Sofie is a dancer from Sweden studying at Broadway Dance Center in the city. For more information about Sofie, please check out her website.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am from Sweden. I started to dance Bugg when I was six years old. At that time, dancing was more like recovery for myself. I had such a hard time learning how to read, how to write, how to spell in school. People started bullying me because I walked on my tippy toes. I was spiritual, happy, and had a lot of energy as a kid. So people thought I was really weird. Dancing helped me release all my energy. When I was 8 years old, I started jazz dance. I fell in love with it. The bullying started getting worse and worse in school, and it happened a lot with my family at the same time, so I started to get sicker and sicker mentally. I always tried to keep dancing because that was the most important part of my life. It made me happy and enjoy my life.
How long did the bullying go on for?
It went on for 10 years in my first school. In Sweden, you study in one school for ten years. You start when you are six years old, and then when you are fifteen, you have a chance to choose a new school. It’s called secondary school. People have a chance to choose which program you want to be in. Everyone is required to take math, English, Swedish, science, and then you choose your own program. You can choose between theoretical programs or vocational programs. You can become a photographer, learn how to build houses, fix cars, go deeper into science, economics, and other things. I enrolled in an art program. I started to dance for real at that time. When I was around 13 or 14, I was really sick with depression. And also I got eating problems. I had a lot of scars from self-harm. I tried to kill myself and almost succeeded. The doctors around me didn’t want to help, so I had to recover by myself. It was quite hard, but when I started the dance program in secondary school, everything went better and better.
When I was in my second year of secondary school, I started to dance more outside of school in the studio with the same teacher that I had at the school. I started to dance more ballet, more jazz, more contemporary, more often. I also got a chance to join a dance group. That really got me started on focusing on dancing.
At the same time, I was a horseback rider. When I was 15, I worked for a professional rider at her stable as a groom. Together we went around and competed together in the south of Sweden with her horses. I started to compete in dressage by myself when I was 18. Everything went really well. I really started to think if I should pursue horseback riding or dance professionally.
I auditioned for a pre-professional school in Sweden. I got a spot there and tried the dancing life first. I did that for two years, and I auditioned for Iwanson International School of Contemporary Dance in Munich, Germany. I got a spot there and started there in September 2013. In that school you study modern, ballet and jazz. During that first three months I had problems with my body. Sometimes I would faint during the classes, and I had a lot of pain in my nerves. Sometimes when I walked, I was in so much pain that I would fall down. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk anymore. I went to doctors back and forth. Doctors there thought I had a broken disc, broken vertebrae, problems with my nerves, depression in my nerves, depression in my muscles. I had everything. Then I decided to see a chiropractor, and he figured out that my highest vertebra was in a wrong position. So he fixed that and all my problems went away.
During that year I started to think about if I really wanted to continue with my dancing. So I decided to take a year off. But I realized quite soon that I wanted to dance. Now I am just here in New York, studying at Broadway Dance Center just to get back in shape again, and also to get self-confidence, get crazy, and meet people like you, who work with art as a profession. It inspires me that I can work with art professionally.
How did you decide to come to New York?
I heard about Broadway Dance Center two years ago. In Sweden, it’s really big. It’s the only school in the whole world where people can go to and dance hip-hop and get a certification afterwards. I know that they have a lot of good ballet, contemporary, and jazz classes. I also thought about moving to Stockholm at the same time, but when I calculated the cost of the dancing studies, it was much cheaper for me to go to New York and take dance classes here in comparison to moving to Stockholm. I also had always wanted to move to New York and be a part of the American culture.
How has been your experience like?
It’s crazy. When I moved here, I went to a hostel. In the beginning, in the hostel that we stayed, there were supposed to be 8 people in the apartment. But when I arrived, there were 14 people in a three-bedroom apartment: 6 people in one room, 4 people in another, and 4 people in another. We had two small bathrooms and a tiny kitchen. I was so shocked and so angry the first week. I looked for a new apartment and got a new spot here in Battery Park, which I really love a lot. I found my new best friends and soulmates. I am now really enjoying my life. It was a little crazy in the beginning. I spent six weeks in that apartment with total strangers when I first moved in there. One American girl who had worked in Egypt had just come back to New York again and was looking for an apartment here. There was a person from Australia who was a dancer, one guy from Brazil who studied to be a film director. There was a person from England who was in New York just for work.
A week before I moved to my new apartment, the doorman recognized that new people were moving into this apartment, so he called the police to check it out. The police wanted to come in to the apartment, but they didn't do it until a few weeks later. The police just knocked on the door one day and checked everything. One week later, they were all kicked out of the apartment. I am so glad that I am not a part of that anymore.
How do you like Broadway Dance Center?
I really like it. All of the teachers have a lot of experience. Some teachers are currently working, which means that they really know how you should work and what people are looking for in the dancing world. They really teach us how to think and work with the technical side of dance and business. I really feel like I’ve grown a lot because of it.
And now I feel more free when I am dancing. If there’s a really good contemporary combination that I like for example, I get goosebumps and get so happy. My energy gets higher and higher. It looks like I am drunk or on super-speed sometimes. But if I am having a bad day, I just come to class and think about something else and release. One of my mentors here, she always makes me feel happy, inspired, motivated, calm, safe and I’ve never felt that before with anyone. I am getting more self-confidence now, and I can breathe without problems even if I have hard days. Before I couldn’t do that because of my back problems. And I have never meet a teacher who could change me so much and make me feel at home when I am dancing.
How long are you here for?
I am here for six months. I moved here in January. I started dancing at Broadway Dance Center in February. I will do my exam in July. It’s a six-month program. I’ll be moving back to Sweden for a little, and then I’ll be moving to Kassel in Germany to start training at a dance school called SOZO visions in motions.
Where do you see yourself going?
I want to work as a dancer and a choreographer. I am also certificated as a masseur and a photographer.
Since I moved here to New York, I’ve been filming and photographing my dance pieces. Aside from that, I’ve been collaborating with a designer in Sweden named Fanny Schwarz. She creates costumes and I choreograph. Our first performance was in Malmö, Sweden last year. We are working on our new project named "Ceti,” and we are going to release it this summer.
I don’t see myself as just a dancer or a choreographer. I see myself as an artist. I also do a lot of paintings; I sing a lot; I work together with musicians; I want to combine everything. That’s the most important part, to do whatever you want. I learned in my life that if you have a goal, you just have to fight for it. Obstacles can happen on the way, but you can always get through it. As I always say, nothing is impossible.
What’s your favorite part of living in the city?
It’s the art. There is art everywhere. People are also open-minded here. It’s easy to meet people and talk with people. I really like that atmosphere. I like that everything moves fast. You can always do something in the middle of the night or early in the morning.
What’s your least favorite part of the city?
It’s really dirty. And I think New Yorkers can switch so fast. They can be so nice, and suddenly they get angry at you. They can be really fake. I don’t like that part of New York. But I started to be the same way in some ways. Somebody got in the way, and I just told them to move out of my way. But I always say it in Swedish.
Anything that you’d like to share with the world? It can be anything crazy that happened to you in your life.
When I was in Munich last year, I got hit by a car. The German guy didn’t want to help me afterwards. I was biking home, and I had the right of way. I landed on the hood of the car and fell down. When I got hit, I just felt a little pain in my right foot, and biked home. The day after I started to feel it in my ribs, my back, my legs, especially my neck. I went to the hospital and did an MRI and didn’t find anything. They told me that I might have problems in the future. I don't feel any pain now, which is the most important part. And now I can live my life fully again.