. And why is it, that even though you have a lovely Outlook calendar that keeps track of all your meetings, it seems completely impossible to actually keep these meetings within the allotted time slot? What I have previously known to be poor planning or lack of time management – or simply too much chit-chat – suddenly fits into the seemingly limitless category of busy. And it makes me want to stand up and do my best Carrie Bradshaw-impression: Oh you’re so busy. You’re soooo BUSY!    
But in all honesty: Carrie-impressions, PowerPoint and Outlook aside – I am quite enjoying my brush with the corporate world. Yes, it puzzles me. And yes, it frustrates me. But more than anything, it makes me feel like we’re all playing dress-up. Like we’re pretending to be adults, throwing around all this corporate mumbo-jumbo, scheduling meetings and clattering about in high heels or pointy leather shoes. And since there is very little I can do about the things that frustrate me, I am going to embrace my corporate career for as long as it lasts. I am going to proudly dangle that access card as I pop down to the mall for lunch. I will try not to judge the poor fellow with the ridiculous PowerPoint presentation. I will do my best to keep my are-you-serious-about-this-outbursts to a minimum. And I will save the Carrie-impression for after work. Because I know, that in a few months I will return to my charming little office. I will go back to my beloved performing arts. I will enjoy the complete lack of PowerPoint presentations and corporate catchphrases. And my brief stint in Canary Wharf will become a distant memory. Oh, and in between? That’s where the real fun is. That’s when we make it happen: that tiny little event that is the sole reason for all this madness… 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Words from a Grumpy Old Lady.

I recently wrote an article for the Danish Theatre Museum about the use of social media in the ballet world. My main points were that Twitter and Facebook are great ways for ballet as an art form to become more open and thus possibly – hopefully – lure some new people into those red velvet seats. Another option is savvy repertoire planning – exercised recently by Dame Monica Mason at The Royal Ballet in the triple bill that finished its run at The Royal Opera House a few weeks ago. It featured a new creation by Wayne McGregor, who is currently a resident choreographer with The Royal Ballet, as well as being the artistic director of his own company, Random Dance. He is also the choreographer responsible for Thom Yorke’s dancing in the video for Radiohead's Lotus Flower. McGregor’s new piece, called Carbon Life, featured a star-studded line up of fabulous dancers – and live music by, amongst others, Boy George, Hero Fisher, Alison Mosshart, Black Cobain and Mark Ronson. Now, I’ll be honest with you. Out of all those names, the only one that rang a bell with me was Boy George. Having now seen the performance twice, I’m thinking that I might be able to recognize Ms. Mosshart if I see her on the street – unless she changes her hair color. Then I’m screwed. And Mark Ronson? No chance, regardless of hair color. Not so the people sitting behind me at one of the last performances. It took me about 15 seconds to spot that they were there for Carbon Life. Or, more specifically, for Mark Ronson. Unfortunately for them, and me, Carbon Life was the last piece of the evening, and the first two pieces were infinitely more classical than Wayne McGregor’s creation. So as I sat through their giggling fits and noisy bags of ballet-inappropriate food, I started wondering – do I only approve of ballet moving forward and being innovative when it’s about The Royal Opera House being on Twitter and not when I’m seated in front of four squealing Mark Ronson fans?
Obviously the answer to that question is no. Sometimes it just takes me a few tries to kick the grumpy old lady out of my seat and replace her with the positive 30-year-old. So imagine my dismay when a critic at a national English newspaper basically dismissed the new audiences at the Royal Opera House as pushovers who don’t know a dancer’s foot from his hand because they are »unused to the flexible physiques that regular ballet-goers take for granted.« Now, I’ll admit that I may or may not have sent the odd tweet about my dissatisfaction with the ballet-newbies behind me. Nonetheless, during the first interval I turned around and offered them my program so they could familiarize themselves with the evening’s second piece, which had a somewhat tricky storyline. Because, noisy foods and cluelessness aside, they were enjoying the performance – even while Mark Ronson wasn’t on stage. They just hadn’t received the memo about ballet etiquette. And here’s the thing: with or without etiquette, the ballet desperately needs walk-in customers. Because even if we see every performance more than once, there simply aren’t enough ballet geeks in this world to keep filling those magic seats.
So dear critics – please don’t alienate the so-called new audiences. That is not your job. Your job is to either tell them what to expect of a performance or to give them an opinion that they can use as a discussion partner for their own experience.
Dear new audiences – just like it’s uncool to throw a fit when somebody accidentally steps on your foot at a rock concert, it’s equally uncool to be loud and fidgety throughout 2/3 of a triple bill just because Mark Ronson isn’t on stage.
Dear me – try harder when kicking the grumpy old lady.  
That is all. See you at the ballet. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Am I British yet?


