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COVID-19 Reflections as a Dance Artist
Chameleon Life, Photo by Patrik Palm

The following reflection was part of a shared dance artist profile I wrote for Scottish Dance Theatre the other week, I thought it might be nice to share some of it here for another kind of audience. Enjoy!


What have you learned from your experiences the last months?

Being in general mostly alone and with the nearest family during this pandemic, me and my artistry during this time has become about how to integrate and fully merge who I am with the art that I do; in order to reclaim and revaluate what my purpose and core values are as a dance artist. Finding life and the connection with art, my body and nature inherently interconnected. Which for me during this time became even more pronounced. Processing processes and daily routines and how they affect my day. Realising how the normalised views on productivity and success has affected me and how I live, and where those traces and relations fail to serve me greatness. And how as a person and dance artist the kindest most generous thing I can do to is to serve myself with a way of life that can support my greatness. Trying to grasp the quality over the quantity of life and art. Finding ways to treasure that small timid hello from a stranger crossing paths on my evening walk in the forest. Brewing myself a small cup of coffee and going out in the sunrise in the morning, hearing all the birds waking up with their tweets. How the moments of my solitude have the potential to filter in through the rare new meetings I have. Bringing with me into this “new normal”, how my experiences and self-realisations can nurture and support all future gatherings in order to make them truly meaningful.

Who or what have kept you going during the corona-limitations?
Whilst being in Sweden during these couple of months we haven’t had a complete lockdown, instead the citizens have had the ultimate responsibilities of following to the societal rules. Fortunately, because of this it meant that I and my college, Bar Groisman (Sababa Co.) were allowed to start and follow through with our planned residency with the new solo-work “Chameleon Life” in July-August in Lund, with support from “Lunds Dans och Musikal Gymnasium. A three-week residency with two other groups of movement researchers. We had access to our own separate studio 24/7 for the three weeks of research and even a small corona-adjusted performance outside. This made me realise how fortunate and grateful I was to still be able to carry on with my practice in a time of such uncertainties and regulations. To sum it all up, we managed to create our own small universe, in the mist of all of chaos. Within the parameters of our research and the mini-community it was us and the rest of the world. The research and boost of spending so much artistic time and to just share a studio with others after months away from it, was heavenly and something that kept me going.


In what way have your pandemic changed your view about the role of dance
This spring I also had the possibility of with the corona-limitations to substitute teach sometimes, since most of the schools in Sweden tried to stayed open. Which meant that most of even the practical dance educations had to go on somehow. For this to be safe and secure enough, everyone ventured outdoors. It was a refreshing and sometimes frustrating experience to be governed fully by the weather and the outside surroundings in finding ways to adapt to continue on training within a normal morning-class, as if it should have been in a studio. Finding ways to put up dance flooring that was safe. How to use a rail on a bridge in a park as a barre for ballet exercises. How to manage when the sun made the dance-mat so hot that it almost burned your skin when doing floor-exercises. The thing I loved about it most however was how the dance practice blended so beautifully with society. One day I sat and observed the students and found the mix of practitioners within the park lovely. Dancers rehearsing, elders exercising, sword fighters and schoolkids practising their fitness. It was a perfect portrayal of what the public space can offer us. How dance, art and moving the body can re-imagine and find multiple purposes of how we see and use public space. It felt like this pandemic shifted the perception and view on what a public space can offer us. It does not just have a singular purpose; it has a multitude of functions. And the role of dance, is to amongst a lot of things to support that. 

For more inspiration follow: @matildabjarum on Instagram
To see a trailer from the creation and corona-regulated performance of "Chameleon Life": https://vimeo.com/464150055
Original Article: https://www.scottishdancetheatre.com/news/latest-news/dance-artist-profile---matilda-bjrum

Graduation and Scottish Dance Theatre
Featured article on Edinburgh Fringe Performances with SDT, In The Guardian
So, here I am a Saturday morning sipping on my Latte in a small café in Dundee, Scotland. Trying to make up of "how I got here"- what "happened these last months" and somehow realise

what I feel about it:

So fast tracking back to June and to when I was in a totally different headspace, location and routines. Finishing up and preparing in all that it means with shows and performances and assesments towards my bachelor graduation. No time to think, but to do. Trying to catch everything and appreciate it in all that also culminates in a wave of enevitable fatigue. 

Fatigue in terms of looking back and realising all the hours, days, thoughts you have dedicated to arrive to THIS moment. But also a proud feeling that makes you straighten your back in pure enjoyment over what you have overcome and achieved. 

I have to send a thought to young Matilda. How her dream was to dance professionally. And even though I am under the term "Apprentice Dancer" and are studying a Masters, I am still in Scottish Dance Theatre and are practically doing everything as the hired dancers are doing. 

