Gry Lambertsen and RuneVadstrøm Andersen started Dynamo Workspace a mere three years ago. In that short time, the venue has become an important staple to cultural experiences in the town of Odense, Denmark and it has also made an international name for itself as a successful Nordic circus venue.
Madeline Hoak: Tell me a bit about yourselves and how you came to start Dynamo.
Gry Lambertsen: We’ve been circus artists for 22 years together. We started here in Odense, when we met in 1998…We were working in the streets and festivals and different companies for a long time. Then we went to Copenhagen and got a small studio. It was really nice to have a place where we could offer other people space, and we could work together to create something that was more than just me and Rune. We started doing some small gatherings, festivals, and small residencies. It was in an old factory, and it was sold to a big company so we had to find a new place to work. Rune read a really cool article about this town. It’s the third biggest town in Denmark and has been like this — no culture — for a long, long time.
RuneVadstrøm Andersen: It’s a post-industrial city that has been stagnant for the last fifty years or so. We saw some opportunity and started negotiating with the municipality about them finding a space for us and us bringing in a new art form to this town… After a year and a half of negotiations, we opened up Dynamo in January 2017.
GL: We call it a workspace because it’s not a theater, and it’s not a culture house. It’s a space that you can create work. That is the first priority. We want to have a space where you can do a residency, productions. You can call us up and say, can I have a master class in juggling? It’s also a space for guest performances. We have a mix between dance, circus, physical performance and clown. We have the festival in August every year, and we have the big cabaret every year in December.
RVA: Before starting this space we were looking into what the needs were for artists like us. There are schools where you can get an education, there are stages – there should be more – but what there really wasn’t in Denmark was a space for actually creating shows. It came out of our own needs as artists. We get some support from the local municipality. What they want in return is that we make noise. The more edgy, the more visual we can make whatever we do, the happier they are. Which is kind of luxurious for people like us to get financial support and a space, and the only demand coming back is, “make noise”. We can work with that.
MH: What’s been most successful for Dynamo the past three years?
GL: Many things. The festival; it’s a very small festival, but we have a very good international reputation. We’ve managed to get some names there that would never play such a small venue. And now we have an operational grant, as well. So we are kind of guaranteed that we can do it for another three years. Many people from far away come to be in residency and use our space. I can see that, after three years, our ideas are working.
RVA: Oldensen is the 3rd biggest town in Denmark, but that really doesn’t say a lot. It’s a very small town– it’s a small country. For us to leave Copenhagen where we had all the circus environment and people around us and to go where we were the only two felt risky. Even though distances are small in Denmark, psychologically, they are huge. It’s sometimes easier for us to get people to come to Oldensen from Canada then from Copenhagen! We have this motto: if you want to move the world, maybe consider moving yourself. By moving ourselves to a place where there was really a need for people like us, it opened up so many doors. Everything we do in this town is, in a way, new to the people here. Being the people with the best ideas in the whole town is not a bad position actually.
GL: And honestly, the space that we have would never be a possibility in Copenhagen. You don’t have these warehouses anymore, you can’t get them for free, you can’t stay for long because there’s a gentrification process going on all the time.
MH: How has the community responded to what you’ve brought to Oldensen?
RVA: Quite cool actually. We grew up in this town, and at 19 we fled the town saying we’d never return and live in anything less than New York. One of the first things we did when we came back was an opening show for a concert hall. It was a weird, queer, experimental performance with people climbing this huge building and projections. One evening there was a big rave. We had 1,000 people standing outside. There were these people from around the town, and they started screaming all these nasty homophobic things after us. We were like, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to kill us.’ And then we did the show, and they went mad. They loved it. They were like, “It’s the best thing we’ve ever seen! We love you guys!” It was quite cool actually… I think there’s a huge hunger for everything new, everything edgy. In our experience the more crazy we go the more audience we get. One of our biggest audience successes was this queer, feministic clown show about pubic hair and that had full houses and standing ovations every time it played.
GL: This town is ready. Before we came, we thought, ‘They’re so conservative! They don’t like provoking things, they’re really traditional.’ Of course, thereare people like this, but there’s also a huge group that would like something else.
MH: Last year’s festival schedule included cinema and community conversations. Tell me more about that.
RVA: Gry and me, we have a background from when we were teenagers in political activism. We think it’s important to raise discussions and talk about culture and city development. We also like the mixing of genres and different media, so it’s quite natural for us to include cinema.