Nope. Not even close. Apparently a hardcore southern drawl, acquired when I was approximately half as old as I am now, doesn’t go away easily. And that’s a good thing, because I really do love my sweet home Alabama – and the accent that goes with it. To be honest, it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to either – people still assume that I’m American and with the abundance of accents and dialects found in this city, I don’t really stand out. But in the last few days, two things have happened that made me think about it after all.
First, one if my dear friends from Alabama made a comment about my use of the word brilliant. And I thought, is that a particularly British word? I decided that it might very well be, but it’s also a very good word, so there you go. Moving on. Until last night, when one of the clever people I follow on Twitter tweeted the following: I think all Americans are allowed one British-ism. Some say ‘bloody’ or sign off with ‘cheers’. I tend to overuse ‘brilliant’. What’s yours? And I thought; where do I tick the box for all of the above?
I use ‘bloody’ a lot. Because it’s a good word. It lets you put some emphasis on what you’re saying – without swearing. Bloody isn’t a swearword. It’s just a funny expression that the British use. Similarly wonderful words are ‘bugger’ and ‘sod it’. A cute British way of saying that something sucks. Interestingly enough, if you look up the etymology of those two expressions, you’ll find that in their original meaning, they’re not exactly cute. Actually, they are very profane. But to me, they’re just swearwords-that-aren’t-swearwords. They remind me of my high school art teacher Mrs. Manning, who would always make up harmless versions of swearwords – a lot like those impeccably groomed housewives of the 1960’s, trying to impart manners on their children.  To me, that’s the epitome of bugger.
I also say ‘flat’ instead of apartment. Because if I say apartment, it makes me sound like I’m incredibly pretentious and want the world to know that I live in a brand-spanking-new, fully serviced penthouse. I don’t. I live in a lovely flat in Angel.
I try to remember to say trousers instead of ‘pants. Because apparently, pants are underwear. And so are suspenders. Which, in the British, non-underwear version, are called braces. See why I’m confused? That’s why, more often than not, I forget to say trousers instead of pants. And I’m not even going to get into the whole chips/crisps/fries debacle…
On a less language-related note, I have become quite efficient at navigating London traffic without ending up as road kill: driving on the left side of the road doesn’t seem outrageously wrong anymore – well, at least not when I’m walking or on a bus. Put me in a car, and it’s a completely different story. Also, I have learned to completely disregard the colors on traffic lights and just check for cars instead – but that’s probably not particularly British, it might just be a London-thing. However, I haven’t yet taken to the British habit of referring to Europe as a concept that is as distant as the moon – because despite popular belief (and the whole island-and-big-body-of-water-business) I’m pretty sure that the UK is still a part of Europe. But maybe that’s just me.
So even with jaywalking and upside-down traffic all sorted out, it appears that my southern accent is still intact. However, I will admit that it is experiencing a somewhat confused vocabulary these days – some words have just crept into my brain without letting me know about it, others are chosen consciously because they are adorably British. Or simply because they don’t mean underwear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Waiting Room


The man is pretty big on music. So a few years ago, while we were living in Copenhagen, he asked me to try to get tickets for a concert with some rock band – I’m thinking it was something along the lines of AC/DC or Metallica, but I really couldn’t tell you for sure. You see, I’m not very big on music. Anyway, it was one of those things that would sell out within minutes, and because he was unable to sit in front of a computer, yelling at the screen like a crazy person, he asked me to do it. I, being the suave girlfriend that I am, secured tickets for said concert within minutes, and received quite a bit of street cred for it.
Why I am telling you this? Because yesterday morning, I entered the waiting room on roh.org.uk for the first time – for those of you who have other interests in life than performing arts, ROH stands for Royal Opera House – and I have to admit I was not quite as suave this time around. Let me recap. At 10:00 am yesterday, public booking opened for The Royal Ballet's 2012 Summer Season. At 10:01 am, I was happily typing the above letters into my browser – only to be met by a message that said something about a very high demand for tickets and please try again later. Hrmpf. Obviously this wasn’t what I’d imagined, so there may or may not have been some swearing going on at this point. Anyway, I kept hitting refresh, and at exactly 10:52 am I was allowed into the waiting room – where I was told that I was number 1955 in the queue… Yep, four digits! Fast forward to 12:19 pm, and I was down to three digits. Needless to say, while all this was going on, I was of course working away, and just checking that all important webpage every couple of minutes. By the time 2:34 pm rolled around, I had finally reached single digits and was graciously ushered into the land of promise – the ‘Book Now’ section! Frantic clicking ensued, along with desperate searching for the note where I had jotted down the preferred dates for each performance – first and second choices, of course. The cool, ticket-scoring girlfriend was nowhere to be found. Why? I have no idea. The note was right there on my desk – I am a ridiculously tidy person – and while they may keep you waiting for 3 hours and 42 minutes, once you get to the money-spending part, you are granted a full 30 minutes to complete your shopping spree. So at 2:56 pm, I emerged victoriously. Quite a few Pounds poorer, but the proud owner of a nice collection of tickets – one of them for my beloved La Sylphide, featuring one of ballet’s golden couples: Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, an item both on- and offstage and known to geeks such as myself simply as Jolina.
So I guess the equation goes something like this: world famous rock band = bring it on. Pointe shoes and ancient love stories = nervous wreck. What can I say – ballet rocks! Also, I’m just not very big on events where you pay a fortune to get in and don’t even get a seat. And people bump into you. And step on your feet. Yeah, I’m a grumpy old lady… However, while the 3 hours and 42 minutes of waiting did nothing for my work efficiency yesterday, it does make a grumpy old lady very happy that the classical arts are so greatly appreciated in this city that people actually camp out for hours and hours in a virtual queue to secure tickets for their favorite casts and performances. Did I mention that The Royal Ballet’s most recent world premiere features some lady named Alison Mosshart? Yeah, ballet really does rock.