Now I have just finished a week here. Recapping repetoire, morning classes, rehearsals of remaking of a piece: preparing for performing at Edingburgh Fringe. Maybe it is the release of endorfins that comes from have been at The Physio right before this, but I feel calm, content and excited for the future. I feel like the future will solve itself as it is suppose to.

As cheesy and cliche as this small rant have been, I think this look back is vital to share; that you can achieve and accomplish wonderful things. And to remind yourself of that your everyday right now is where you dreamed of being.

"Våga Chansa" as one of my favourite tunes preaches. Therefore I can now shout proudly, I DID, and I STILL DO. 

to follow my journey in pictures and videos: @matildabjarum on instagram.
The balance between education and your own artistry
Photo: Lars Bjärum Bengtsson

This year’s studies will soon come to an end for me. The second year studies will very quickly turn into the last and final year before I officially will be graduated as a professional contemporary dancer.


An education is a great way to gain experience and knowledge but sometimes we take this for granted. A school might only give you what they in the moment think is the right for the majority of the students. This is great of course; however this might still not give you the most successful route to your career. In a business such as the dance artist world it is unfortunately not just enough to work hard and good. Of course dedication and patience is a must in developing your skills and technique, however creating the artist that you would want to be demands more. The key is to find the right balance between education and your own dedication and initiation.


Look everywhere for inspiration, start writing down artists in all fields that inspire you; fashion, music, dance, fine art or a dove’s random movements in a park. Search for knowledge and observe the world around you. Start mapping down and understand the business field around you; follow people on social media that inspire you. Whenever they tag some of their friends, add them if they are of interest; look at what pages they are following and follow the same. Also go to well-known organisations/ companies’ official webpages and sign up for their newsletters.


By doing so, you will be fed with material that interest you or can add to your knowledge and help you shape your aesthetic and artistry. You will most probably be notified about interesting workshops, intensives and auditions that interest you this way. You will have a great overview on the field and understand it and therefore be able to shape how you fit into it.


Joy on your researching,

to follow my journey in pictures and videos: @matildabjarum on instagram. 

School starting after the New year
Photo: Patrik Palm

Today is the day when I am heading back. Back but still somehow away. Leaving England for the Netherlands was an important journey for me. All glory to my fabulous school in England, which I love and are in many ways perfect for me. However, the thrill and the feeling of being in the central part of Europe brought something unique. It is as cliche as everyone says: "it suddenly felt like the world was at my feet"— like it would obey me at my every whim. The distance had no say in my decisions of what I wanted to explore or experience, since it was practically no distance going anywhere.


Visiting multiple destinations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and a 12 hour drive through Europe. Workshops with Netherlands dance theater and Marina Mascarell, performance with Vloeistof as intro to the Dutch National Ballet. Gaining 20 admission tickets from various performances. Biking on my third hand bike anywhere (even when it snowed). Becoming friends with a crazy gang. Trying to learn some of the Dutch language (let’s just say that I know a couple of words). Seeing me and my artistry not just as something practiced in physicality, but also in personality and future goals. Agreeing. And not agreeing with people. And realizing that it is actually also fine.


It might be bittersweet to head back to the "normal" life in England. To not have the eagerness of a short time limit to my adventures, that it is somehow: "now or never". Time pressure Ive come to realize is sometimes a great stimulus. However, I do feel that the sensation of me "locking up the door to the world" wont just disappear. It will stay with me and enhance my studies. The experiences and the thought processes it has triggered will keep on giving me the inspiration I need for my further studies. I will probably receive and make use of the education way more now as opposed to if I wouldn’t have done the Erasmus exchange.


Therefore I will now say (for the official school start on Monday): New adventures await and I will eagerly see where they can take me!

 

To follow my journey in pictures: @matildabjarum on instagram.

Matilda Bjärum Bengtsson 

"Making Space"- What space?

So, a couple of weeks have passed since I last filled you in on my events here in Tilburg, Netherlands. Today I’m heading towards Florence, Italy for a week long workshop with one of my favorite choreographers: Marina Mascarell. I am really excited!


Last week was a hectic couple of days before the autumn vacation. We worked on a project in groups called:  “Making space”. This is a performance project in which we will work with different choreographers in the Netherlands in public space. As dancers we are very comfortable and normalized with a concept of practicing in a studio space or performing in a black box in the theatre. So comfortable that at times it could be easily forgotten that the public space has plenty of creativity and opportunities.


Most of the public space that you see around you every day has been planned to serve certain purposes. A park in the middle of town; for recreational and free time activities, streets with certain types of house types which might have been thought of for a certain group of people, or a bike stand in the middle of town for easy travelling access.  What you see might seem so natural and maybe even perhaps therefore boring to you.

What if you found new ways of using these spaces? Ways that may not be the most obvious way? What if you helped people see new aspects of the space that they pass every day? What if you also can make the public passing part of the performance that you are in fact partaking in? Everything you see can be divided into the smallest details but also the biggest pictures.


