In Stad, Norway, Fjordane Folkehøgskule Gives Young Adults A Line To Circus - StageLync
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In Stad, Norway, Fjordane Folkehøgskule Gives Young Adults A Line To Circus

Planning your first foray into the circus world? Join Movement X, the unique preparatory circus program at Norway’s Fjordane Folkehøgskule which helps young adult artists find their footing. Here are the essential details of the school and its approach to New Circus.

In the middle of municipal Stad, Norway, within walking distance of Nordfjordeid’s Nordfjord Opera House is a one-of-a-kind school where young adults from different lines and passions convene on a shared path of self-discovery. The Fjordane Folkehøgskule equips its students to work together, learn something new about themselves, and attain personal milestones through a year-long track that will set them up to reach their next goalpost, whether it is attending a world-renowned circus school or simply feeling comfortable in their own skin.

A Scandinavian folk high school, Fjordane Folkehøgskule divides its programs into lines of focus as diverse as musical theater, equestrianism, and search-and-rescue training with the Red Cross—all of which come together in communal spaces and adventures around Norway and the continent of Europe. And let’s not forget about its circus line!

Movement X is Fjordane Folkehøgskule’s track for Nysirkus (New Circus) students, where aspiring artists from around the world can train and hone their skills together under skilled instructors, who also offer them plenty of time and space to experiment with their circus craft and other passions. This is a preparatory circus program that will help you build a solid base from which to launch yourself into the next stage of your journey, whether it’s an onstage career or something that will give you an extra edge in applying to your dream circus school. Not to mention that Fjordane Folkehøgskule is one of few schools in the world where circus students can dine at the same table as burgeoning fashion designers and new-age Vikings.

For more information about Movement X, we spoke to co-Artistic Director Martin Riedel, one of the main innovators behind its current Nysirkus program. Along with being a Movement X teacher, Martin is also a Cirque du Soleil artist and key performer in the award-winning Cirque du Demain Festival act RoboPole.

CircusTalk (CT): Tell us more about the history of the Fjordane Folkehøgskule and Movement X. When did you launch the New Circus program, and what inspired you to start one?

Martin Riedel (MR): The Movement X/“New-Circus” line within the Folkehogskule was initiated by the director of Circus Agora, Jan Kjetil Smørdal, in 1991. Since 2016, Mathias Ramfelt and I have started to search for a modern approach and intend to create a preparatory circus program in compliance with international norms.

CT: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a folk high school, how would you
describe Fjordane Folkehøgskule’s philosophical approach to learning?

MR: This is a very important aspect since the concept of a Folkehøgskule differs from a regular circus school. The pedagogical focus is on the students’ motivation, which is why these schools do not have exams or give grades. That said, we are also a FEDEC member and focus on adhering to their standards. It can be challenging sometimes, since we intend to stick to the values of the Folkehogskule, but I am glad to say that we manage to find a good balance between both approaches.

Folkehøgskule is a holistic approach to education, that is intended to shape the student as a whole character. We believe that you learn the most if you want to learn. The Movement X students are engaging in various other activities, such as surfing, skiing, hiking, environmental activities, and acquiring social and other “soft” skills, besides their circus training.

As part of the pedagogical arrangement, the students live at the school, around the clock, together with their fellow students. At Fjordane Folkehøgskule, the students live in pavilions or small houses and take part in each other’s lives. This is a wonderful way to get to know other people who are completely different from themselves.

CT: The Fjordane Folkehøgskule offers a lot of interesting paths of study even beyond its circus line. How does the Nysirkus program fit in with the rest of its curriculum and interact with other departments?

MR: Fjordane Folkehøgskule offers ten very varied and exciting lines of study.

In addition to the circus training, the students can choose two to five electives per semester, and will have the opportunity to choose electives from the other lines.

Therefore our circus students have the unique opportunity to experience a broad range of other activities, such as horseback riding, mountaineering, and experiencing Norwegian nature. We do offer art classes, pottery and knitting, and even a Viking Life line.