PS. I promise I will try to write about something other than ballet next time. It's just so hard.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Changes.


As some of you will know, I’ve done quite a bit of writing about dance in the past few years. However, I’ve never really ventured into reviewing – I always felt uncomfortable about it because I am terribly soft at heart when it comes to judging the work of people I know, regardless of whether they’re friends, colleagues or just acquaintances. But last week, I decided to do a tiny foray into the world of evaluation and assessment – mainly because I figured, hey, this is my blog, I can be biased and soft at heart as much as I want, but also because the performance I wrote about was so brilliant that I felt like I had to share it with you guys. And yesterday, the committee behind the Danish Theatre Awards proved me right, when they nominated Tina Tarpgaard’s Living Room as Dance Performance of the Year.  
While I’ve never officially reviewed a performance I have done more than my share of recommendations – on Facebook, at parties, through friends, you name it. Get me talking about dance and you’ll be sure to leave an hour later with your head full of dance performances for the next few weeks. And while I am lucky enough to live in a city filled to the brim with amazing dance performances of all sorts, I am also still very much involved with the dance world in Copenhagen, and every once in a while there will be a performance that I really, really, REALLY want to see, but I’ll have to miss out on it because I just can’t make it to Copenhagen. And this is where you come in, dear readers. Because not only will I be throwing around recommendations of dance performances in London, I will also be telling you about what I’m missing in Copenhagen – thus encouraging those of you based in CPH to go, so I can live vicariously through you.  
Anyway, I just wanted to give you a bit more of an idea about these dance-related posts, because I feel like I stumbled into it a bit last week, with my very quick and rather short post about Living Room. Moving on to today’s subject – who would have thought I’d be so sentimental about a ballet company?
When you move to somewhere new it seems there are two different categories of changes – the ones you expect and the ones that catch you completely by surprise. The first category is quite obvious – food, traditions, mannerisms and so on. Those aren’t terribly exciting, especially if you’ve visited your new country or city before moving there. The latter category however seems to be full of little revelations – both in terms of lovely discoveries in your new home, as well as things you didn’t expect to miss.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am still getting to know my new local ballet company, The Royal Ballet. They are currently performing Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet at The Royal Opera House  a wonderful production, I’m sure. However, I won’t be seeing it this time around. Partly because it has been hopelessly sold out for what seems like forever, but also because there is already a production of Romeo & Juliet in my heart, and it isn’t by Kenneth MacMillan – it is by John Neumeier. The Royal Danish Ballet has been performing Neumeier’s production since 1974 and I have lost count of how many times I’ve seen it and how many splendid Romeos, Juliets, Tybalts and Lady Capulets I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Whenever Prokofiev’s music starts, I simply cannot help but see Neumeier’s brilliantly timeless steps before my inner eye. His Romeo & Juliet is my Romeo & Juliet.   
When I was at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen the week before last, I had the immense privilege of watching the magnificent principal dancer Gudrun Bojesen perform a small excerpt from another John Neumeier masterpiece – Lady of the Camellias. Gudrun Bojesen is one of the finest dancers of her generation and standing there in the wings, watching her bare her soul on the stage, I realized how much I’d missed watching her perform – and how much I am going to agonize over not seeing her full performance in Lady of the Camellias. So here is my recommendation of the day: Go watch Lady of the Camellias. It opens tomorrow night, and if you like drama, unrequited love and terribly sad endings, you can’t go wrong. (Click here to see which days Gudrun will be dancing the title role)      
All in all, dance in London has surprised me in many ways. And while I still need to work on my relationship with MacMillan, I have no doubt that we will become friends eventually. Quite close friends, in fact. He is, after all, considered one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, so there’s got to be something about all the fuss. However, even though I always knew that dance can be an emotional thing for me (No wonder with all those tragic love stories. And don’t even get me started on farewell performances!), I didn’t expect to miss the Royal Danish Ballet that much. But I think it’s safe to say that I am adjusting well, albeit slowly. And to make things a little easier for me, The Royal Ballet has been kind enough to program one of my absolute favorite ballets: August Bournonville’s La Sylphide, one of the classics on the repertory of the Royal Danish Ballet, will be joining me in London in May. And you'll be hearing about it. A lot. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A few words about dance...


