Although Magnus Labbe is international Pole champion and a teacher at Body & Pole you may know him for his performance on “Denmark’s got talent” as a finalist (his Avatar performance was stunning). But I noticed him for the first time on his Instagram profile, in a video clip where he pole danced in his (I assumed) kitchen. His flow, grace, artistic and almost ballet pole moves impressed me so much I couldn’t resist saying: “OMG, this man dances more beautifully than any woman I know”. And the next day I was showing his performance on my mobile to any pole sister she was willing to listen to me.
And here I am, at IPSAC in Zadar, chatting with.
Photo by Cecilia de Bucourt: “Nocturnal Predator” from photo series, “The Pole Bird”. NYC, March 2017.
Dear Magnus, thank you for accepting my invitation to this interview.
I was really blown away by your grace and fluidity, and immediately I thought for sure you were a ballet dancer. But what is really your background? Is it ballet?
No, I’ve never taken ballet. I took my first ballet class this year.
Really? Are you sure? [laughs]
Yes. [laughs] And I started off with hip hop.
Hip hop? I would never, ever say that you were a hip hopper. Never. I would say contemporary, ballet, yes. But hip hop? No. That’s completely different.
Yes, it is completely different. I did that for like 5 years, and then I slowly moved on to more jazz and contemporary style of dance because I watch a lot of videos of that on YouTube and the internet. I was really fascinated about it, so I was trying to teach myself those kinds of movements. I didn’t really have a teacher, so I was kind of just watching clips on YouTube, like “Oh, that looks cool.”
So what is the main reason that you decided to teach?
I’ve always had a passion for teaching. I started off after dancing for a long time. They asked me if I wanted to teach in my dance studio, so I started teaching my kind of style dance.
They had a pole, too, and they were like “Can you teach pole, and then we’ll teach you the basics?” So I started out as a teacher in pole dance, before I actually knew how to pole dance. So I started doing mixed style flows around the pole before I actually started teaching the pole tricks, because I needed to learn them myself first before I could actually teach them.
What makes you happy while teaching and what you’re trying to achieve?
I love seeing when the students grow and get all excited and all happy about something they have accomplished. It makes me really happy to see that something that I told them or taught them makes them so happy.
I try to achieve to make people feel good in the classroom, that they have a really fun time and still learn something new. That’s really what I focus mostly on. You can do whatever in my class; I’m not strict or anything. As long as you have fun, everything is fine.
I always tell my students that they can do whatever they want. I give them the base of the movement and then you can try to explore it and find your own way of doing the movement. Because that is, for me, the most important thing – that you find your own style rather than just copy the teacher.
Photo by Cecilia de Bucourt: “Grounded” from photo series, “The Pole Bird”. NYC, March 2017.
It’s nice that you don’t put the pressure on, because many teachers – of course, I’ve been there – put quite a lot of pressure, and then it comes to a point that you don’t like to pole dance so much.
That’s true. It has to be free, so you can just move the way you want to move.
And what do your students give you back? Something for your personal growth?
I love when students compliment a lot. That’s what I really drive for when I get a compliment about my class. “It was really good” or “Thank you for teaching me this, that was something that I’ve been struggling with for a long time,” and all of a sudden I teach them how to do it – that’s really what makes me happy, to feel that I actually accomplished something in the way that I teach.
Are there maybe some fun anecdotes or stories you would like to share with us?
I have a student that came to Body & Pole, and she actually really loves me. She had this moment where she – you know the emoji eyes with the hearts? When she sees me demonstrate a flow or something like that, she always goes “Wow, emoji eyes, emoji eyes, emoji eyes! Oh, I’m falling in love with you just watching you dance!” It always makes me so happy. It always makes me laugh a lot when she does that, because it just makes me feel good that someone really appreciates the things that I do.
I like “emoji eyes.” Maybe I’ll start using it. [laughs]
Photo by Cecilia de Bucourt: “The Pole Bird”. NYC, March 2017.
Some days ago there was a debate on social media about the reaction of an audience on performances. On whether to applaud or to whistle … So what is your final opinion after all the debate was going on about the attitude of the audience towards performance?
For me, it depends on the kind of style performer does. I hate when people are really loud or clapping when there is more silent contemporary style where you have to be sucked in as the audience to feel the move.
But for the more sexual style, I can see how it’s more of a party. So in that sense, I feel like it’s okay to be loud because performers want that. Also in comedy, it’s good to laugh and make noises when something happens that’s really funny. So it depends on the kind of performance that you’re trying to do.
Do you think that the pole audience is mature enough to recognize this? Because there are times when they are very loud no matter what the performance is.
It’s hard to find that balance, when to applaud and when not. I feel that a lot of people are new to pole dance, so they see it as something big when someone does a really fancy trick or a really hard move, so of course, they want to applaud that. I think with time, when people get used to the technique around it, they’ll actually see the beauty of dancing an entire performance and how it works. It’s not just about tricks, but it’s the entire performance in itself – that’s the meaning of doing what we do.
Photo by Cecilia de Bucourt: “Wingspan” from photo series, “The Pole Bird”. NYC, March 2017.
How well do you feel the energy when performing, when the audience is silent?
Yeah, I do. For me, when I perform, sometimes it’s just the silence in the air that moves me, that gives me chills. It can just be one stare out in the audience; it can be one breath of relief … And that’s what I want. Not just “Oh, that’s a fancy Iron X. You can hold it for a long time.” For me, it’s less impressive now because I’m used to it and I’ve seen it for many years. A lot of people can do it. So for me, it’s the way you do the whole performance it is what really counts.
Thank you, dear Magnus! All I can say is “emoji eyes, emoji eyes”!
Meet Magnus Labbe:
Performance with Sammy Wong at IPSAC, Zadar 2017