Interview: Bjarte Frøyland | Photography: Mark Henderson | Location: London, UK
Sigrid Vik grew up in Oslo. Already at the age of 5, she discovered dancing, and she really wanted it to be a big part of her life. At 10, she decided. She started doing small jobs, such as TV-shows and tours. Turning 15, she started teaching at a local dance school, and since then she has just followed dancing wherever it has taken her, including the Ballet Academy of Stockholm, Broadway Dance Center in New York, and now London, where she is continuously following her dream.
We went to London to hear more about her exciting life in the city, and to join her 25th birthday party; a brunost party to which her local friends were invited, in addition to us.
It seems like dancing has been a part of your whole life. Have you ever considered doing something else?
I think everyone gets to those certain points, where it gets really tough; as you’re not getting into the school you really wanted to, nor do you get that particular job you wanted really bad. There’s always a few weeks or months where you doubt yourself. But somehow, I have always come back to dancing.
I actually got in to a journalism degree here in London, at Westminster, but I realised that I had to dance. I feel very lucky to be able to do it and as I come from such a privileged country, I feel I kind of owe it to everyone who can’t.
What is it with dancing, that makes you so passionate about it?
I think it is just the way I feel when I do it. It just feels right. I do not dance to impress anyone, or to become famous. That has never been in my interest. I think I told my friends when I was 15; “I´d rather take a dance class than go to a party”. So, I actually enjoyed that more, and it is still the truth.
And these days, what are you working on?
Now I am working with a company called Sole Dance. We are working towards a performance in August, and hopefully we will go on tour with the show. I am also teaching classes at Pineapple Studios, which I really enjoy.
Who is it that you teach then? Children?
No, I have professional classes. Morning classes. And also, I have a project with some friends of mine in Sweden called “mindsurfing”, that we are hoping to turn into a performance, that we also can take to Scandinavia.
Why is it that you ended up in London? Was it the possibilities as a dancer that made you move here, or was it something else?
I think it was a combination. The first time I was here, I was 11 years old and I was here with my mum. I remember I said to her, “I´m going to live here”. This, I think, kind of stuck with me. I’ve lived in Sydney, New York and Stockholm, but something inside of me have always wanted me to end up here.
Then, after school I got an agent here, and he said, “if you want to book jobs here, you have to live here – you can´t just come for auditions and leave again”. So, I stayed home for 6 months to save up and yeah, I just did it.
What is it about London that makes you enjoy it?
I think it is the craziness. Whenever you go somewhere, you get amazed. Either you find a beautiful park in a quite ugly area, or you go to a market and there you discover a café that seats only two people. You never get bored. I always meet interesting people. Life here is not like a day in Oslo, where you can predict what is going to happen. In London you see people dressed in crazy costumes and no one even blinks.
Is there anything you miss though, from Norway?
I miss my friends and family a lot. I miss being able to walk to someone’s house. Or just go to my favourite café and randomly meet someone I know there. If I want to meet my friends here, we are an hour apart, and we are working different hours. It is just so much more difficult to see each other, so in London you stay with the people you live with or the ones you have really close.
It sounds like a lot of planning is required?
A lot of planning, and a lot of effort. You make a lot of plans, but then you don’t go through with them.
But today, we’re going through with the plan? Celebrating your birthday.
And we have been so lucky that we are going to join you in celebrating it. Who will you be celebrating with?
What is also very different from my life in Norway and my life here, is the friends you get. In Norway, I have my group of friends, all similar age, similar interests, and people would say we look the same. Here in London, I have a few close friends, and they are all from different times of my life.
So, it is going to be a nice mix of people?
Yeah, and I think most of them have met each other before. It is not often you invite everyone, like tonight, though, but it is really going to be nice.
What will you be serving then?
Well, I have so much brunost. I have like four of them. So, I think I´m going to do cheese, crackers and jam for starters. Make it a bit fancy. And then, moving on to a vegetarian beef stroganoff, with mushrooms. To top it, I am going to make the brunost pancakes for dessert.
A lot of brunost then?
Have you already introduced brunost to some of your friends or will this be the first time?
To Louis, my boyfriend, I have. I gave his family brunost. My experience when I introduce it to others is that they do not really like it the first time. It is a bit weird, and it does not taste the way they expect it to taste. But if they keep trying it, they like it. I think you need to ease into the taste in a way, because I think you are expecting it to taste differently when you are told it is a cheese.
We hear that a lot!
It is sweet and chocolatey and caramelised, but I think if you have it with waffles and jam, you can´t go wrong. If you have it on a piece of bread, on the other hand, it might be a bit weird.