As part of this blog I plan to impose upon you my personal opinions on dance-related subjects – this could be a recommendation of an upcoming performance, a review-ish piece about a performance I’ve already seen or just some thoughts on something that is going on in the world of dance. Some of these posts will be about performances where I find myself as a normal, paying member of the audience, while others will find me involved in one way or the other – and therefore completely and utterly biased. I hope you’ll forgive me for the latter.   
For the first installment of this, hopefully, monthly recurring type of post, I’d like to talk to you – rather quickly, because there are only three shows left – about a performance that I simply cannot look upon with unbiased eyes. It is a new performance by the incredibly talented choreographer Tina Tarpgaard. 
Tina gave me a chance with a full-blown, grown-up job as a producer when I was fresh out of university and had only ever been a production assistant. She trusted me with tasks I’d never tried before and never hesitated to take me to meetings and introduce me as her producer. For that, I am eternally thankful.   
Her new performance is called Living Room – and in collaboration with her trusted partners, software designers Jonas Jongejan and Ole Kristensen and composer Pelle Skovmand, she has created nothing less than a room that comes alive. A room that moves, breathes, evolves, and takes in her four dynamic dancers – the gorgeous and captivating Siri Wolthoorn, the tiny and fierce Rumiko Otsuka, the handsome and powerful Jonas Örknér and the tense and intimidating Nelson Rodriguez-Smith – as they challenge some of the relations that we tend to take for granted.
One of the things I admire most about Tina’s choreography is her ability to create mental pictures that stay with you for hours, days, weeks and months after you’ve seen one of her performances. When I left Dansehallerne in Copenhagen after the performance on Saturday night, I carried with me a number of images – Nelson walking around the stage with Rumiko casually thrown over his shoulder. Jonas trying to kick-start his own body, getting a tiny bit further each time before collapsing again. Siri taking over the stage with Nelson, wrapping her body around his and falling on to him with unconditional trust.
Tina’s performances are not easy. They are hardly what you would call traditional, and they certainly don’t fit any cookie-cutter mould for what is aesthetically pleasing. But they showcase some of the most interesting dancers in Denmark in some extremely innovative choreography. They give you priceless moments of surprising beauty that will stay with you for a very long time – paired with some very clever video technology. So if you are in the Copenhagen area, do yourself the favor of swinging by Dansehallerne some time before Saturday – I promise, you won’t regret it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Anticipation and happy places.


Many people say, that the greatest pleasure lies in the anticipation. And these days, as spring has made a lovely and sunny appearance in London, I for one am happily anticipating an upcoming trip to Copenhagen – the lovely city that I called home for 6 years. The official purpose of my trip is work – I have been involved in a performance with the Royal Danish Ballet and will be joining the cast and crew for the final of three shows. I will also be celebrating the birthday of a very dear friend – always a happy occasion, even as the double-digits have gone from 20’s to 30’s. My trip will also take me to Dansehallerne, northern Europe’s largest centre for contemporary dance – located in the old buildings of the Carlsberg Brewery – where I will be seeing two different performances and meeting with former colleagues and new collaborators. However, professionally speaking, I am most eagerly anticipating the part that is actually going to be the most work – making a performance happen together with the lovely artists of the Royal Danish Ballet.
The Royal Danish Ballet is one of my happy places. I attended just about every performance there when I lived in Copenhagen. Many of the dancers I’ve watched on stage are my childhood idols – Nikolaj Hübbe, the current artistic director and former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, is one of them – and I still can’t quite believe that I now know many of these people personally, and have been fortunate enough to work with them. Being backstage and helping make a performance happen in that wonderfully magic theatre, full of red velvet seats and golden carvings, is one of my favorite things in the world. And even though I am now only a bus ride away from a ballet company that is arguably in the top five in the world – The Royal Ballet – I don’t quite have that fond connection with it yet. I haven’t really decided on my favorite dancers and the repertoire is still new, and sometimes strange, to me. However, I am sure we’ll get there, The Royal Ballet and I.
As some of you will know, I am a freelance kind of person. Well, technically I am now a self-employed kind of person, but in this case, there is no difference. The important thing is that I have never been a permanent member of staff anywhere. And even though this way of working has its downsides, I find that for me the ups outweigh the downs. One of the most important positive aspects is that I’ve never had to deal with the internal problems, or even hostilities, that tend to develop when people work alongside each other for years and years. Projects don’t usually last long enough for those kind of issues to come up, and even if you return to a working place for consecutive projects, the fact that you’ve been away, working on something else and with somebody else, makes a world of difference.
The reason I’m telling you this, is that those of you who follow the Danish press might find it strange that I refer to the Royal Danish Ballet as one of my happy places – the company has been given quite a rough ride in the press lately. There seem to be a lot of internal problems – and according to some sources, artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe is one of the main causes of those problems. Whether or not that is true is not the point – because I don’t know that. All I know is that the Royal Danish Ballet is a magic place. It is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world, it has a unique style and a remarkable heritage, handed down directly all the way from the founding father of the company, August Bournonville, who died in 1879. It is without a doubt one of the most important elements of the Danish cultural heritage and basically, it rocks my socks off. And Mr. Hübbe? He is a world-class artist. I feel privileged to work alongside him and all the other amazingly talented people of the Royal Danish Ballet and I look forward to once again finding myself at the Old Stage of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen on Friday night – in my magic happy place. 

