Mette Edvardsen

Date: 31/10/2006

When asked for her profession, Mette Edvardsen is not too sure about the answer because it all depends on the perspective. In Belgium, she is officially registered as a dancer but she does many different things. In Norway, being a dancer has a narrower meaning. She would rather be considered as “independent” there. Edvardsen has immigrated to Belgium but not emigrated from Norway, so she still has the Norwegian nationality. When she first started working in Belgium, she was in a kind of ‘grey zone’ because she worked for a subsidized company but was not paid officially. She finds herself in a complex situation now, being in the Belgian and Norwegian system at the same time. The problem is that the rules (where to pay taxes etc.) are designed for structures far bigger than one person.

She feels more connected to people, language and culture than to certain places. The house where she grew up for example does not exist anymore. When she left Norway, she only looked ahead and did not think about what she left behind. Now it would be much more difficult for her to move than it was ten years ago. She does not know whether she would be able to leave behind everything she has built up in Brussels. The desire for stability becomes bigger when growing older. She has her own small community of people she knows well. Her friends in Brussels are all related to dance. She tends to go to the same places to see performances, but would like to visit some other places once in a while and discover things that she did not know existed.

She names the openness, cheap living cost and the cultural politics as reasons for the dynamic international performance scene that emerged in Brussels. In Berlin for example the cultural identity is much stronger than in Brussels. She would feel different living in Germany not speaking German than living in Flanders not speaking Flemish. There exists a mythical image of the Brussels performing arts community that is related to certain big companies, mostly situated in the Flemish scene. Abroad, the Brussels dance field even serves as an example worth copying.

Edvardsen sees advantages and disadvantages of the Belgian system. Positive is that it was relatively easy for her to come to Belgium and to find work; that there are many things happening in the Belgian performance field and that there are possibilities to realize things. The chômage system gives her independency and stability. Without this system, she would not be able to create her own work. In Belgium, money for culture is distributed in a different way than in Norway because there is a difference in perception of culture. In Norway, culture is somehow not so highly valued while in France for example, (Edvardsen lived in Paris for three years) it is part of the national identity.

A negative evolution is how the government encourages a tendency to concentrate power in certain places and to group initiatives together in big structures. There is a trend not to support individuals anymore. This is at odds with the new generation wanting to work in a different way than the big companies from the 80s and 90s and organizing themselves more and more in smaller independent structures. What is happening now is that a closed system arises that is not very accessible to outsiders. It does not leave many possibilities for people who do not want to be included in big structures. This evolution creates a desire among young dancers and choreographers to organize things outside of the system, like performances where the only funds come from the door money.

inscribed – official papers – taxes – grey zone – puzzle – guest performances – desire for stability – peculiar – emerge – contain – awareness – changing landscape – trademark – independent structures – institutions – closed system – bypass – value system – sustain – expertise – construction – exchange – sub-community – experime


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