I know that Louis’ dad really likes it now, though. I think I gave him 3 packs already!
Will we be celebrating here, in your apartment?
Yes, in my tiny little apartment in Vauxhall. It will be nice. We will move all the furniture and have a picnic on the floor, because we do not have enough chairs, plates nor glasses (laughs).
So, real London-style!? Surely love it!
/ both laughs /
Talking about guests, I guess you have a lot of friends visiting from Norway and elsewhere. What is it that you show them?
Most of them have been in London before, so instead of showing them Covent Garden, Oxford Street and all of that, I like to take them to my favourite cafés and restaurants. I think lots of people find an area close to where they live or where they want to live, and that’s like their London. And that’s where they stay. So, I take a lot of people to Brixton, which has become my part of London.
Ok. Let´s go do some shopping in Brixton.
This is a very trendy area, I understand?
Yeah, it is up and coming. And it has been for a while. The sad thing is that the population that lives here has been here for many generations, and now they are getting squeezed out. They used to have their local shops, and barbers and all those things, but now that it is becoming more trendy, as chains like Starbucks and H&M are starting to buy in. I find it a bit sad, so I really want to hang out here now before it changes too much; while it still has its soul.
Having lived here for a while now, is London a place you could stay the rest of your life?
I did think so before I moved here. I do not think so anymore.
Why is that?
It is a tough city, especially if you do not have money. Minimum wage is so low, people expect so much of you if you work in the branch of hospitality, which is typical part time job for myself and other artists. It is not just standing in a café and smile to people all day. It is tough work.
And also, it is really busy. But I love it now!
London is like you say, a busy city. It also has a culture where people go out to eat more often than in Norway. Have you adapted this urban culture, or do you find yourself cooking at home, Norwegian style?
Oh no, definitely London style, even though it is not like I can afford going out to eat every day. I do really like going out to find new places, not just because of the food, but because of the atmosphere. I like to see who else is hanging out there.
When I cook at home, it tends to be quite boring. Quite simple. But when I go out, I want to try the weirdest stuff on the menu.
This must mean you have tried a lot of different restaurant here in London then. Any special you could recommend?
There is an amazing Italian place, close to London Bridge, called Padella. Although there is always like a two hour wait to get a table, it is worth it. It is really cheap, and it is amazingly good Italian food.
Then there is a Japanese in Soho called Koya, that has the best noodle ramen soup I have ever had.
And there’s also a Taiwanese place that serve sweet buns, called Bao. It is a tiny place! When you try to get in, the woman or the man in the door stops you and points to the other side of the street, and there is a long line that goes around the corner. There is however, also a pub next to it, so you can go get a pint while standing in line.
One of the benefits being in London!
Exactly (both laughs).
I say we head back to the apartment and start cooking.
Do you eat a lot of brunost?
I do. Not crazy a lot, but especially when I am in the Norwegian mountains, I will have waffles and brunost. So yes, when I am home. And especially if I bring someone who is not Norwegian to Norway, then I tend to pretend I eat more brunost than I really do. It is like I adapt this habit of “this is the cheese I eat every morning”.
It is Norwegian pride, I suppose?
It is. It is a big part of the Norwegian pride.
And today’s menu, it consists of some specialities of yours, does it?
I made this stroganoff for my family to test out. I do not eat meat, and my mum went crazy; how could I make a beef stroganoff without meat? So, she actually prepared meat without telling me, in case it did not go well. But it did. I made it with sweet potato and mushrooms, and it got really good reviews, actually.
What about the pancakes?
Everybody loves pancakes, right? Such a safe dish to serve. To be honest, I have never actually tried to blend brunost in the dough/batter, so that will be interesting. Obviously we will have to put jam on them.
/ The guests arrive, and after a short mingle, they are being served the first course. When Sigrid has given a short introduction on how to eat the first course, they get started /
Brendan: Ok, let’s do this!
Chris: I’m expecting it to taste like peanut butter, which I love. (everybody laughs)
While we end up in an in-depth-talk about all the different varieties of brunost, Sigrid brings the next courses to the table, and the enthusiasm and atmosphere is not slowing down.
The first course brings a lot of smiles around the table, and as Sigrid serves the second and third course, the level of enthusiasm among all the guests reaches a new high.
Let me hear it. What is the final conclusion?
Chris: This is really yummy.
Vibeke: We are all happy children right now.
X: Brunost releases endorphins. It is the new drug.
/ Everyone laughs /
And with that, I leave Sigrid´s birthday party. I do however suspect that it lasted for many more hours, and having eaten 4 packs of brunosts, they should have plenty of energy to go dance and enjoy the everlasting nightlife of London.