Sometimes it is just important to have big open public spaces which maybe in the minds of the planners not really are serving an efficient purpose.  Sometimes a blank space can make you start to see all the possibilities within it.  For me one of those places is the green lawn/park outside of Zwing it- dance school.  It supports the center of all the homes and schools around, and it complements the old building that is “Folkets Hus”. I am happy that some parties in Kävlinge Kommun are starting to see its purpose and want to keep it as it is. Thereby also keeping the blossoming dancing/art community that Zwing it is providing for the people. And what is the space without the people interests? The city is for the people. Right?



Follow my journey in pictures: @martistryspace on Instagram
Documentary Tip (Netflix): "Citizen Jane- Battle for the city"

Bachelor Dance Studies Abroad
Me as the Patronus in Cecilia Nilssons piece "Harry Potter"; last Spring showcase.

Hi to everyone who is interested in reading about my dance journey, 


Here in this blog Im going to share my experiences, thoughts and reflections around dance and dance in different contexts. As many of you maybe already know, Im studying a Bachelor in Contemporary Dance in Leeds, England. Though actually I am currently in my second school week in the Netherlands as part of my exchange term abroad.  


So, what is it like might you wonder, whats it like to go abroad and continue on studying dance in a pre-professional environment? Before last year when I started at "Northern School of Contemporary Dance" I also was eager to know. Though I already had a taste of it some years before during two weeks dancing and living in New York at Broadway Dance Center.  


First, I can tell you that there is a major difference in going on a dance intensive trip than to actually be living in a different country studying. It is not a temporary thing any more, it is not just enjoyment and then a quick travel back to reality. The place where you at is your reality. When this reflection hits you, that is when you truly realise that you are abroad. It is not that it isnt a different environment or that you speak a different language (if you dont find any Scandinavian people to chat with of course); it is better explained as that you "create a life". A life which you have created back home too, but this time in a different context, with different people, habits and goals. You dont really have any strings to "the world you grew up in", and this forces you to learn a lot about yourself. How you structure your life; what food you decide to buy, how you socialise and what you learn to prioritize. You will also notice that there is plenty of ways to go about this, and every solution is a good one if it makes you happy and allow you to function to your highest potential. 


You might wonder why I am not speaking about all the dance training and everything artsy I do every day countless of hours in school. That is because, when you start a real academic bachelor study at University level, you have already had a lot of dance refinement, fitness and dance experience. For me all the sweat and hours at Zwing it as a kid and further on studies at Lunds Dans- och Musikal. The real difference is here how you approach your training. Knowledge of how everything works the best for you; for example, how you prepare before a class, how you decide to view the material of the 90 min to come and how you find new inspiration. Knowledge in that maybe today in ballet you decide to look at the class as a gentle warming up of the joints and muscles, maybe because you of some reason didnt get enough of sleep last night. Or you see the potential quality or specific phrasing of a creative task to remember distinctively for the future. This does in no way mean that you have less energy or focus in class, it simply means that you have a deeper understanding and intention with what you want to achieve, rather than maybe just physical achievements (like kicking your leg to the sky, even though that always could be nice hehe).  


Moving abroad and meeting a lot of new people with another culture and another way of being brought up; with different habits and ways of being. This makes it easier for you to customdesign the way for you and yourself, new things to learn from others or a bigger appreciation of what you have learned before. It all adds up to how you can enhance and "water" your own vision. Your vision of yourself and your artistic views and appreciations.   

Im on my way to finding a personal ownership of my artistic intentions.  

#ownership 

 

If you want to follow my journey in pictures; follow @martistryspace on Instagram.

Matildas resa
Matildas dansglädje började redan vid 4 års ålder på Zwing it och under årens lopp har hon varit aktiv och dansat många olika stilar; contemporary, balett, jazz, stepp, locking, street och olika typer av fusion. 2012 påbörjade Matilda spetsutbildningen i dans på Lunds dans- och musikalgymnasium och efter examen gick hon vidare till Modern Dance Pre Education. Matilda hämtar inspiration från sin resa till New York med intensivt dansande på Broadway Dance Center och andra studios. Matilda tränar tillsammans med Malmö Youth Contemporary Dance (MYCD) och är en del av den professionella dansagenturen Blac Opal Talent Agency. 2016-2017 studerade Matilda vidare på Northern School of Contemporary Dance där hon om tre år får en Bachelor (BPA) i modern dans. Matilda är medlem i Bring it och har tillsammans med gruppen uppträtt bland annat på Eurovision Village, Barngalan 2012 och 2014 och SVT:s Rampljuset.
I höst befinner sig Matilda på ett utbytesår i Nederländerna och här får du följa hennes resa. Mycket nöje!
 
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