For over a decade, Ármann Einarsson dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. 50-years old, 170 centimeters tall and bereft of prominent muscles, he looks more at home at the local bar than on stage performing a contemporary dance piece.
But his dream has come true. In ten shows over two weeks, the overweight and middle-aged man will be spinning his prominent belly around stages across Denmark, and into the audience’s hearts.
“This is a dream I’ve walked around with for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and felt that in order to feel alive you had to push yourself,” he says.
A Dance with destiny
The dream to dance was ignited 15 years ago when Einarsson, on holiday in Copenhagen, walked into a contemporary art museum by chance.
“A video piece was playing in a tiny room on the top floor. It showed an old man dancing on the street. It was so beautiful, he floated around this square and I thought to myself ‘I can do this’.”
His dream remained dormant until 2012, when his son brought home his new girlfriend, Brogan Davison, who happened to be a trained choreographer.
“My son Pétur and his girlfriend Brogan came and stayed with me the summer after they had finished their studies. Then one day as we sat at the kitchen table I asked Brogan if she would help me create a three-minute video piece of me dancing. They both just laughed at me. That following winter they moved to Berlin, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I was getting very impatient. So I decided to send her a long Facebook post telling her this needed to happen.”
Davison realised that Einarsson was serious about his ambitions – the message opened with “This is a formal request” – and travelled to his home in the north of Iceland to create a dance routine. At first, Davison worked on teaching the fifty year old, with no prior training, moves he could take to the stage. Einarsson’s son, Pétur Ármannsson, a theatre director, later decided to direct the piece and together they developed the show Dance For Me.
The son, the director
“I remember when he first mentioned it and how we just laughed it off. Dad is short and fat and nothing like a dancer,” explains Pétur Ármannsson, Einarsson’s son.
They originally planned to perform one small show in a community centre outside of Einarsson’s hometown Akureyri. They were all shocked when the show turned out to be a huge success. Over 200 people came to the little venue, and many had to be turned away at the door.
Following the crowd-pulling opening night they were invited to attend an international theatre festival in Reykjavik where the show caught the eye of promoters from around the world. They have since performed in front of 1,500 people on two continents, and now have ten shows coming up across Denmark.
“We just planned to have one small show for dad’s friends. But this little dream has now become way bigger than we ever planned. Dad is getting more ambitious, and says he wants to perform in ten different countries before he stops.”
While the show challenges the stereotypes of what a dancer should be, it is also about our ability to push beyond our apparent limitations. And it seems that Einarsson’s untraditional appearance and age has touched, even inspired, audiences.
“What has surprised me most are people’s reactions. People have stopped me on the street and told me, ‘I saw your show and I put on an art exhibition I’ve been wanting to do all my life’. I’ve even heard about people who have quit their job to pursue their dreams. There are a lot of people who feel that because they have a high status job, like lawyers or doctors, they aren’t allowed to just be themselves and to express that. People seem to relate to seeing me, as old and fat as I am, following my dream and doing something I’ve always wanted to do.”
He explains that dancing is a particularly poignant art form for conveying to people that they should stop worrying and just follow their dreams.
“Many people have a hard time dancing in front of others. Men in particular seem to require downing a case of beer before they can take to the dance floor. But dancing is something that is in our nature – even the cave men danced.”
Following the demanding ten-show tour in Denmark, the three will head to Norway for two more shows, and have plans for even more in the near future.
But as Ármansson explains, the future hinges on more than just popular demand – his dad’s middle-aged and overweight body needs to keep up.
“Dad is a self proclaimed rock star, so he refuses to stretch or warm up at all. We have been trying to put together a program for him and to explain that you need to be in good shape to be a professional dancer. But even though he always gives it 100 percent on stage, he doesn’t listen and insists on only eating cheeseburgers. But that is just a part of the show. If either he or Brogan are hungover then that is a part of the show. So when we have done a long sequence of shows, he is usually quite battered, but that just makes each performance unique.” M