PS. If you would like to know more, here is a lovely blog post about life in the Royal Danish Ballet from a dancer's point of view, written by corps de ballet dancer Carling Talcott.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fancy a pint at the pub?

Last night I went to a yoga-class at a pub. A few weeks ago, I went to see Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West. At a pub. And sometimes you’ll find me quizzing away and trying to get more points by googling things on my iPhone – at a pub. Oh, and when the weather gets to be even more lovely than it is right now, you will definitely see me with a glass of white wine in the lovely back yard – of a pub. A pub that incidentally once played host to an interview with the magnificent Miss Anne Hathaway. But that’s a different story.
If you leave this cute little island on which I currently reside, and go to just about any other country in Europe, you’ll find the concept of The Irish Pub. It is quite often located in a building with atrocious stained glass windows and matching lamps. On tap at the bar, you’ll most definitely find either Kilkenny or Guinness, along with a couple of other none too exciting beers and maybe the odd cider – not the fun ones either. The kitchen will be able to whip up some fish & chips, maybe a pie and most definitely the old favorite from the homeland – nachos with cheese and guacamole! And I’m not saying that this isn’t a perfectly nice place to watch a soccer game and drink a beer, if you’re in to that sort of thing. It’s just not a place I would choose to hang out voluntarily.
Now, I am very well aware that the above portrayal is of the nondescript Irish pub – and I live in England. However, for some reason all the pubs that I’ve encountered outside of the United Kingdom are Irish, so for me – and many others, I’m sure – that’s what comes to mind when the word pub is uttered. At least it used to be. From the first few lines of this blog post, you’ve probably already gathered that this has changed quite a bit over the past 7 months. In fact, I think that one of the man’s favorite things about living in London is that I’ll actually go to the pub with him. Voluntarily. And I’ll enjoy myself while I’m there. So let me tell you a bit more about the pubs in my neck of the woods…
Right across the street from our flat you’ll find a theatre pub. A wonderful pub, that basically has a theatre in the back room. This particular theatre pub specializes in opera, and it just so happens to have won an Olivier Award for Best New Opera last year. As mentioned above, I saw a Puccini opera there a few weeks ago and it was a superb and highly professional production. And even though few things make me happier than the golden pillars and red velvet seats of places like the Royal Opera House, there is something magically special about being in an intimate venue where you are close enough to see the sweat on the actors’ faces.  
Just down the road is another brilliant pub – recently renovated, serving only organic and seasonal food, filled with comfy chairs and couches and offering weekly yoga classes in the upstairs function room. And why wouldn’t they? It’s not like somebody is going to book it for a party on a Tuesday night. And while they may not be the traditional choice, fairy lights work wonderfully for achieving that calm and serene yoga atmosphere.
Walking through the little park next to our flat, you’ll reach yet another dazzling destination – always brimming with people on Quiz Night, as George may very well be the best Quiz Master in town. Oh, and drinks like A Chockwork Orange are perfect for celebrating a team win – or for making the defeat a bit easier to bear.
Also across the street, a few houses down from the theatre pub, is a joyful and quirky place that will serve your strawberry beer with a side of Star Wars, projected on to a big white wall above the bar. And every couple of weeks, they transform the entire pub into a treasure trove of an arts & crafts and vintage market where you can find true gems for just a few quid.
And then of course there’s Miss Hathaway’s favorite pub… Okay, I don’t know if it’s actually her favorite pub, but it’s not like she’s going to read this. What I do know is that she was interviewed there for Marie Claire magazine, just around the time I moved to Angel. And I totally understand her choice – it is a simple and beautiful pub with an amazing back yard, perfect for a bottle of white wine and a warm summer night. Did I mention that the food is amazing? 
Every country has something that makes it special. For England, one of those things would definitely have to be the pub culture – which isn’t much of a surprise really. To me, the surprise has been to see that it truly is a culture. It is being cared for and nurtured every day, it is a precious part of daily life and, perhaps most importantly, it is in a constant state of development. Because truly, there isn’t much that a pub can’t do.  

(If you happen to stop by Angel, here is a list of links to the places I have mentioned:



Friday, February 17, 2012

Smile.


