One is a former soccer player. The other used to be a member of a synchronized skating team. Together they’re on their way of becoming the first ever same-sex dance partners to compete in an adult category for Iceland internationally. Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir met with Margrét Sigurðardóttir and Sigrún Þuríður Runólfsdóttir to talk about their participation in the EuroGames 2015.
When I arrive at Margrét’s house, Sigrún is putting her daughter in a baby carriage and tells me she’s supposed to sleep during the interview. Laughingly she adds that her daughter sleeps on demand. Margrét’s daughter, on the other hand, is a bit too old to be sleeping in carriages, she is eleven and somewhere out playing in the sun. Her smiling face greets me on the wall when I enter the house.
MARGRÉT: “She’s the best thing that has happened to my life.”
She says this with such cogency that I feel like I’m missing out a lot for not meeting this important little girl. While Sigrún puts her daughter to sleep, Margrét prepares some refreshments. She tells me that she’s absolutely starving and admits that she is rather recently awake, although it’s passed noon. She was dancing untill dawn yesterday.
MARGRÉT: “Páll Óskar was playing and I was pretty much soaking when I got back home.” [laughs]
Sigrún enters the rooms and joins her aunt laughing.
SIGRÚN: “That’s exactly what I love about dancing. You lose yourself, forget time and don’t notice the workout untill the next day when your muscles are sore!”
While Margrét pops out to get some milk from the neighbors Sigrún tells me about her aunt’s incredible energy and drive. She didn’t have to, though. It was obvious from the first handshake. But she’s eager to.
SIGRÚN: “She’s not a person that gets an idea and lets it drift away. She carries it out.”
And that’s exactly what Margrét did, when she got an idea to compete in a big international LGBT sporting event, not in soccer – which she used to compete in internationally – but something completely different. Hello, dance section of the EuroGames 2015, you better watch out. The first ever same-sex contestants from Iceland are on their way!
MARGRÉT: “I first heard of the competition in 2009 and it has been a dream of mine ever since. First of all, I love dancing, but secondly I find it a bit humorous to participate.”
And they might seem like a funny pair on paper; a middle-aged soccer-loving lesbian and her ice-skating niece, but in real life they are quite the team. Because even though they enjoy the training and rehearsals – and laugh quite a lot – they take their participation in the EuroGames very seriously.
SIGRÚN: “We’ve hired one of the most competent dance coaches in this field in Iceland. Her name is Elísabet Sif Haraldsdóttir, and she’s currenly living in Canada. We just decided to get a real coach. Someone who could get us far. We’re aiming for the finals!”
MARGRÉT: “That’s the only way to do it. You don’t set your goals too low, that simply doesn’t lead to success.”
It’s obvious that this woman knows what she’s talking about, being a soccer coach herself.
SIGRÚN: “We love a challenge. We want to compete with talented people.” [laughs]
MARGRÉT: “Still, I believe our goals are realistic.” [doesn’t laugh]
They definitely have the spirit. But have they got the talent?
MARGRÉT: “Well, I’ve never actually practiced dancing, but I’ve taken some courses. I took a two-semester course here in Iceland some years ago, along with a random group of lesbians. And then I joined a group in Australia, when I was living there, also a LGBT-group, but it was a mixed group. You could decide if you would lead or follow, no matter if you were male or female. My favorite partner was a 6’5” man who always wanted to follow. I had such a good time! We laughed through most of the classes. So to answer the question, I do have some experience but nothing compared to Sigrún over here.”
SIGRÚN: “Well it’s almost 20 years since I quit ballroom and latin dancing.”
MARGRÉT: “But you started learning when you were four years old!”
SIGRÚN: “That’s true.” [pauses] “Practicing dancing can be tricky because of how dependent you are on your partner. When I was thirteen I decided to quit the sport because I didn´t have any partner at that time and finding male dance partners was not an easy task. And really it’s sad because I just didn’t have the imagination to find a female dance partner. There always seem to be more girls practicing dancing and they tend to fall out because of this tradition of men and women dancing together. So when I quit I decided to start practicing other types of dancing, where you’re solo or in a group, and then I practiced synchronized skating for ten years.”
Sigrún definitely wins the dance-experience duel. I can understand why Margrét got her niece to be her dance partner. She’s a pro.
MARGRÉT: “That’s exactly it. You have to think: How will I succeed? And I thought: I need to team up with someone who’s really talented.” [laughs] “We’re not going out there to fool about. It’s a challenge. For me, at least, I’ve never competed in dancing before.”
SIGRÚN: “But she’s the one with the guts. She’s the one that’s making this happen. I might have gotten an idea like this, but I never would have followed it through, like she does.”
MARGRÉT: “That’s human. No one wants to look stupid, we’re all so sensitive and scared of making mistakes. But you should stand up for yourself and do what you want to do. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else. And in this case I don’t think we have anything to lose – no matter how it goes.”
They sound like a great team. And not only are they a great team, they’re also making history, becoming the first same-sex dance couple competing for Iceland internationally. And it will also be the first time Iceland has a dance-couple in EuroGames.
MARGRÉT: “We contacted Styrmir, a LGBT sports club and asked if they were interested in us as a part of the team. They welcomed us with open arms. The team is amazing. We will have a blast.”
SIGRÚN: “We’re competing in Latin Dances and right now our coach is planning our routines. We’ll be dancing Cha cha, Jive, Rhumba, Samba and Paso doble.”
They have a year for preparation and their program is on course, but how about their costumes? Dancing is full of traditions and heteronormativity. Will they be wearing a gown and a suit?
MARGRÉT: [both laugh] “That’s a good question. We’ve actually given this quite some thought. There is definitely some tradition that you must follow, although the costumes can vary. We want to wear something fancy but comfortable.”
SIGRÚN: “I think we would like the costumes to resemble our personalities rather than our role in the dance. I want to wear a dress because that’s how I feel most comfortable on the dance floor.”
MARGRÉT: “I don’t think I would feel good wearing a dress. But I don’t want to wear a suit. Maybe some kind of a fancy overall. Glitter, maybe?”
Margrét is obviously still under Páll Óskar’s influence from last night. Alright, so they also have the costumes under control. Are they nervous at all?
MARGRÉT: [without hesitation] “No.”
SIGRÚN: [laughs] “Magga (Margrét) is never nervous.”
She probably has no reason to be, wearing a glittery overall. And besides, they probably wouldn’t have signed up for such a big competition if they hadn’t got what it takes.
SIGRÚN: [laughs] “She did it!”
MARGRÉT: “Well, for all I know, you only live once, and you better make the most of it. If you got some dreams – why not make them come true?”
While I take their photographs they continue talking about dancing, telling me that Icelanders are shy when it comes to dancing, that in Paso doble the man is the bullfighter and the woman is the red veil, laughingly suggest that the woman should be the bull, and as I take the last photograph and thank them for their time, Sigrún’s daughter wakes up.