Friday, February 10, 2012

Interview with Henrik Lamark - Professional Ballet Dancer and Blogger Extraordinaire

Henrik Lamark, author of Tights and © Jørgen Mathisen

Henrik Lamark

Age: 25

Born in Ålesund, Norway

Lives in Győr, Hungary and dances with The Győr National Ballet of Hungary

At what age did you begin dancing?
I started dancing already at four, but I had a severe hip displacement, and went through a series of surgery from age 6 to about 8. I started dancing more seriously in my teens. I wrote a post on Tights and Tiaras about how I began to dance, and what the surgery did (and didn't) mean to my career called "The importance of not assuming". 

How did you know you wanted to dance?
I'm not sure how, but I know I told my parents I wanted to become a dancer already at age three. I have no clue where that thought came from, but being a stubborn bastard, I lived up to the idea. It wasn't like it was always written in stone that I should dance either - my background and abilities were far from ideal, and I didn't really decide to become a dancer until my mid teens, but the interest were always there, and I never doubted it.

Being a boy, did you feel pressure to not dance ?
I did in academic school and from other kids, but fortunately, I always had my parents and my teachers that supported me and cheered me on to continue doing what I enjoyed, and not listen to others. Without that support, I don't think I would have continued dancing. Today, that is one of the things that engage me, showing the world it's ok for a boy to dance! Not all young male dancers is lucky to have the support around them I had, and that is a shame. In my post on men in ballet I try to confront some of the prejudices connected to male dancing.
Henrik as Ego from Carmina Burana Hungarian Opera House

Did anyone ever tell you you could NOT be  dancer? If so why?
My doctors kind of did, although not to me directly as much as to my parents. Today, I am very happy that my parents chose to let that decision be mine instead of anyone elses. I was always well informed about the handicap my hip surgery could cause, but it was never presented to me as a problem, and therefore, I didn't treat it as one either. In short, my parents gave me the opportunity to find out for myself if my legs could do this, and it turned out, they could. I have had very little problems with my hips in my career, and many of my colleagues don't even know about the surgery I had as a kid. If they would have listened to the doctors, I would never even have started what would become the obsession of my life. 

Were your parents supportive?
Always! They were, and still are, the pillars my whole career was built on. I know I can always rely on them to support me and help me make good decisions. They are my biggest fans :) I wrote more about that too in the post I linked to earlier. 

When did you realize dance would be a career for you?
When I was accepted to the Hungarian State Dance Academy at 18, I was thrilled by finally doing dance on a professional level. But that it would actually become my career wasn't really clear to me until I was standing in my first company, the Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine, with a contract and a spot in the boys changing rooms. That was a great feeling - I did it! I'm a dancer!
Practicing with partner Anna Krupp from the Hungarian National Ballet for pas de deux. © Daniel Bolla

What is your least favorite thing about ballet?
It's so frickin' hard! Ballet technique is just a pain in the behind, to be honest!! Everything needs to be repeated until boredom, polished and exercised until it works - everybody who dances know it takes a lot of hard work!

What is your favorite thing about ballet?
My favorite thing about ballet is that it allows me to "turn off" the rest of the world. Dancing requires such a devotion and concentration, when I dance, there is nothing else. It's a great feeling, a mixture of total calmness and adrenaline. It's like zen, really, peace of mind through hard physical work. Or, at least for me, it is… 

Most difficult skill to master?
I have probably spent more time practicing pirouettes than any other part of the classical ballet repertoire, still I wouldn't say I have mastered it yet. That's whats great about ballet - you never master it, you only improve. There is always room for improvement, to be better, to take it up another notch.
Blogger Extraordinaire

You have your own blog Tights and Tiaras, how did that come about?
Ballet is often considered a very closed and inapproachable world, and I wanted to open it up a little. Many people have little idea of what it means to live like a professional dancer, and I wanted to share my experiences, my passion for dance and my life as a dancer with those who don't necessarily know all the ballets, the steps and the whole "world" that exists around dance. So I started Tights and Tiaras. Today, two years later, it's still developing, but I have gotten a good, solid base of readers that support me and helps me continue to develop the site. I have a lot of plans for the blog in the future, now I just need to find the time and the means to actually put the plans into life..