Remember when you were a little kid, and some distant relative came to visit? Without exception, they’d pat you on the head and tell you how much you’d grown. Well, at least that’s how it seemed to me. And even though I was a pretty tall kid, I always felt like they were exaggerating wildly. Well, it turns out that being away for a while does make you see things more clearly – whether it’s a kid’s growth or people’s behaviour.
Some of you may have read this blog post called How to piss of a Dane, that has been making its way around the internet lately. I find it quite clever and entertaining, but what’s more important – most of this stuff is spot on! And, perhaps even more importantly, I’m not sure I would have been able to see that a year ago.
The other day, I left my house to go to Starbucks. No surprises there. On my way, I smiled at the sweet lady in the shop downstairs. I said hello to the guy, who seems like all he does is sit outside our local branch of Paul and drink coffee. I smiled, nodded and said hello to a whole bunch of other random people – some because I’d seen them before, others just because we did one of those little which-way-are-we-going-to-pass-each-other dances. When I arrived at Starbucks, I was greeted with a huge smile and a friendly »How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while! Your usual?« Granted, the middle and latter part of that greeting indicates that I really need to spend less money at Starbucks – especially because all the other baristas had seen me plenty in the previous days. Anyway, I got my Grande Soya Chai Tea Latte, and trotted homewards with a silly smile. Why? Because obviously there is no PIPA (yeah, you need to read that other blogpost) in London. Well, at least not in Angel. People talk to each other. They smile at each other’s dogs and kids. They are polite about queuing, whether it’s at the bus stop or in Sainsbury’s. And they don’t mind if you ask how they’re doing – even if it’s just a quick »Hiya, you alright?« (which seems to be the British version of that much-discussed American phrase). I like that. I find it charming, and it never fails to brighten my day.
At this point, I would like to clarify one thing: As some of you will know, I work from home. Which means my only colleague is my dog and he sleeps a lot. So during the course of a workday, I don’t talk to a whole lot of people, unless I have a meeting somewhere. However, I am not one of those freaks who divulge way too much personal information while paying for their gum. So the fact that I talk to a lot of people during my daily outings doesn’t have anything to do with me specifically. Just so we’re clear.
Also, I want to make sure you understand that this blog post is not about bashing all places that are not London or Angel. I realize that my way of seeing things is not the only way. I know that the man and the dog agree with me on this particular subject, but then again, they’re hopelessly biased. It all depends on which window you look at things from. As an example, my lovely Aussie friends tell me that the service in London blows compared to say, Sydney. To me, the service in London is mostly very good, sometimes just okay, but never downright shitty. It’s all a matter of which kind of glasses you’re wearing, and I’ll readily admit that mine may still be somewhat angelic and pinkish when it comes to my new ‘hood.
Anyway, I think my main point today is this: smiling at people is ridiculously good karma. Being around people who are rude and grumpy often makes me, well – rude and grumpy. On the other hand, being around polite people who smile, say hello and take a step back instead of just squeezing past you into the bus makes me do the exact same things. Which is why, on a daily basis, you’ll find me wandering the streets of Angel with a Starbucks cup in my hand and a smile on my face. 


Friday, February 10, 2012

Magic


I went on a trip last week. I walked down to Angel station and took the Northern Line almost as far as it would take me – possibly the longest tube journey I’ve been on since moving to London. I’m not a big fan of the tube, I prefer the lovely red buses. Anyway, my journey took me to Wimbledon, where I visited a magic place called Polka Theatre. Polka Theatre produces world-class theatre for little people and it is led by the lovely and inspiring Jonathan Lloyd, who had agreed to meet me for an interview. My reason for interviewing Jonathan was that I had visited the Southbank Centre a few days earlier to see a Danish children’s performance called Goodbye, Mr. Muffin – a heart-tugging story about the last days in the life of a beloved guinea pig. The performance – and a few emails to my editor at Børneteateravisen.dk, a Danish publication that focuses solely on performing arts for children – got me thinking about the differences between Danish and British culture, more specifically about how the two handle difficult subjects in regards to children. I had heard about Polka Theatre and decided to give them a call, on the off chance that somebody there would agree to talk to me about the subject. And that’s how I ended up in a wooden train wagon in Polka’s café, having one of the most interesting conversations about children’s theatre that I’ve had in a while.
In case you didn’t know – children’s theatre is awesome. I have no idea how many hours of my childhood I’ve spent on the floor in some gym, witnessing magic on an improvised stage or even going to an actual theatre to see a play created especially for me. Well, at least that’s how it felt. What I didn’t know, was that all these hours on gym floors and all the trips to different theatres, were actually preparing me for me life. Because the majority of children’s performances have an important story to tell. In the case of Mr. Muffin, the story is this: we all have to die one day. Hopefully it’ll be after a long and full life – Mr. Muffin sure didn’t have anything to complain about: a lovely wife, four furry children, a nice little house, a mail box, and even letters in the mail box every once in a while. So when his tummy started hurting and the vet said there was nothing he could do, it was okay. (If you’re wondering: yes, I all but cried my eyes out during the performance. As did most other adults in the audience. The kids were fine.)
Children’s theatre is magic. It gives children resources to understand themselves and the world they live in. Or in the words of Jonathan Lloyd: »Children know that there are things out there that they are not supposed to know about – which obviously makes them very interesting to them. So if you’re telling a story to children, do you pretend those things aren’t there? Or do you try and introduce them in a way that is appropriate and doesn’t overwhelm them? It’s a challenge, because a lot of good stories deal with quite difficult and emotional subjects. Personally, I think you can be bold about your subjects, and you should never underestimate children’s capacity of understanding the world they live in. It is crucial for us to talk to children, and get their voices, their stories and their opinions and give them our stage as a platform.«
The theatre still rocks my socks off. In terms of things that money can buy, few things make me happier than entering a space for performing arts and sitting down for an hour or two to listen to what the people on stage are telling me – whether it’s with their voices or their bodies. To me, it's magic.  

