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The world is waiting

As you read this, artistic director Katrín Hall and dancer Riley O’Flynn from GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, are probably both touring the world regaling sold-out audiences in London, Taichung or Seoul.

Photo: Samuel Unéus

When this Gothenburg dance institution last had an open call for auditions, 1,230 people from all over the world applied, 70 elite level dancers were invited, and only eight were selected to join the existing troupe of 38 dancers from over 20 nations.

Artistic director Katrín Hall belongs to the international dance elite. She knows what it means to be judged and selected.

After a few years as a professional dancer back home in Iceland, Hall raised sensitive management issues with her former dance company there, which, to make a long story short, landed her the top management job with the troupe. A determined leader was born.

Now, Hall sits in a corner office at the Göteborg Opera as artistic director of GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, one of Europe’s foremost companies for contemporary dance.

Katrín Hall sounds surprisingly like a driven business leader – in a dancer’s body. Her work includes juggling concepts like risk, quality, and export potential with the art of managing artists, talent and delivering a product to an audience – something which she constantly wants to grow and broaden.

“Our goal is to attract the best dancers and choreographers to create new, groundbreaking dance works here, which creates demand for us on the world’s best stages. You see, no part must fail,” says Hall. “We are at the top of the mountain. It’s been a long journey and going down is much faster than climbing up.”

On the international scene, the dance company’s performances sell out directly, often months in advance. They are marketed almost like a rock group on tour.

“Our brand plays a big role,” continues Hall. “Many international clients want our shows before they have even seen them. They trust us with our high quality performances. For example, French visitors travel to Gothenburg just to see performances that were immediately sold out in Paris.

”Hall would like to expand her customer base, young people for example, and to others who barely know what contemporary dance is all about.

“The barrier to entry needs to be lower without us compromising the artistic side of things, at the very least. I think contemporary dance has the potential to influence people and societies, to be relevant, not least in these times of concern,” she says.

Riley O’Flynn was born in Los Angeles and educated at the world famous Juilliard School in New York. He was a newcomer to Sweden when he started looking around the world for the right dance ensemble to join.

But GöteborgsOperans Danskompani wasn’t a complete unknown. O’Flynn and his classmates had heard of Gothenburg’s leading dance company, knew of its unique reputation and that it collaborated with interesting and famous choreographers. So in 2017, a group of new graduates from Juilliard went on a tour of European dance ensembles to find a place where they could thrive and call home.

After a grueling two-day audition, a mutual liking arose between O’Flynn and the dance company. The good atmosphere of the place combined with the attention that was given to individual expression impressed O’Flynn.

“We were encouraged to be ourselves. Dancers from all over the world became like a great big family for me although everyone and everything was new. But you quickly fall in love with everyone because dancing is based on giving yourself to others. And it’s very physical,” says O’Flynn.

Didn’t Gothenburg and Sweden feel small after life as an artist in New York?

“Of course it did, but it was all good. In New York, there is always something that you should do, somewhere to be. Here, I can concentrate on my work, live in the moment and always be close to nature,” says O’Flynn, who after six seasons has become so fond of Gothenburg that he is learning Swedish.

For O’Flynn, it feels like a privilege to be so well taken care of by a real employer. In the US, dancers usually freelance contracts.

In addition to dancing, O’Flynn plays his own music which he often combines with dance, something he proudly shares on his mobile phone with clips from his first concert at the Opera’s club stage. Although the dancing and touring takes time, O’Flynn is keen to get more involved in the Gothenburg way of life, to discover more of the surrounding environment. He still can’t get enough of that magic feeling of taking a sauna on the nearby Björkö island, a feeling he plans to share with his American family when they come and visit him in Gothenburg.

Text: Ulrica Segersten

This article was first published in Magazine Gothenburg

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Magazine Gothenburg is a collaboration between the Trade and Industry Group at Göteborg & Co and Business Region Göteborg. The magazine is distributed as an appendix to Dagens industri and posted in a number of places around Gothenburg. If you wish to receive a physical version, you are welcome to contact