I stepped into the dance-studio for the first time when I was 17 years old. At age 17, you’re considered “old” to be starting out as a dancer. I didn’t think I was starting a new career though - I just wanted to dance.
I still remember my first impressions from walking in to the dance studio: the faint smell of sweat, the loud, pumping music, joyful cheery tones from the dancers coming out from class. I was sick, running a high fever, so I couldn’t actually join the class I had signed up for. I sat down in the corner to watch in high anticipation. When the teacher walked in and started the warmup I got goosebumps all over my body, and I don’t think it was the fever. I felt like I had found home. There started a love so intense that I can’t compare it to anything else.
After that first semester of lessons I had already decided that this was the thing I was meant to do. I studied at a part time dance school, then Stockholm Ballet Academy and then I got in to Rotterdam Dance Academy(Codarts) - one of the highest ranked contemporary dance schools in the world. It wasn’t easy, I will not pretend it was. Especially in Rotterdam, my classmates had most of them started classical training at age 10 or earlier. But I have always had excellent coordination and I worked my ass off to catch up.
In my last semester at Codarts I was introduced to Instant Composition, a technique that focuses on performative improvisation. You learn to work with everything around you as inspiration and guidance to create an improvised piece that can be performed infront of an audience. Using light, sound, environment, props and your fellow dance partner(s), you have to peel off all layers of pretending and be true to the moment if you want to create something that makes sense. When you succeed - it’s nothing short of magic.
Having a technical training as a base was of great help but this meant a whole new sort of training. I had to train myself to not be afraid to take physical initiative but at the same time be agile enough to be ready to alter my impulses if a new one was introduced. I had to train my mind to let go and learn how to listen with my whole body. I had to listen with my ears, skin, eyes and, most importantly, with my intuition.
This practice ultimately taught me the most important life lessons I’ve ever learned. Unfortunately I cannot teach them to you, dear reader, for they are lessons of the unspoken and unwritten. They are lessons of a language that cannot be expressed by any literal meaning. That’s the lesson itself.
As I understand the world, I know there’s so much I don’t understand. There are languages that we don’t speak with our voice - but that we all speak. I can best describe it as feelings and intuition - but I believe it is so much more complex than that. I believe there’s a way of connecting with everything around us that is very much real, on a physical level, but that we haven’t been able to really wrap our heads around yet. Some may call it belief or spirituality, some may call it quantum physics. All I know is that I feel it, I can connect on a (so far still small) level with the world around me and even more so since I was introduced to Instant Composition.
This is why I still today, after giving up my dance career for a career in Photography, always leave space for improvisation. What I want, in any photographic quest, is to reach a real connection to my subject. Whatever my subject may be, I am always a part of it/them and they in turn become a part of myself. What’s portrayed in the end is a communication between me, my subject and the viewer. My goal is that each of those parties will feel a connection to each other that feels genuine, to the core. Just like those moments of magic I’ve experienced on the dance floor.