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Credit: Photo credit: Chris Nash MBE. The Top Hat Act. @norviljosephine

Desireé Kongerød, alumna of 1991, recently came back to The Place to take some of our professional morning classes. Very excited after a long time of not doing contemporary classes and with a real need to get back, Desireé felt her return was “like putting on a favourite old jumper” - body memory coming back and forgotten pathways being reopened. She enjoyed being back at The Place the same way she had as a student all those years ago.

When did you study at LCDS? Why did you decide to study contemporary dance? Any highlights of your time studying here?

I studied at LCDS from 1989 to 1991. Contemporary dance gave me the tools to manifest what I wanted to express, and I enjoyed the various styles. Brenda Last was my favourite ballet teacher and I fondly remember her giving us extra point-work lessons in her breaks. I loved the Tai Chi with Gerda Geddes and Julie Blackman. Juliet Fisher was a brilliant teacher with interesting ideas of how the body moved in space. As a one year special, I did up to 4 dance classes a day. I was given lots of performance opportunities and a brilliant group of peers.

Tells us a little bit about what happened since! What are the key moments in your career?

I have had a successful career as a contemporary dancer touring throughout Europe, Asia and USA with, amongst others, Yolande Snaith Theatre Dance, S.O.A.P. Dance Theatre Frankfurt, Rui Horta, Robert Tannion, and Klaus Obermaier. My highlights are performing at Theatre du la Ville (Paris), Joyce theatre (NY) and Queen Elizabeth Hall (London). Parallel to this, I started performing in corporate circus. I have performed in over 50 countries. My main skills are aerial silks, hoop, contortion, and stilts. I have also performed flying trapeze, web-spin and acro-balance and have floated under a 7-meter wide helium balloon called Heliosphere going up to 15-20 meter height. I produced, choreographed and attained a Guinness World Record in “Most aerialist performing synchronised aerial silks” with 30 performers. Recently, I have made a new musical magic show called “Rabbits Out of the Hat” due to tour in Spring 2024 and an outside show called “Top Hat Act”. I am a movement professor at Royal College of Music, where I love bringing the performance skills that I have learned forward to new talent.

What did you take away from your creative education? What lessons did you carry with you through your career?

I had an amazing time at The Place. It gave me a vocabulary to go in many directions. I would say the biggest lesson is grit. It is important to keep going and to realise that you cannot be perfect. On reflection my education gave me the confidence to grow as an artist and was a springboard for me to do new and exciting things.

How has dance shaped your life? What were the challenges you had to overcome to keep dancing or to remain in the dance industry?

Dance has totally shaped my life. The people I have met and danced with, the places I have gone to and the different styles I have performed. I even met my husband at an audition and we are together 30 years on. The challenge I have had is how to manifest other people’s vision whilst also developing your own voice. I have two companies: An Act Above and Norvil & Josephine Productions Ltd. All of this means that I can develop performances and work with fantastic artists. I love how an idea becomes something that can be shared with an audience.

What are your hopes for the dance community?

Dance is such a hard discipline to master, and it gives a great foundation for life. I think so many of various art forms are run by dancers. I hope that dancers should be paid well for their valuable work in the art scene going forward and ultimately to get the respect they deserve. Dancers are amazing and they deserve the best!