Martin is a history teacher with the listless, sloping posture. He walks slowly, as if every step ignites a pain. His job is uninspiring; his marriage collapses. “Have I become bored?” he asks his wife. “Do you find me boring?”
Her answer seems to confirm what he already knows: “You’re not the same Martin I first met.”
In the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round”, a film about breaking the rules and thereby breaking free, Martin is one of four high school teachers who decide to test a theory about alcohol: As long as they maintain a consistent level of it in their blood, their lives will be better.
The dance begins after Martin, who had previously taken jazz ballet lessons, attended a friend’s funeral and received text messages from his wife suggesting they could be reunited; he and his friends greet students at the harbor when the song “What a Life” by the Danish band Scarlet Pleasure plays. First, his movement is a little cautious, full of stops and starts. But when he gets started, he throws himself into it, takes wide crossover steps, sways and with a silky force, spins to the ground and jumps up – all the while taking sips from a can of beer.
As his body melts into the song, it’s clear that this is more than a dance: Martin has been given a second chance – or round – in life, and he takes it. Unrestrained and robust, Mikkelsen, 55, darts through space, hits the air and jumps hard before setting off in a most spectacular jump over the water. The film ends with him in the air.
In the collaboration with Mikkelsen, the choreographer Olivia Anselmo said: “He started the whole rehearsal and said: ‘Well, I’m not like I used to be, I’m not young anymore and blah, blah, blah.’ And then the first thing he does is go into a slide and a roll on the floor and jump up and do this thing where he wraps his leg around the other leg – like a yoga pose. He just did to.”
Mikkelsen started as an acrobat before he discovered dance, although it was as an actor that he made his name. He was the Bond villain in “Casino Royale” and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the TV series “Hannibal.” He won an award for best actor in Cannes for his role in Vinterberg’s film “The Hunt” (2012). But for Anselmo, he is something else. “When I was in the studio with him, it’s not like I’re thinking like, wow, this is this world famous actor,” she said. “It was so cozy and relaxed. I was just thinking this is just another dancer. ”
Recently, Mikkelsen talked about dance and his professional dance year, which lasted about nine years. He switched to drama, he said, “to pull out another drawer and find something new,” he said. “I was also always more in love with the dance drama than the aesthetics of the dance.”
The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation.
How did you like dancing in the movie?
I thought it would be a hard thing to get away with in a realistic movie – dancing for real. So in my world it was more like a drunken dream or a drunken image or fantasy, but in Thomas’ world it was literally a man dancing while surrounded by many young people. [Laughs]
He wanted the ending to be a balance between a man flying and a man falling, and the dance was obviously perfect for that.
How did you start dancing in the first place?
I started as a gymnast and a choreographer came to our club. She wanted a few acrobats in the background who could do flips, and she wanted us to do a few steps too. She thought I had a certain amount of talent and she asked me if I wanted to learn the craft and I had absolutely nothing else to do.
I did a couple of shows with her, kind of musical stuff, and then it just felt like I was going to honor the dance. I had to really learn it from the base.
Where did you study?
I applied for a scholarship and I went to New York for two summers to Martha Graham. Then I joined a modern ballet group in Denmark, and I made lots of musicals like “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Chicago.” “West Side Story.” But I was trained as a modern Martha Graham dancer.
Was Martha nearby? She must have been pretty old.
Yes. I had the opportunity to meet her. It was a miracle time. She was clearly not a teacher [anymore], but she once came as the guru she was with her arthritis. She was helped out of the car. She was amazing. She had this huge hair. She sat on the floor and watched us. And suddenly she just walked into one of her features – her back became just completely straight and she put her nose on the floor.
We were all like, what? And then she had all the boys come really close because she did not speak loudly. She said, “The boys have to jump in the air.” And then we went in there, we jumped and jumped and jumped, and then we looked at her and she had fallen asleep. [Laughs] But it was amazing, fantastic to meet her.
When did you start gymnastics?
I probably went to first or second grade. You must understand that gymnastics in Denmark was on a completely different level than the rest of the world in the sense that we sucked. I remember there was a Russian club that came to us as a friendship club and it was just insane how good they were. It was like, Jesus, we’re wasting our time.
How old were you when you switched to dancing?
I think it was around 17 or 18 when it happened. So I was a little boy in the working class – almost like a story about Billy Elliot. I could not really tell my friends what I started doing. That’s just the way it is when you’re a working class kid, but when they finally found out, I asked them to do math: “How many girls, how many boys?” They were all like, “Yeah, I want to be a dancer too.”
What was it like dancing again to “Another Round”?
It was like saying hello to an old friend. I’m the kind of dancer who does not dance when I’m out at a club with friends. I’ve always been a little reluctant to do it because I guess it was my profession. I knew this character was rusty and that he was not a professional dancer like me, but he had done it as a young man as a child. At the same time, I became a little ambitious.
Did you hurt yourself?
No not at all. It was all good. But it was all adrenaline. I felt really young again, but the next week I felt it really old.
Because you were sore?
I was super sore. I do a lot of sports. I ride a bike and I play tennis and I do all sorts of things, but they are not the same muscles.
What did you think of in the final dance?
We wanted it not to be about the dance, but about what was inside the character. More than it is a performance, it is an internal journey. It’s almost like a close – up.