GL: A festival is like the top of the iceberg. We show the finest things we can find…People come, and they clap, and then they go home. But as artists, it’s such a long way to get here. I thought if we could show how it is to be an artist — we have family, we have things going on that effect our life as artists — in some artistic way. There’s a really cool short film festival in our town, so I called them and asked how we could work together. They had this small cinema caravan that we could borrow and I thought, ‘hm, that’s a great idea! Let’s put movies in there and then audience members can actually have a glimpse of the life around the performance. Maybe they will understand the performances more, our artistic life, and how it is to be an artist.’
MH: How does Dynamo stand out amongst the other European circus festivals?
GL: Visually when you come to Dynamo, we’ve built everything. We have four people working for Dynamo and everybody — the producer and the PR guy — is out building something once a week. It’s very much made by the staff. And we have a lot of volunteers!
RVA: Personally and artistically, when we produce the festival we are working a bit in the field of immersive theater. When we create a festival, we create a universe. It shouldn’t just be a stage where you enter and see a show and leave. You should enter a whole universe where the bar, where the stage, where the hall between the bar and the stage, the people behind the bar are characters — everything is designed. That’s quite special. Many of the theater or circus festivals are so spread out over long periods of time and different venues. We decided we wanted to keep this tied together, happening in one physical space that we build the universe around. When you enter it feels like you leave planet Earth and enter this other weird dimension.
MH: What’s the vision for the future of Dynamo?
RVA: One of our original thoughts was to put a time limit on our work in the project; to take Dynamo to a point where it’s sustainable economically and maybe pass the torch onto somebody else. I don’t know if we are going to do that still.
GL: It’s not sustainable yet. We get funding from the Danish Arts Council to make productions, and I’d like to co-produce even more. Hopefully, those productions can go on tour and make a better ecosystem for the shows so they can have a longer life. That would be like really cool. And also we have our own productions, the site-specific things we do. It would be fun to develop site-specific shows for similar towns like Odense. We want to be the center for contemporary circus in Denmark. It would be nice if you go to Denmark and you need a circus artist then you call Dynamo. If you want to be part of the festival, if you want to collaborate then you call Dynamo.
RVA: That’s an ambition, but it’s not something we are pushing to come out of doing art. If we do it really well, then we will naturally become an epicenter of contemporary circus in Denmark. But it should be art and content first.
GL: That’s right.
MH: What’s coming up next for Dynamo?
RVA: We have the Arcade delight coming up in December… Right now we are transforming our building into a Mad Max futuristic roller disco retro with arcade machines. The audience is going to be dressed up wearing roller skates and shooting air guns.
GL: Not at the same time.
RVA: Maybe at the same time! It’s going to be complete madness and I think it’s going to be super cool. People will have this feeling that they are really living in this universe. We are creating a cabaret around it but we are dissolving it so it isn’t happening on a stage but in and around the audience so you get this feeling that you can’t really tell who’s the artist and the audience from each other. It’s going to be interesting.
GL: We talk about Dynamo as a place where you don’t just come, sit down and see a show and then go home. It’s a way of thinking around a show. You’re not just watching it, you’re actually a part of it.
RVA: The audience is going to see the people on stage, but all of us that have been working on it for months know that it’s a huge DIY project. I really like many people coming together and working as a unit for the same goal. These large immersive projects become super, super cool because we have so many people working together. Just to see young people coming to our space and see them realizing, wow, if we are that many people we can really do amazing stuff.
MH: What else would you like CircusTalk readers to know?
GL: We are part of a new EU project with ArChaos called Circus Link. It’s an innovative collaborative project that aims to develop mobility and increase diversity, circulation, and sustainability of contemporary circus in Europe. Circus Link consists of four festivals, ArChaos (BiAC), France, Gasparo (Letni Letna), Czech Republic, Teatro da Didascália (Vaudeville Rendez-Vous), Portugal, and DYNAMO. Through co-programming of companies, professional meetings and promotion of best practices, we will develop a digital platform to unify and facilitate the link between companies and presenters. The project is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
And we have money to co-produce! We have a place for residencies, we have some money to pay for transport and you get a small fee. Artists should definitely contact us with their ideas.
You can connect with Dynamo through the company website for residencies, festival information and other news about how you can support and be part of this little town that is making huge waves in the contemporary circus scene one futuristic roller disco at a time…
All photos courtesy of Dynamo Workspace. Feature photo: Rune and Gry posing(a little tired:) after 1 year of being artistic directors of Dynamo Workspace. Photo credit: Rebecca Brincker.2017