The Dancers Connecting in Body and Soul
For these London-based roommates, dance is expression. Now, they say, the whole world is connecting through movement.
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Dancing quite literally brings Fatou, Mette and Elise together. Shared movement is a way for them to not only express themselves as a collective, but also to combine their energies.
“With dance, you watch something, and it invokes you,” says, Elise Pinel, 23. “It’s just unspoken. You don’t need to describe it. I think that’s why dance connects so many people. It’s a feeling. It’s not spoken dialogue.”
It’s a feeling all three women felt at an early age, when they first started to dance. Eventually, Elise, from northern England, and Mette Linturi, 25, and Fatou Bah, 24, from Finland and Sweden, respectively, all moved to London to pursue dance as a profession. They’ve since collaborated with major brands and artists, appearing in campaigns, music videos, live performances and concert tours. After seeing each other in casting calls and auditions, the women quickly became friends and, later, roommates.
“Through a genuine want for each other to do well, we kind of found friendship in each other,” says Elise. “Especially in quarantine, we really realized that we get along as people, not just as artists.”
Studios and rehearsal spaces may be closed during lockdown, but the women say they’ve found ways to get creative along with the many other people who are turning to social media to share and create dance routines, professional or not.
Most importantly, perhaps, is the way dance has deepened their own relationships with their bodies, especially as women. Here, they explain empowerment through dance and how it’s intensified when shared as part of a group.
“With dance…you’re the creator. You’re the blank canvas. I create whatever I want, and that can be so empowering.”
Dance can be such a powerful and personal way to express yourself. Can you all recall your first memories of dance, the emotion of it, and what drew you to pursue it as a career?
Fatou: I started dancing because I found it so hard to actually vocalize what I was thinking or what I wanted to say. So for me it was always easier when I heard a song and music that I really could connect to, to get it out like that.
Mette: It’s been a journey trying to find my thing and what suits me best. Never did I think it would become what it became. It would lead me to travel abroad, get a bit of perspective; to understand my femininity, who I am as a woman and how I want to carry myself.
Elise: My mum always tells stories that when she was fed up with me, she’d just put me in the middle of the floor and just get me to sit and watch music videos, and I’d try and copy. I know Fatou is the same, she’s smiling because she knows. Culturally as well, my family is from the Caribbean, and dance is almost a love language. They love to put on a vinyl and dance. So I think my first memory was just really dancing and being around my family, and I just carried on dancing until it kind of got to a point where it’s like, “Wow, this could be a career.”
“We do work as individuals, but the power is when it’s all of us.”
Can you talk a bit about dancing as an individual versus really dancing as a collective or as a group?
Mette: We do work as individuals, but the power is when it’s all of us. It’s quite boring alone. It’s quite empty. How do you bounce off of anyone? How do you progress? How do you get inspired? It’s such a blessing to have these girls who constantly just open up your world to possibilities and give you opinions outside of yourself.
Elise: I feel like we all understand how demanding it is and what it can take out of oneself. It can be very individual, but I definitely feel like we all go through it, on one level or another, because your body is the work. You are the work. You always bring your external and internal self into the situation.
Fatou: We feed off energy as well, so it’s been so different to take classes or to train by yourself, just with one person, compared to with people. You just feel how everyone is so excited to train and dance.
How has that been impacted in recent months, not having that physical connection through movement and dance as you normally would?
Mette: I’ve been so lucky, because I’ve had my housemates here. I’ve actually danced with people. So I can’t talk from the most painful place, but I know that people have struggled. They don’t get to express themselves. That’s some people’s life. They train, they go to class. This is what they do. And all of a sudden, nothing. That must just kill your soul. By yourself, it’s fun only for so long.
Elise: You can’t feel the vibe of the teacher or the person who’s giving you the steps. You can’t feel the energy. Sometimes there are small corrections the teachers can’t give, because they can’t see you. It’s a bit more one-sided. I like to be in a big room of people. I like to look around and feel inspired. It’s great to actually be able to dance with my two housemates, but I definitely miss dancing in a group of, like, 30, 40 people, and just seeing us all really go and train. We’re sweating. Most of us are not really getting it right, because it’s hard. We’re really, really training, and I miss that.
At the same time, though, it feels like we are really seeing dance create a community online, especially in this moment. How do you see it bringing people together as a form of expression and release right now, whether they’re professionals or not?
Fatou: I feel like everything is very impacted by visuals like social media — TikTok, Instagram — that’s basically how you can promote yourself as a dancer right now and get work and brand yourself, and just be your own product through that.
Mette: When lockdown happened, there was no other way for companies and brands and whoever to keep going. The whole situation changed. There was no access for studios, no access for anything. Everything is through cell phones and shooting videos and putting them together and people trying to get very creative in that sense.
Elise: With social media, more people are getting involved who aren’t dancers. A bigger spectrum of people is involved, and it also gives us more opportunities as well. More work comes through. But I think we’re definitely seeing people who aren’t dancers dance more and want to get up and they want to go. Some of my friends from my hometown who are not dancers, they’re like, “Teach me this dance, I want to do it,” because they feel like it’s a form of expression.
“Some of my friends from my hometown who are not dancers, they’re like, ‘Teach me this dance, I want to do it,’ because they feel like it’s a form of expression.”
Yet it seems dance is not only outwardly expressive, but also very deeply personal. How would you say dance empowers you as women and strengthens your relationship with your own body?
Mette: For one, I just think being a woman is amazing. To understand what feminine power is and to see it in others and understand that you can have it and create it yourself, I think is quite an exciting journey that I’ve found for myself.
Elise: It’s great!
Mette: And with dance, it’s your body and it’s your movement. You’re the artist. You’re the creator. You’re the blank canvas. I create whatever I want, and that can be so empowering. I can create a routine or a style and approach it with a feminine aspect. For me, at least, it makes me feel very capable. It makes me feel like I have something very personal. To me, it’s something that can’t be taken away. It just makes me feel good.
Fatou: It’s definitely helped me to find that sexiness or that femininity inside of myself, because I was such a tomboy, and I would feel so exposed and want to hide, especially in dance. I remember every time they were like, “This is going to be a slow and sexy piece,” you start to tense up. But with time, when you sit into it, you understand how powerful it is and how much it’s a part of you as well.
Sometimes, you’re too this or you’re too that, but with dance, if I want to be very sexy, I can be whatever. No one can really tell me that it’s wrong or not. If I want to give you a shape that I find very feminine in my own body, you’re just going to see it the way you want to see it at the end of the day, but I’m feeling great from the core.
Elise: From the core.
Mette: From the core.