I have started writing this blog post multiple times. This is strange, because usually I can bash out a blog post in one sitting, like Jack Kerouac churned out The Road in just three weeks. I guess it just reflects my impulsive mood changes recently. I have been back at Northern for nearly four months now. Four months that I have found intensely challenging, yet also liberating. It was hard for me to transition back from the professional life that I had barely tasted to that of a full time student again, albeit a postgrad student who can make her own informed decisions and manipulate her timetable.
However, more on that later- first let’s travel back to August- the month of living Danishly:
Ben and I spent two and a bit days wandering around Copenhagen which was pretty magical. I will fully admit that I fell in love with the Danish capital, despite the fact that it is horrendously expensive and when we were cycling home one night the sky decided to open and turn us into drowned rats. Oh, how I should have realised after that first drenching what the Danish summer had in store for me, but I optimistically thought August would be clear… Alongside our trip round the city I was reading Helen Russell’s “The Year of Living Danishly”, which documents how she and her husband uprooted their London lifestyle to Denmark’s rural Jutland for a year. What with Helen’s insight into local living and her love for snegles, hygge and penchant for beautiful road bikes it was safe to say that I was super excited to live in Denmark for a month.
Saturday arrives, and after an emotional goodbye at the airport I somehow manage to lug my massive suitcase across the city and onto the train at Central Station. I then sit there dazed for the entire four hour long journey up north to Holstebro. In the final half an hour of the journey the woman sat opposite me strikes up a conversation questioning where I am going and if someone is meeting me. It dawns on me after she tries first to speak to me in Danish that this is the third day I have ever been in Denmark, I can’t speak the language, I have no idea where I am going and if anyone is going to meet me at the station and I am quite frankly terrified. Looking back on it now, I had absolutely no need to be, and in fact had everything in control. Yet, the fear that everything could go horribly wrong and that I knew absolutely no one in Denmark was overwhelming.
I made it, however, to the city of Holstebro for my month of living Danishly. Oh, Holstebro how do I describe you? Growing up in the rural Suffolk countryside for fifteen years I thought would prepare me for a small Danish city. Unfortunately, three years living in Leeds has raised my expectations for living requirements. Holstebro is small, the weather is terrible and absolutely everything (except Netto, and a handful of strange bars) shuts on the dot at 5.30pm Monday to Friday and at 3pm on Saturdays. This wouldn’t be that bad if they weren’t the hours that Black Box works. No splurge shopping for me whilst I was away- but perhaps that was a good thing?
Black Box Dance Company, on the other hand, are wonderful sunny people who instantly made me feel welcome. The company is, however, incredibly busy, rehearsing as many as six different projects at once, working six day weeks and somehow finding time to teach workshops- the schedule is insane. On the one hand it was great for me to see the full repertoire of work in one month, and good because you don’t become stuck rehearsing the same piece of work for weeks on end. Yet, also very confusing as I’m sure you can imagine.
In my one month with the company I visited four different Danish cities, performed four times, taught four workshops and made some beautiful new friends who made me like lasagne for the first time in my life. I found myself feeling weird about living abroad for the first two weeks, but after going on tour with the company it felt entirely natural to be with them and I am eternally grateful for them welcoming me in so wonderfully!
Inevitably it was time to head back to the UK. I will admit straight off the bat that I was super pessimistic about the autumn term upon leaving Denmark. How could anything compare to the thrills of going on tour and working with a professional dance company? I pretended like I was excited to go back to Leeds, but inside I was a little disappointed.
I was being kept busy: teaching; performing; visiting companies and doing workshops, but in between that I felt like I was retrograding back to third year. The same teachers, same studios, same atmosphere, everything comfortable and normal. This is not to say that the school could no longer offer me anything, because that is a blatant lie. I just craved something new! In that respect, taking class with Verve and doing Pro Dance Leeds was a lifesaver. A different teacher every week, a group of individuals working at a similar level to me, pushing, exploring. Those classes gave me reassurance, which was definitely something I needed. This notion of exploring, or lack of is something I have noticed when taking third year classes. Maybe it’s their focus on impending assessments, but I feel like there is a reluctance to play, which I have found gives me so much life and pleasure in class. I could also see the progression from myself last year to where I am now, which is sort of nice. I have grown.
These four months, have also seen me integrated into the Leeds cycling community, give up sugar for a month and embark on epic train journeys to Cardiff, Lewes and London. Workshops with Ben Duke, Hofesh and Gemma Nixon have enriched my performance, improvisation and creative skills, so I feel more sure of what type of work I’m interested in for the future. I’ve performed, taught loads and perfected my Thai red curry, so when I think about it I have done a lot, and time has flown by which must be a good sign. However, I am still counting down the days til Christmas break, for my body (which didn’t really have a summer holiday) is feeling the niggles. Fortunately I have been injury free (touch wood), but I feel the weight of my limbs, and the effect of the cold weather like never before. I can’t wait to bask in front of the log fire, and sip Bailey’s over ice with my family, and I also cannot wait to return to Denmark for the Spring season and the new experiences those four months will give me.
In a nutshell that was my month of living Danishly, and then four months of not. It has been agonising, enlightening and tiring. Yet, like all experiences, the lows bring colour to the highs and when I reflect on how much I struggled to get to this point, and where this course will hopefully lead me I feel optimistic and no longer, as aforementioned, super pessimistic.