Profile of a dancer: Fredrik Rütter

Shortly before christmas I personally interviewed Norwegian former ballet dancer Fredrik Rütter. Fredrik Rütter tells his story about the challenges, successes and amazing experiences through a professional career as a dancer.

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(Image: Operaspesialen.no, Fredrik Rütter)

As a strong willed individual and with a motivation to keep going, Rütter is a great example of a character that has followed his dream and worked hard to be where he is today. He has travelled around the world and worked with some of the most highly regarded choreographers of the time. Born in Bergen in 1945, he began his career as a ballet dancer at the Norwegian National Theatre and Oslo’s New Theatre in 1963. In 1975 he became a soloist at the Norwegian Opera.

As we sit down facing each other across the table, it is easy to tell that Rütter has a strong personality yet a kind nature. He begins by explaining his early years; how since the age of four he has attended different kinds of dance. He began polka and ballroom dancing and as he grew older, he began competing in various competitions, joining the musical “Kiss me Kate” where more boys were needed. At the time, Rütter had an older sister who was a ballet dancer which gave him a taste of what it was like to be a dancer. At 17, realising he wanted to pursue a career in dance, he moved to Oslo to improve his technical skills. Faced with the difficult choice between high school and ballet, he left school and began focusing on the arts. He later moved to England where he enrolled at the Bush Davies School of Dance and Drama where he was offered free tutoring when visiting his sister in London. He would come home after rehearsals exhausted after the day’s hard work. “At one point, I said to myself, “I can’t do this, I can’t do it!” But I knew that if this was to work it required effort from my part, and I had no one to blame but myself. It was all about me.” 

Despite the exhaustion, Rütter knew he had to work hard if he wanted to achieve anything. “The most challenging part was getting the technique, the strength and developing my technical repertoire. To be able to smoothly go from changement battement to entrechat six.” He explains his luck: he was flexible; he had a great physique and could move easily, which were physical challenges that many people, as dancers, struggle with. Yet even with a well built body he still felt the strain of the exhaustive rehearsals and performances. “Training started at 9, then I had three classical classes per day, then I had tap, modern, folk dance, singing lessons and drama lessons.” 

Throughout his career, Rütter has worked with some of the finest and best choreographers on a world basis. “I worked with some of the 20th centuries best choreographers. It was amazing to work with Kurt Jooss, a German choreographer who let me play the role of “Death” in “The Green Table… It was fantastic, working as closely as I did with him”. Rütter explains the highlight of his career as being able to work with inspiring and innovative choreographers. He has been fortunate enough to work with world famous choreographers such as Ulf Gadd, Birgit Cullberg and Kurt Jooss. “When I told my colleagues and friends that I had worked with certain choreographers, their reactions were usually, “What, You did?! OMG!””

Rütter was also fortunate enough to travel the world as a part of his career as a professional dancer. He spent ten years on tour around Europe and in South America. He performed in festivals in France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Along with 35 colleagues, he travelled around South America, dancing at festivals in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador. “In Quito, Ecuador, at 3000 metres above sea level, we started noticing the effects of the height. We’d go to the wings, put an oxygen mask on, and then go back out and finish our performance!”. When Rütter finished his tours, he came back and secured himself a job at the Norwegian Opera and Ballet and there he danced as a soloist in 1976. Once he had a family he realised that he had to be extremely organised. His two sons were born whilst he was at the peak of his career. “I would look at my colleagues, who would just go on stage without having to worry about looking after a kid; it seemed so easy for them.”He found it necessary to rest and get plenty of sleep, something which proved difficult with performances that were often scheduled late at night.

Rütter retired from the Norwegian Opera and Ballet in 1988, with a final performance of “Tango Buenos Aires 1907”. However, despite his recent retirement he continued as a guest artist at the Opera for another ten years.  That same season following his closing performance, the ballet critic of the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet had just resigned. “I said it was a great shame that they had no critic;, I said, “this won’t do”. I hadn’t written a line before, but I have quite strong opinions. So I sat down with the editor and got the job.” After becoming a journalist for Dagbladet, Rütter is to this day a critic for Tønsbergs Blad and VG. He comments on today’s talent contests, and how they “assume that if you have a good voice or if you’re a good dancer, you don’t have to put in the work. You can just get up on the stage and become a star,” something he strongly disagrees with. 

Throughout his career, Rütter has achieved great things due to his interest in ballet, theatre and the arts. He has been able to work with world class choreographers, been head of the Carte Blanche school in Stockholm, danced at the Grand Ballet Classique de France, New London Ballet, Norwegian National Opera and the Cullbergballet. He has travelled around the world and experienced things of which many dancers could only dream. He has maintained a work ethic that can only be admired, and a great motivation that should serve as an inspiration for any young dancer.

Source: Personal Interview with Fredrik Rütter, 23.11.2012

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