Anna Thu Schmidt and her art project ImproLAB

Photo: Olga Bushueva/IHTLNY

First of all, could you tell us about what ImproLAB as a concept is?

The project ImproJAM/ImproLAB/ImproSTUNT Trondheim wants to offer an open, free, and safe space for movement and sound exploration based on dance, music, and contact improvisation principles. ImproLAB is an improvisation laboratory for artists from all disciplines and is held in workshop form. It focuses on specific topics interrelated to music and dance. These workshops are created and lead in collaboration with a local musician. It includes a part with set exercises around a theme or research question that both of us find interesting to explore further and suitable for sharing with others within the frame of the ImproLAB. The second part of the workshop is the open Jam that serves as a playground for movement and sound exploration. Here one can use the given impulses, develop them further or find new ways of expression alone or together with others.

One of the latest ImproLAB workshops was held at Rotvoll kunstnerkollektiv in collaboration with musician Martin Smidt. Could you tell us about working with Martin on this ImproLAB..? And also about artists you’ve collaborated with in previous projects?

These years ImproLAB’s were organised in collaboration with Rotvoll kunstnerkollektiv, a beautiful location, and creative work space. In the ImproLAB with musician Martin Smidt we were diving into the world of percussion. Playing with rhythm, working with imagination, and embodiment of the sound were themes we explored while navigating between similarity and contrast, known and unknown movement patterns. Martin and I had a really good time preparing and hosting the workshop together. Nine participants came out to Rotvoll, while five of them have never been to any of my events before. I am really happy that new people find the events. Yet, since most of the new ones were musicians themselves they entered the space with openness and we created a beautiful soundscape together. But one doesn’t have to have experience with dance or playing an instrument to join and enjoy these events!

This year, I also hosted two ImproLAB’s with Sissel Vera Pettersen and Morten Berger Stai at Rotvoll kunstnerkollektiv. In 2020 I collaborated with musician Daniel Herskedal, Siv Trine Haldaas, and Bergmund Waal Skaslien. When I started up the ImproLAB’s in 2019, I invited musicians Tor Haugerud, Thea Ellingsen Grant, Matilda Rolfsson, Georgia Wartel Collins, Björn Guo and Sondre Ferstad, as co-creators for the events. It has been very inspiring to work with so many different musicians who are interested in improvisation and interdisciplinary dialogue. Quite a few of the LAB’s planted a seed for future projects.

If we speak about dance as an art form. What does it mean for you to be a dance artist? And what is your work inspired by?

For me dance is the most accessible art form. We all have a body, and that’s all we need to dance! As a dance artist, I focus on dance improvisation, interdisciplinary projects, site-specific work, and integrated dance. My work is often inspired by my surroundings, its sites and the connection and communication between humans and the environment. I am very interested in the relation of dance to other arts for example the intertwinement of dance and installation art or the interplay between improvised music and dance.

You’ve been living here in Trondheim since 2017. What do you think about the situation of dance as an art in Norwegian contemporary culture?

In my opinion, contemporary dance needs to be even more visible and accessible for a broader audience. While dance has a great potential of being inclusive, it often appears very exclusive. Contemporary dance performances tend to address a very small group of people interested in it, while a big group of people doesn’t even know what contemporary dance is. I think, as dance artists, we need to open up for dialogue with all age groups and come out of the internal bubble. Compared to other countries I lived and worked in, I think that Norway has a small but strong dance scene, with a great potential for growth.

Are you working on any new art projects now?

At the moment I am working on an outdoor version of the project ‘How to read water’ that premiered in a black box at Stillverk 1 in March. ‘How to read water’ is an interdisciplinary dance installation that explores the relationship between the human body and the ocean. In this ongoing project, I work together with a team of great women: musician Thea Ellingsen Grant, VJ and artist Mina Paasche, media artist Hanne Dahl Geving and photo-and videographer Juliane Schütz. The outdoor version will be presented in two different formats: one-on-one performances with either Thea or me and as a site-specific outdoor dance installation near Rotvollfjæra on 17th and 18th of August 2021.