(Here is alink to the full article. It is, of course, in Danish, but hey, Google Translate is your friend. However, please don’t judge my writing or Jonathan’s ability to express himself from the results of Google Translate.)

(Also, a big thank you to Jonathan for taking the time to talk to me and to Elise Neve, Press and Marketing Officer at Polka Theatre, for setting it all up and just being lovely and helpful.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the concept of home lately. It seems like moving to London has made me realize more than ever, that to me, home is a very fickle and fleeting little thing.
I’m a citizen of one country, but I grew up in another. That throws many people off – especially people dealing with the distribution of National Insurance Numbers in the Greater London area, it seems – even though it’s not that uncommon. For me, the important country has always been the one I grew up in – after all, that’s the one that provided my daily surroundings for the first 21 years of my life. And it’s not like we’re talking crazy exotic surroundings here, I grew up in northern Germany. I know people who have lived the majority of their lives in sunny California, because that’s where their parents decided to move. I have friends who have spent part of their childhood in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium – you name it. So I think it’s safe to say, that in this context, Germany is not very exotic, nor is it far away from the country that’s listed under citizenship in my passport – Denmark. None the less, my upbringing seems to have installed in me a belief that home isn’t necessarily a geographical concept. And most importantly, it isn’t just one thing.   
At the age of 16, I went to live in Andalusia, Alabama for a year, as an exchange student. My reasons for coming to the south, as opposed to any other part of the United States, were not exactly well researched – let’s just say Gone with the Wind was involved – but for some magic reason I felt at home immediately. When I think about it after all these years, I can’t help but feel like I must have been an Alabamian in a former life. How else would you explain the randomness of ending up in a small town in southern Alabama, and feeling like you’ve found your home away from home? When I returned to Germany after a year, I knew two things for sure. 1: I had made friendships that would last a lifetime. 2: I could forget about ever having all my loved ones on the same continent, let alone in the same country.   
In the past six months, I have been fortunate enough to make some lovely new friends, and whenever that happens, it usually causes me to compare their version of home to mine. For example, I have met a whole group of wonderful people from the land down under – they not only have the most adorable accents, they also represent a very geographically concentrated version of home. When they talk about home, they talk about Sydney, about their parents and extended families, and about friends that they’ve known for most of their lives. So suddenly I find myself thinking, am I an egoistic cynic, who doesn’t know what home means? I don’t think I am. For me ‘back home’ – aka parents, childhood, high school, oldest friends – is located in at least three different places. So my version of home is bound to be rather loosely defined – as well as constantly changing. Am I jealous of people who have it all in one spot? I don’t think I am. I just like contemplating the differences.   
At the age of 30 years and a couple of months, the math looks approximately like this: 6 months in the United Kingdom, 1 year in the United States, 8 years in Denmark and 21 years in Germany. And even though I have no idea what the next 30 years will bring, I’m pretty sure they are going to add at least a few countries to that equation. 
So if home isn’t geographical, what is it then? What gives me that fuzzy and warm feeling in the stomach? People speaking German – no matter where in the world they happen to be. The smell of Clinique Happy. Sitting at the dinner table in my parents’ house. Somebody saying Ma’am or Sir – preferably with a southern accent. Riding my bike in Copenhagen. Listening to Sweet Home Alabama. Drinking red wine and eating cheese. The smell of my parents’ garden on a summer night. Does the occasional absence of these things mean that I’m less content with where I am? No. Their presence just means that I’m reminded of my happy places. And it just so happens that I have quite a few of those – geographically as well as mentally.
My mom has kindly asked me not to put an ocean between us – which means that the United States, Australia and the likes are out of the question. Well, at least for longer periods of time, she’d be fine with a year or two – I think. So for now, that is my definition of home – a city that inspires me and makes me happy, politicians that don’t piss me off too badly, and no large body of water between me and the ‘rents. Or, in the words of a very clever and extremely well-dressed lady: »The most important thing in life is your family… In the end, they’re the people you always turn to. Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into and sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.« That’s how I feel about home.


Another version of home...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ballet Superstars

