As a child, I found my joy on stage through school plays. Quite often I grabbed the lead roles, even when they were female, and enjoyed all the lines I could lay my hands on. I loved role-playing, creating freaky characters and stories with my friends, and also started playing the piano. As I turned teenager I got into street dance and breaking.

However, I never thought of this as something that I could make a living out of and so, for a long time, I had no idea of what to make of myself. All I knew was that I liked biology, chemistry, video games and languages. I studied Japanese, Behavioural Sciences, Marine Biology, desperately going through the coursebook of Lund University to find something that yelled: "hey, this is you!"

Branching out from my nerdy hobbies, I somehow got into student plays, a choir and musical comedies (small student society ones, mind you, who didn't require you to actually know what you're doing). I studied Theatre and Social Justice and learnt about the impact of culture on society.

Hjalmar Nordén, Crazy Feet Summer Show 2001 (c) Jan Nordén

It was then that I came to find out how praise could actually hit home.

Hjalmar Nordén in motion, 2009 (c) Jan Nordén

I turned 24 and slowly realised that I might want to take this seriously. But there was no way of me getting into Drama School. Believe me, I tried.

After 13 applications and auditions to higher institutions, I finally started getting the groundwork done. From two years of countryside isolation, studying Musical Theatre at little old Markaryds Folkhögskola and Musikteaterskolan i Bjärnum, I took my first job as a professional actor at the western park High Chaparral. Fresh from school, I was going all in on the "rules of improv" and "exploring my inner self as an actor".

I don't think they'll take me back anytime soon.

My ballet teacher came to choreograph the musical theatre piece Cabaret at Hässleholms Kulturhus, and I was brought in as an "advanced dancer", unpaid next to the "professionals" who had finished their drama schools or proved their mettle in other productions.

Me: "When will I be a professional, and get paid for what I do?"
: "When you start demanding payment for what you do"

I had a lucky break. After working a bit with the wonderful amateur theatre of Teatersmedjan i Blekinge, and being asked to take on the role to co-produce their next show, I heard that a hotel chain, famous for their shows and their passing people on to the bigger stages, happened to be desperately looking for male singers. They were desperate enough even to pay my flight ticket to come up and audition in Stockholm.

I got the part.

I don't think I'll ever feel completely good about jumping ship as I did back then (I'm sorry, Teatersmedjan). But, suddenly, I was a paid singer and dancer.

The rest is history. I moved to Stockholm, studied at Kulturama, built up a network of contacts, worked with Odenteatern, the dance group Oriental Move, Comedy Art Theatre, tried my hand at playwriting and choreography, and worked with film and TV commercials.

Hjalmar Nordén with Oriental Move (c) Jan Nordén

Work abroad called again and working as a Show Artist for Sunwing/Thomas Cook earned me enough money to move to London.

Now, although the list is growing long, my work with Jonathan Kaufman's Spontaneous Productions will forever hold a place in my heart. Together with Jonathan I have directed, choreographed and acted to my heart's content. How I revere his passion and value our friendship is hard to put to words.

I am living the dream.

Currently, however, this means barely dodging out of London as the pandemic hit, now making my wages as a performer for Universal Studios Japan.

Would I have gotten this job if I hadn't been lost, 15 years ago, studying Japanese while trying to find myself?

The little things tip the scales.


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