Here´s four words you wouldn´t think to put in one sentence; “ME sick ” and “choreographic grant”. I live with a seriously debilitating chronic illness: ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). I also received the only choreographic grant for 2017 from the Norwegian Union for Professional Dance Artists. (Norske Dansekunstnere) This is somehow unfathomable.
Living with a chronic illness should not have anything to do with me, or anyone else for that matter, receiving this honour. If anyone can make or do work that somehow has relevance to what’s going on in the world, they should, in my humble opinion, be considered for any type of prize, reward, job…whatever it might be. It could seem however that society’s need for a cynic realism, time efficiency and deadlines can lead to a dangerous sometimes subtle type of judgement. This subtle (or not so subtle) judgment can easily lead to a stagnation of creative flow, and subsequently we can miss out on valuable work, in any field. It can also lead to a devaluation of humanism. A devaluation of humanism leads to quantitative work.
The symptoms I have from the ME illness on a daily basis are severe. Receiving a choreographic grant is an achievement I therefore allow myself to take pride in, on perhaps a different level than most people would know.
I would have been extremely proud getting this grant as a person with no illness at all. But I think I am prouder than ever, because I know what it takes any person with ME to do anything physical at all. And surely, most might think, being a choreographer entails being physical in a way that makes this profession impossible to pursue for someone with a serious degree of ME like myself? Shouldn’t anyone with a sound mind change his or her career path if so unfortunate to be given this diagnosis? In choosing a cynically realistic view of life I would agree. And if being a choreographer were all about time efficiency I would agree. And if being visible at any time, promoting work and producing work several times a year, then again, I would have to agree.
I have managed to work creatively from bed. I have planned, written and calculated portions of my energy. I can’t work in conventional ways. I can’t produce work efficiently, I can’t work long hours and I therefore need to use a long time creating work. I can however work creatively, hopefully qualitatively, and I hope I create work that is full of purpose and value. Just the fact that this blog post has taken me months to write says a lot about my constant lack of visible efficiency. (Don’t confuse this with me lacking in discipline; it has to do with grasping the moments where the fatigue of the ME doesn’t “steal” my mind. In this way I would like to say I am very efficient, and very disciplined in how I manage to use those moments of clarity).
For me, my choreographic practice is a passion I live for. It is choreography I see in everything around me. Choreography is life, and the relationship to life. Even if, and because, I live with a serious degree of ME. There is an enormous physical and mental sensitivity that follows this illness. I think this has become my strength in my use of method when developing work. The strength is that it allows me to relate to other performers with great concern and sensitivity when developing certain aspects of the work. Yet it is as much a weakness when it comes to finishing a production, and having to adapt to society’s premises (like setting a date for a finished work, writing a funding application with a deadline, sending in reports with a deadline, talking to journalists promoting the work etc.). This is however life. I accept, roll up my sleeves those few hours I can be out of bed each day, and work slowly but steadily with my biggest passion: Choreography.
It was pointed out by a critic of my latest work that I made work so personal that it was impossible to critic it. I choose to see this as a compliment, however my self-critic would argue that I failed. But if I don’t manage to make it personal, it doesn’t matter to me. And if it doesn’t matter to me, how will it matter to anyone else. Really.
This choreographic grant is a very joyful experience for me, particularly because it comes from a very qualified group of people. I am grateful to the union. I cannot run with this honour, and work more efficiently in terms of producing and touring with work. However, I have more than ever confidence in the fact that my work is developing in a very exciting way, however slow. Thanks again to the union, I really appreciate it.
(And to those who read this: I don’t consider myself a proficient writer of any kind, but I allow myself to try to get some valid points across.)