I saw the t-shirts where can people buy them?
The Tights and Tiaras t-shirts were the first item of some merchandize I wanted to create for the blog. The shirts can be bought from our merchandize page

What are your future goals?
I still want to do a lot of dancing in my life, I want to learn new techniques and dance several different pieces for as long as my body will let me. But I also want to develop as a person, experience a lot, travel, meet lots of different people. I guess my goals are to make as much out of life as possible, both concerning my passion, and outside of it. 

What advice to you have for other young dancers, especially the boys?
Work your butt of! Don't rest a day - you are young, full of energy, and you are laying the foundation of what your whole dancing life will be built upon. Listen to your teachers, your mentors, your parents and your friends, but try to figure out things on yourself as well. No two bodies are the same, but you are lucky - you don't need to know how all of them work, just the one thats yours! Work with it, get to know your body! What happens if I do this, or that? How can my body do that turn, that jump, that pose? And follow your heart! The most important thing of all is that you enjoy what you are doing. Only then will you be truly happy, and only then will that happiness and love for dance show through your movements! 

What is your favorite ballet?
Romeo and Juliet for it's passion. Giselle for it's diversity. Swan Lake for the ideal. Bajadére for the depth. The big ballets are all great tales, with so much more to them than what you can see from a short clip on YouTube. One must simply go to the theatre and breathe in the whole ballet to understand what a great art-form it is. I don't have one favorite ballet, it all depends on my mood, my day, the production and the theatre. 

What is your favorite variation?
Albrecht's second act variation is great, it is a simple variation, but has the depth, allows you to add your personality and some story into a quite short piece. I guess that is my favorite one, although there are so many good variations. All for their own purpose, I guess. 

You recently had some time off due to surgery. What was the surgery for and did you want to insane!?
A part of the meniscus of my right knee broke off in December, and I had to have it removed. It is a relatively frequent injury, and not a very complicated surgery. Still, it's surgery, and recovering takes time. I did want to go crazy from not being able to train, but once the knee got good enough to start working with a physical therapist and such, I got a bit more relaxed mentally as well. I have also learned a lot about my body in the recovery process, for which I'm happy! I'm hoping that when I finally recover completely (the doc says March is realistic…) I'm going to be stronger than I was before the injury, both physically and mentally! 

How long will it take you to get back to your prior level of dancing?
Well, it depends on how the knee handles the stress and workload that comes with full training.. The first period of recovery was slower than we thought, but now, I'm working with full   intensity, and things are getting better fast. But with the training comes stress, and just yesterday my knee swelled up to like three times it's size, not a good sign. But I'm working on it every day, and there are small improvements all the time, so I'm confident it will turn out good.

Did you ever compete?
I did some internal competitions in school, but I never attended any big international competition. 

What do you think about competitions?
I think competitions can be a great way for a dancer to improve their skills and compare themselves to others from other schools and companies. That said, I think it's important to remember ballet is about more than just bravura and tricks, which tends to get more attention at a competition. 

Who has been the most influential person in your life as a dancer?
My first and my last ballet teachers! My master, Mr. György Szakály, taught me the last three years of school, and I learned a lot from him. But also my first teacher was very important to me. Her name was Heather Hebbert, she taught ballet to kids in my home city in northern Norway. She was a great teacher, strict, but kind, and was very supportive. I think I learned the love for dance from her!

What shoes do you wear?
I wear Sansha pro's - I like how they are soft and shapeable to the foot. But I sometimes feel their fit is a bit like the one of a garbage bag. I guess I haven't found 'my shoe' yet, although I've tried quite a few ballet shoes through the years… 

Where do you buy your dance wear for men?
I usually buy a lot of my dance wear in sports shops. I like to use clothes that aren't necessarily made specially for dancers, it's cheaper, and they are often of better quality than dance wear. I also usually buy dance wear from dance shops when I'm traveling or on tour, it's cool to have something that reminds you of places you have been. 
My company provide me with the basic dance wear, like dance belts, shoes and such, which is great, both financially, and time wise - we don't have to spend time finding and buying those things ourselves.

Henrik's Links

Please add anything else you would like to add:
Thank you for featuring me on the site, and keep doing your stuff, I enjoy it a lot! For all dancers out there, keep dancing, put your heart in it, and show what you do to the world! Tell folks about Tights and Tiaras and dance on! :)

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview! Henrik, have you talked about men dancing en pointe at your blog? If not, how do you feel about it? Do you think working en pointe is beneficial to men? Cheers~