So, here’s an interesting thought for you: in London, ballet and contemporary dance is kind of a big deal. And when I say a big deal, I mean dancers are recognized on the street and performances sell out. I’ll say that again: Performances. Sell. Out. Amazing, isn’t it?
I just got back from a ticket-buying trip to my friendly neighbourhood dance venue – which, incidentally, is Sadler’s Wells, the UK’s leading dance house – and that little trip got me thinking. Late yesterday afternoon, Sergei Polunin, Principal with The Royal Ballet and quite the ballet superstar in many people’s opinion, resigned. And not in the polite I-would-like-to-move-on-when-my-contract-is-up-way. No, it was more like taking his ballet shoes, slamming the stage door and saying f**k you, Royal Ballet and Dame Monica Mason (who, by the way was lovely enough to promote him at the age of 19, thus making him the youngest principal dancer in Royal Ballet history). I mean the kid is 21, but still – manners, please! Anyway, my point is this: within minutes of the news breaking via press release from the Royal Opera House, Twitter was all aflutter with speculations as to why he would resign so dramatically. Within hours, articles had been written for The Evening Standard and BBC News and this morning Mr. Polunin was on the front page of The Daily Telegraph. And I realise that this is partly due to the nature of his resignation, but there’s more to it than that. Let me explain: About a year ago, Kristoffer Sakurai retired from The Royal Danish Ballet at the ripe old age of 30. For years, Sakurai was my ballet-crush. He was a stunningly gorgeous dancer with equal amounts of heartbreaking beauty and well-deserved cockiness. He had this way of ending a difficult variation with a sparkle in his eye that said »Yeah, that was pretty awesome…« But it was never too much. And then he resigned – due to injuries. And I only know that because I have inside sources (doesn’t that sound cool…), because there was never a press release or a statement of any kind. Again, I realise that this is much less dramatic than Sergei Polunin’s stunt, but still: I don’t think retiring that quietly would have been an option, had Kristoffer Sakurai been a dancer with say, The Royal Ballet here in London. Because principal dancers with The Royal Ballet are superstars. People camp out at The Royal Opera House in the wee hours of the morning to get tickets that have been returned for sold-out performances – and the line has been known to stretch all the way around Covent Garden.
Please don’t get me wrong – I love The Royal Danish Ballet with all my heart and soul. It’s an amazing company that has, unfortunately, been going through a very rough time recently. And all the wonderful artists in the contemporary scene in Copenhagen are very close to my heart as well. But moving to London has caused me to view dance in a completely new way. I am still getting used to the fact that I have to book my tickets more than a few days ahead of a performance – at least if I don’t want to pay the price of a small car for them. And as I’m typing this, I am watching a story on Channel 4 News entitled How hard is the life of a professional ballet dancer? – about the resignation of one Mr. Sergei Polunin. Primetime news? I rest my case.  

An Anniversary - and an Announcement.

Today is my six-month anniversary as an Angel resident. And to celebrate that, I have decided to tell you about a little project that I’ve spent the last couple of months working on. Drumroll, please… I present to you – Turnout Arts! What on earth is that, you ask? Let me tell you all about it!
Since I finished my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Copenhagen in 2008 – and while I was working on obtaining my Master’s degree from the same institution – I have been working with performing arts. Right from the start, I was lucky enough to be given a lot of opportunities and I worked my way up, from assistant jobs of all sorts to most recently being the producer for a very talented and lovely choreographer. Despite being really excited about moving to London, I was a little sad to leave behind all the people I’d worked so closely with for several years, and I decided that I wanted the best of both worlds (yeah, I’m like that…). So I have established Turnout Arts with the main purpose of promoting Danish dance artists in London. And I am proud to say that I already have three clients!
I’m the kind of person who spends entirely too much time on the things that shouldn’t be at the top of my list – say, finding a name for my company before remembering that I need to register it with HM Revenue & Customs as well. And this time was no different: I was out having dinner with the man, and we were brainstorming about names. Suddenly a girl walks by the restaurant we’re in, and without really thinking about it I say: »There goes a dancer.« The man looks out, sees her characteristically turned-out feet, and says: »You could always call the company Duck Feet Productions…« Needless to say, he’s a very funny man. Anyway, in ballet-lingo, having duck feet is called turnout and after we’d moved from Duck Feet Productions to something-something-turnout, I started to like the direction we were going in. I love the idea of using a name that represents something that’s very characteristic of this wonderful art form – the turned out feet that are a part of ballet’s distinctive aesthetics, something that every dancer works on throughout their career. At the same time, the name represents my future projects – hopefully bestowing upon them a good turnout, whether it’s a sold-out house or any other kind of happy ending. So when, after a couple of glasses of wine, we arrived at Turnout Arts, we were quite pleased with ourselves.  
With the launch of Turnout Arts, I also throw myself into the world of social media. This blog is the first step; the next step is actually using the Twitter-account (@mettewb) I’ve had for, oh, about a year or so… I am a firm believer in the power of social media, and living in London has only strengthened that belief – the dance world here is on Twitter-fire! So I guess it’s about time I join the party. Retweets, hashtags and eavestweeting – I’m ready.
Maybe this post has left some of you thinking »What’s with the self-promotion? Where did all the Alabama-jokes go?« Well, first of all – aren’t blogs all about self-promotion? And second of all… Turnout Arts is what the lovely Brits call a Sole Trader company. That means that there is no distinction between the company and me – and that’s exactly how I feel about my work. So when I write about my life here in London, it wouldn’t make sense to leave out Turnout Arts, or any of my other work for that matter, because it’s what I do. I also plan to spam you with links to the articles I write and tell you about the performances I work on. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. Dance is who I am. Well, dance and Alabama. And Starbucks. And – well, you get the idea.