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Tøyen, Oslo: Make sure we dont go back to normal.

Mia Habib is one of Norway’s most important choreographers, internationally known and respected for her work. With Mia Habib Productions she was set to premiere her new show How to Die inopiné at Dansens Hus this spring. Due to the pandemic, however, the show was cancelled.

Photo: Nicolai López

Over the last 15 years, Habib’s world wide work has brought her to stage rooms, galleries, protests, private houses, religious rooms, squats and areas of conflict. One part of this work is an installation on the border between the US and Mexico, a solo in the mountains of Iraq, a healing dance in someone’s living room, and a grand scale production of 68 people from an opera stage. She’s educated as a choreographer from Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and has a master in conflict resolution and negotiation from the university of Tel Aviv.

Mia Habib is an ambassador for this year’s Days of Dance (Dansens Dager), which, due to the circumstances, will be arranged digitally.

Where are you now and what’s the status quo?
I’m at home in Tøyen in Oslo with my family. Days of Dance is coming up this weekend. Being an ambassador, the dance I created was supposed to have been danced at the opera roof by 250 dance students. So this week I’m spending some time figuring out what I, as an ambassador for Days of Dance, want to say now when everything is different. What makes sense for me to say. Since the cancellation of the Norwegian premiere of How to Die inpopiné March 12th, I’ve felt the need to observe, register, receive and float around. It’s only this last week I feel like I’ve entered a work mode in which I might achieve something. So the timing with the ambassador role is very good!

What sort of routines have you made for yourself?
Over here it feels like a simultaneous vacation, home office, kindergarden, greenhouse, restaurant, neighborhood hangout (from a distance), imaginary nature reserve with exotic animals, and laziness residence, with both concern and slacking off. In the beginning of the corona period I took notice of the news pointing out that routines were recommended for mental health. I also took notice of friends’ and colleague’s good routines (with great admiration). But the pendulum went the other way in our house. It floats. When the calendar says home office we’re tidying the basement, and when the clock says bedtime, we keep watching the series. When I thought I would work out I’m making pancakes, and when I was going out to do a phone meeting in the park, I ended up doing strength training. When having a fantastic day I’ve ended up crying and arguing, and when I’ve had a gray day, it can easily end up in the most spectacular ways.

That being said this is pretty symptomatic for me when going through intense production periods. And we were literally on stage in costume at Dansens Hus, ready for our dress rehearsal when we got cancelled. So, from a complete adrenalin kick at the finish line, with months of traveling behind us, it’s been great playing animals at home, and being mediocre in absolutely everything I do.

And then we’re trying to stay updated on all the family we have spread throughout the world, as well as close friends living under different conditions than us here in Oslo. With family on screen, we’ve celebrated an 88th birthday in Spain, hung out by a small private jet in Chicago, sung a children’s concert to an ancient, lonely aunt in Tel Aviv, eaten lamb across several Norwegian cities with the Norwegian family, and painstakingly followed the development of a relative who got infected by corona at his nursing home in Paris. He’s now fully recovered at the age of 93, and the whole family gave a collective sigh of relief.

However! I do have a few routines to rapport. Regular contact with my fantastic colleagues in Mia Habib Productions, who are working and keeping their spirits high. I have also acquired the charming habit of drinking coffee every day, after a year and a half of only drinking it once a week. Hopefully that routine will disappear when the corona period is over. I’m not always optimal when combined with coffee…

What are you reading?
I was sure I would be reading more this period, but I’ve actually only turned a page here and there. But I’m currently doing Przewalski’s Horse by Maja Lunde, The Roundabout Revolutions by Eyal Weizman (which, in a lot of ways, can by tied to the dancing in this year’s Days of Dance, due to the analyses of the circle, and its function in protest and revolution), as well as random reading I discover via friends. In addition, I’ve always had this thing where in periods I have a selection of books I’m looking at, because the title or cover inspire me. But then I never get myself to actually open the book. Right now it’s What did the Home Front know? by Marte Michelet, Dreamtime by John Moriarty, and Radical Bodies, about the legendary dancers Anna Halprin, Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer.

What are you watching?
La Casa de Papel (House of Paper), Peaky Blinders, Unorthodox, the news and children’s shows (particularly Animanimals — very good!)

What are you listening to?
This period has opened up for a lot there’s normally no room for. Finally, six years after my grandmother’s death, we got her old sound system up from the basement. It has a radio and a record player, and very good speakers! But we’re still missing a few pieces for the record player to spin by itself, so for us to listen to grandma and grandpa’s incredible record collection, my boyfriend[1] has been spinning the record manually, listening his way to the correct tempo. It’s comical, beautiful and not very practical. So mainly we listen to the radio. We only get the FM station if we place this special lamp on top of the system, and leave the cable loose on top of the piano stool next to it. So we’ve listened an awful lot to local radio Oslo Riks, which play the same music over and over again for days. So a lot of music I wouldn’t otherwise listen to. The other day I was listening to Vazelina Bilopphøggers for an hour, and concluded that actually, they’re not bad. Well! That’s when I thought it’s probably time for this pandemic to lighten up.(No offense to Vazelina fans…).

How do you move?
Slowly. I walk slowly. Have been jumping on the trampoline with the kid quite a bit. A lot of roughhousing and cuddling at home. I haven’t danced, except for in the living room with my family (the Bella Ciao song has become our theme song, after hours of La Casa de Papel…). I’ve done yoga twice. Klein technique twice. Strength training twice. Ran the stairs once. And that’s it. So among dancers in Oslo I’m probably the one who has worked out the least. My need has been for listening, waiting, opening up for resonance, something I’m not sure what is. Moving differently. See what occurs when I just let things float. What will grow forward by itself.

What inspires you?
My friends, my family. My daughter. The kids outside. My boyfriend. My neighbors. The people I work with. Little things. Near things. Something they say, something they do, the way they jump or show affection. The perspective and initiative. Or the presence when they listen. Laughter.

And in this period: Watching something grow. Following it day by day. Being so much in one place that you familiarize yourself with the micro-movements in your neighborhood. In the trees, in the plants, the dogs on the street and the cat on the corner. When time floats. It inspires me tremendously being in one place after so many years in a nomadic existence. I’ve practically been traveling constantly for 17 years…

If you could send out a message that would reach everyone in the world, what would you say?
Actually, I don’t think everyone needs to hear the same message. We’re not in the same situation. We’re living with a virus. But the frames of society are so different that in one place we’re panicking and grieving over missing easter or the 17th of May parade, while another there’s hunger and violence. It’s tricky.

To the rich part, I’d say: Make sure we don’t return to normal. Let’s be a little poorer, a lot greener and change (replace?) the capitalistic system, so it can withstand change and standstill.

To the poor part, I’d say the exact same thing to those in power.

To everyone else: Take care of each other, help each other and when the time is right, protest.

And! As an Ambassador of Dance I’d like to say: Listen to the body in this time. Let it float, change its time, find other ways of being close while keeping a distance. It can show us something else. A different dance. A dance and a body we can bring into the future with us. Many happy returns of the day — the Days of Dance!

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