Though we witnessed her fresh off the hoop at Chivas Collab: ETM last month, Jane Solberg has been in the scene for decades. Seeing her gravity-defying stunts up close was like watching a fiery dragon in motion - geared up in a metallic outfit with strategically smeared war paint, Jane cut a promising figure, not to mention the performance that brought the night to new heights. We chat to the aerial artist about nabbing uncountable bruises in aerial hoop training, looking for humility in a team, and her love for Norway fjords.
How did your interest in aerial acrobatics come about?
I have been an independent dance professional my entire career, and I needed a new challenge. When I came across aerial hoop and silk on YouTube, my career took a new direction. I was so excited to learn something new and challenge different muscle groups in my body. This physically high-risk art is a pure demonstration of strength and agility. I love that.
What is your favourite thing about dance?
When my team and I step on stage, we are on fire! Nothing can substitute the adrenaline rush after a successful show that we’ve work hard to put on, and it is the best form of addiction.
Four fast facts about yourself?
I persevere and never give up. I brave up even in the presence of fear. I am honest, and I speak my heart and my mind. I believe in discipline and not in excuses.
Any occupational hazards?
For aerial hoop, of course. Slipping off or falling from the hoop can happen sometimes, but rarely does. Bruises, on the other hand, are more common. We get bruises on our fingers, our palms, our back, our hips, behind our knees, so on and so forth. Here is where one needs to toughen up, and only those who persevere succeed.
Tell me about Enaj Production.
Founded in 2003, Enaj Production has delivered dance shows and performances for companies across different industries. Today, we are an established provider of conceptualised shows. Hunger for development was our fuel, but humility took us far beyond our imagination. We are also honored to have groomed different batches of dance professionals over the past decade.
You are the founding dance choreographer of Westports Malaysia Dragons team of Dragonettes. Where does your influence come from, and how does that translate into your choreography?
When I was young, I use to watch the Laker Girls and teach myself their routine. Today, the NBA dancers still influence me to a great extent. They consistently raise the bar of entertainment, and we must step up to their level regardless of the obstacles. They are my benchmark and they inspire my creativity, which translates into my choreography. We keep trying new ideas. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail, but we value the lessons taught us by failure.
What do you look for in a team of dancers?
Humility to learn and grow; compassion to support each other; perseverance to never give up. Confidence to stand tall in front of an audience, and most importantly: discipline and physical endurance.
You have been an independent dance professional since 1996. Can you share some highlights of your career in the past two decades?
Oh my, that’s a long time! I’ve been blessed with tons of different experiences. The highlight of my career, without a doubt, is when I found aerial art on YouTube and I wanted to be unique. Before 2009, there was no such craft in Malaysia, but I got some help and support from a childhood friend. Together we rigged a 20-foot truss in his garden, and I persevered. That was one of the best investments I’ve made in life.
Tell me what a day is like in the life of you.
Behind the scene, during peak season, my days are packed with meetings, managing talents and artists, costumes, music, choreography and studio rehearsals. On the other end, during low season, beside spending time with family and friends, my personal workouts are crucially important to me. I swim, I hit the gym, but my all-time favorite is my hot pilates classes at Urban Spring, Bangsar.
What is the one thing people often mistake about you?
People think I’m extremely fierce and blunt but on the contrary, I am softer than most know me for. I am driven about what I do, and can sometimes come across too stern. It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
Interest in pole dance classes have picked up in the past decade. Is there a significant difference between pole and hoop? What advice can you give to those who are interested to venture into aerial hoop?
Pole vs hoop, although both suspends you in mid-air, pole is more grounded. On a hoop, without safety cables, once hoisted up to 20 feet, there is no room for mistakes. There is no way you can land safely if you fall, so you hang on with your life at stake. That’s why aerial hoop is an astonishing craft which makes your heart beat out of your chest. For those who are interested, beside psychical strength, you need tremendous mental endurance. Once you pass the initial stage, you’re on your way to even impress yourself. Will it be easy? Nope. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
What are your other interests outside dance?
Food; I love to eat. Besides food, I love road trips. My husband and I once rented a campervan for ten days and travelled around Norway. That was a breathtaking adventure. The fjords, it was magical!
Where do you see yourself or Enaj Production ten years down the road?
I hope to continue to find new ways to work with people in more complex productions – the event we do with Chivas Collab with other performers, DJs and musicians is something I’d like to work more on, as collaborations lead to bigger, greater things and learning from others help us evolve.