Dancing teaches me constantly about other people’s and my own life

, during rehearsals for Der Strom. Photo by Maria Gibert

For our series “We love sports”, IRMA has a chat with dancer Leonie Niss, who is part of the THE CURRENT DANCE COLLECTIVE, a group of Hamburg-based artists combining contemporary dance and choreography with music, film, photography and design, to talk about what being a dancer has taught her, about ways to relax body and mind and what she dreams of.

IRMA: What is the most fascinating part of your work?
LEONIE NISS: Cooperating with artists from a diverse field of genres. It gives me new inspiration and helps me to discover new possibilities of working, creating and moving.

IRMA: How much time do you train during the day?
LEONIE NISS: During the process of creating a new production, I have to train for two hours per day followed by up to five hours of rehearsals. Additionally, I take some time to build up specific muscles, to stretch and also to prepare and relax my body by rolling out my fascia and muscles with a BlackRoll.

Leonie Niss and Nikita Grebenjuk at TANGOMATRIX. Photo by Maria Gibert

IRMA: What is your ultimate tip for a perfect work/relax balance?
LEONIE NISS: My thoughts are constantly engaged with new ideas. It is easy to forget that it is important to allow yourself some phases of rest and also to reflect on and break out of common patterns. Consequently I believe that it is very important to be cautious about these patterns and reflect on them. Most importantly, my body and mind need to be able to relax. For example, I recently started to train in Argentinian Tango during my free time. Dancing the Tango allows me to connect my passion for dancing with a leisure activity without any outside pressure. It is also a great way to share my passion with my husband.

IRMA: How do you heal your body from in- and outside?
LEONIE NISS: In order to heal my body from the inside and the outside, I enjoy going to the sauna, meeting up with friends for a coffee or taking walks to clear my mind. Also, I like to spend time with my husband and my family. They always give me new strength and energy.

IRMA: Where do you search for inspiration for your personal life and your work?
LEONIE NISS: Because of the diversity of my daily routine, I find inspiration in various aspects of my life. Everything can become an inspiration. For example, next to being a dancer, I work as a dance teacher with refugee children and adolescents and also as a dance therapist in a psychiatric clinic for children. Through this work I am able to learn a lot about different cultures and about the human soul. Searching and finding enjoyment and stability in one’s life through movement and dance can give a human being structure and a new perspective. Being part of forming these new perspectives and structures together with my clients gives me a lot of strength. It is an inspiration to work with these children and adolescents. On the other hand, my artistic work can compensate for my sometimes emotionally demanding work. It gives me new energy and a positive outlook on life. In my personal time I find most inspiration in traveling and in being with my friends and family.

IRMA: Being a professional dancer has taught you …
LEONIE NISS: … to be emotionally flexible. Next to the physical discipline and flexibility my job demands, I am constantly challenged mentally as well as emotionally. I have had to learn to accept, that sometimes I am in total control of myself and sometimes I have to let go to be able to reinvent myself, to outgrow myself. It is a constant change between control and loss of control. Doubts and fears come along with these changes and I had to learn to grow from these doubts and fears instead of letting them stopp me.

IRMA: What would be your wish come true?
LEONIE NISS: A big wish come true would be for THE CURRENT DANCE COLLECTIVE to get long-term funding. As of right now we receive funding based on productions. This, however, always entails us having to apply for money and hoping for our applications to be accepted. There never is a long-term outlook on whether we will have enough money for the coming year or not. Thus, all of us work several jobs at the same time to ensure our regular income. However, long-term funding would enable us to concentrate fully on our artistic work. I think, this would strongly contribute to the quality of our productions as we would have more strength and time to invest into them.

IRMA: What would you like the audience to take home from watching your performance?
LEONIE NISS: When I dance in choreographies I deal with different political, social and also personal themes. Through my dance I try to find a way to let these themes be physically or emotionally visible. Every audience is different and every audience finds different ways to deal with the performances. Whilst some viewers might be touched by what they see, others try to understand it rationally and yet others try to question the performance all together. Sometimes it is simply the aesthetics and the agreeableness of the dance, which leaves a viewer satisfied. In the end, for me it is important that the viewers were moved in any sort of way. Hopefully, they will reflect on what they saw or maybe discuss it with their peers. It is not, however, important to understand exactly what I or the choreographer want to say with a piece. Thoughts, feelings, rejection, movement, inspiration is what I wish for the audience to take home from watching my performance.

IRMA: Do you follow other dancers? If so, where and how? Do you look on the social media for their work output, for example?
LEONIE NISS: Dance is a visual art and offers a lot of possibilities to let oneself be inspired. Therefore, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo or YouTube are very good resources to find great new ideas and concepts by other artists, dancers or choreographers. At this moment, my favourite choreographer is Hofesh Shechter (@ Hofesh Shechter Company). I saw his choreography “Political Mother” in London and was awe-struck. He is recognised as one of the most exciting artists working today, renowned for composing atmospheric musical scorest to compliment the unique physicality of his movement. And I must say, I totally agree.

Leonie Niss

Leonie Niss is part of the THE CURRENT DANCE COLLECTIVE, a group of Hamburg-based artists combining contemporary dance and choreography with music, film, photography and design. She says: “As a dancer of that group, I have the possibility to physically deal with social and political themes that move me. Working in that way enables me to express my own feelings in relation to current topics concerning society. Thus our work might reflect part of society in a critical way through the use of various media. This fascinates me greatly.” She lives in NRW. In addition, Leonie works as a dance teacher with refugee children and adolescents and also as a dance therapist in a psychiatric clinic for children.

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