Born to dance: he started and ran with it

Catching up with a choregrapher who never stops moving, evolving and creating

Kasper Ravnhøj’s father wanted him to be a runner, so from the age of three, on he ran. The running itself stopped at the age of 12 when Ravnhøj developed asthma. But he never stopped moving.

Today, Ravnhøj, 37, is a Copenhagen choreographer, dancer, actor, painter and slam poet. He travels the world, performing his works, doing research for future dance pieces and experiencing unfamiliar performance scenes. 

He teaches dance around the city, sometimes facilitating a “Wednesday team,” for which participants pay 30 kroner to workshop his newest pieces. 

On and with Stage

But for the most part, he runs Mute Comp Physical Theatre, a performance company he started with former classmate Jacob Stage in 1999, which is now fully funded up until 2015 by the Danish Arts Agency. 

“A couple of years ago, we got the money for three full years and then I cancelled everything else I did,” Ravnhøj explains. 

“But then I was bored. [Now] I’m still picking up things, working for other people and teaching. This is  where I create.”

It comes in dreams

If it all sounds exhausting, add this on top – Ravnhøj only sleeps around four hours each night.  Because most of his ideas for new work come during sleep in the form of dreams, he’s often up half the night writing them down. Luckily, Mute Comp exists to make those dreams a reality.

While he describes his style as “unschooled” and “made up,” 

Ravnhøj himself is not untrained. In 1995, the young performer couldn’t decide whether to pursue acting or dance professionally, though he had ten years of experience in each. He enrolled at a school called the Center for Performing Arts (CPA), which offered a diverse curriculum from “Stanislavski to plié.”

“I went to the school to find out what I should be – but I got more confused while I was there,” he remembers. 

A new genre: Glaubhafttanz

Slowly, through Mute Comp, Ravnhøj discovered that he didn’t have to choose. Because their new company didn’t fit into any existing Danish performance genre, they originally made up their own: Glaubhafttanz, which roughly translates from German into ‘reliable dance’.

But over the past 15 years, contemporary dance has better established itself in Copenhagen. In 2008, Carlsberg agreed to lease its old mineral water factory to two dance troupes as a comprehensive rehearsal and performance space. Today, Dansehallerne “gathers all the main players and areas in the field of contemporary dance in Denmark,” including Mute Comp, according to its website. 

Changed for the better

According to Ravnhøj, a more established contemporary dance scene means that Mute Comp doesn’t have to fit into a box anymore, and now that it is supported by the Danish Arts Agency, the work is the focus, not the audience. 

“I never think that I will do a dance production,” he says. “It just ends up being one … [I decide] I want to be in Studio 5 with these five people, and eventually art comes out.”

Still, even in a state of relative comfort, Ravnhøj feels the pressure of being a lifelong performer, which seems to be expressed in his constant movement. “I’m lucky that I’m paid to just dance every day,” he says. “But my alternatives are dishwashing … I’m an artist, but I must make art so I can live.”

Mute Comp Physical Theatre’s ‘Plum Wine, Highway, Lemon,’ with choreography by Ravnhøj, opens on May 30.