My personal impression is that it is important to keep the students always open-minded and that they benefit from the diversity. The circus line fits in due to its balanced approach and not hyper-focusing on “one thing”- wearing out the students, without showing all the possibilities of life.

CT: Describe a typical school day for a Nysirkus student. What does their schedule look like?

MR: We are a boarding school. Breakfast with all others is at 8:00. Warm-up is at 9:00, followed by handstand and floor acrobatic training.

At around 10:30, we focus on physical preparation during the first semester of the school year and work on individual circus disciplines, such as Cyr wheel, tissue, and handstand, during the second.

Break is from 12:00 – 12:45.

At 13:00, we go to different classes depending on the day. These can be theory (nutrition, anatomy, etc.), group work, object manipulation, trampoline, or other circus-related disciplines, always with the aim to get students ready for training in higher circus education.

Most students will use the afternoon to prepare for audition videos, or continue their individual practices. We also have other subjects, such as yoga, swimming, skiing, leather craft, etc. that the students can follow as elective courses 2-3 times a week.

At 15:45 is dinner. Afterward, the training facility, as well as the weight room/gym, is available for additional use.

After supper at 19:45, I advise my students to calm down and enjoy the company of the others in our common area around a bonfire with a hot chocolate.

CT: Who is the ideal candidate for the Movement X program?

MR: We are aiming at students between the ages of 17 – 23 years old. You should have a strong motivation towards circus and be open-minded regarding our different school concept compared to other preparatory circus schools. You can come here for one year and add another year, if you intend to deepen your studies or want to dive deeper into Norwegian nature and culture.

CT: Who are the instructors for the circus line?

MR: For the upcoming school year, we are working with several fixed and guest teachers. Naomi Bratthammer is a great role model to our students and inspires many future aerialists. Naomi and I are the main instructors, shaping the courses and helping the students pursue their goals.

In addition, we invite guest teachers depending on the individual needs of our students. We also do school trips where the class gets to visit different circus cultures in Europe and attend workshops.

CT: What learnings do you hope circus students will take away from this program?

MR: We focus on preparing the physical bodies and creating a routine. It is important to us to give the students the experience of circus studies and what it would mean to do this for three or four years before they enter the work field. Is it what you want? Can you stand the daily grind and find joy in it? I prefer that a student decides not to pursue circus after experiencing it for one year, rather than them realising after four years that this was not the ideal choice for them.

CT: How and where can interested students apply to join the program?

MR: Students can apply online via the application form and through our webpage.

Regarding the circus line, it is always beneficial to submit a short video that shows us their current physical fitness level and any circus or circus-related skills they already have.

We do not hold auditions, since it is not within the values of the Folkehogskule.

As well, we will offer a Travel grant to international students covering a maximum of 10.000 NOK [$1020.63 USD]. These travel costs will be deducted from the tuition fee, and all proof of costs (tickets, booking receipts, etc.) have to be handed in within 14 days after the journey. All they have to do is add a letter of motivation to their application, stating why they are in need of our financial support and how they can create an environmentally conscious travel plan (e.g. by using Buses, Trains, and/or paying for CO2 compensation).

We will also allow our international students to stay on campus during holiday periods without further charge, to lower their overall expenses and give them a chance to explore Norway while they are here.

If you are interested, you can always contact the school for further information, reach out to current students, or give me a call at +491609673949.

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Still curious to learn more about Movement X? In this video, you’ll get to hear about the program experience from some of its students and teachers. Their testimonies are in Norwegian and English; translated subtitles are available in the video settings.

Rights to all images used in this article belong to the Fjordane Folkehogskule

Editor's Note: At StageLync, an international platform for the performing arts, we celebrate the diversity of our writers' backgrounds. We recognize and support their choice to use either American or British English in their articles, respecting their individual preferences and origins. This policy allows us to embrace a wide range of linguistic expressions, enriching our content and reflecting the global nature of our community.

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