Anna Karin has been at SKH for more than 50 years

It takes many people to make a school like SKH work: students, teachers, administrators, management support and much more. But there is probably only one person who has held all these roles: Anna Karin Ståhle, who is now (perhaps) finally retiring.
Anna Karin Ståhle dancing in the D building
The 2020s are the seventh decade during which Anna Karin has been at the school. She still has dance in her. Photo: Johan Palme/SKH

The school names themselves have been many. She started at an experimental programme called the Choreographic Institute, where she began as a dance education student in 1969. When she graduated, it was from the National School of Ballet Dancing. Soon after she came back as a teacher, it was at the University College of Dance. When she switched to an administrative job, it was at the School of Dance and Circus. And when she interrupted her retirement to come back, it was to the Stockholm University of the Arts.

Where Anna Karin Ståhle has worked has had different names and different organisational forms. Yet it is in fact still the same educational institution then as now, one where she has spent more than 50 years of her life. And, says Anna Karin, the similarities are in many ways greater than the differences.

“There is a certain atmosphere in this kind of place that I really like,” says Anna Karin. “The people who work here are of a certain type. They speak a certain language – both verbal and physical.”

“I really like it when art and the practice of art becomes everyday life, as it is here. It is a very special everyday life, which I have found difficult to let go of.”

Dansklass tidigt 70-tal (Dansped 1970 ev.) 4 fr. v. Anna-Karin Ståhle. Kor inst Blasieholmen ev. K474 K1-7 .jpg
Lesson in national dances at the National School of Ballet Dancing, around 1970. Anna Karin is the third dancer from the right.

On the other hand, much has also changed. When she started at the university as a teacher, it was in Spanish folk dances, and then historical dances and dance notation. None of these subjects are taught at SKH any longer.

“Higher education has to follow the world around it, and all popularity comes in waves,” says Anna Karin. “In the end, it became too difficult to recruit students, and there were too few who were willing to take the step of turning their hobby into a profession.”

The creation of a university college

Anna Karin believes that there are far more substantial changes from her own student days than changing trends.

“My time as a student was not very university-like! In a way, I am very jealous of the education they have now, it has become much more of a genuine pedagogical education,” says Anna Karin.

Anna Karin knows more than most how this change has taken place, and how the balance between different aspects can be understood. Already during her teaching career, she also started working in the school's administration, first in the core activities with course responsibility and responsibility for the inventory of costumes and video tapes, eventually switching completely to the joint administration. Having been part of both worlds has meant a lot, she says.

“I am bilingual,” explains Anna Karin. “I understand what teachers say and their frustrations. And I have learnt the administrative language, even though it has been a struggle!”

“You have art on the one hand, and higher education regulations on the other. The challenge is to make them work together. I see the advantages of the way it is, the opportunities it provides. It’s actually fantastic that we have art colleges! That society invests in us. Of course it means administration and curricula and all that, but at the same time there is a lot of freedom to create.”

Circus attracted

One subject that is particularly close to Anna Karin’s heart, and which she has been involved in the development of from the very beginning, is circus as a higher education subject.

“I have witnessed its development from a non-academic subject to the point where it has entered the world of art academia,” she says. “Of course it took a while, but we got it sorted out!”

Teckningar av Anna Karin.jpg
On the left: A print by Gertrud Wieselgren where Anna Karin dances the Jota, a dance from Aragon. On the right: A drawing by Sven Björnsson, where she performs a dance from Toledo.

This year Anna Karin turns 76. She has already retired and been sent off once, five years ago, but it was circus that drew her back. She was asked to take special responsibility for helping to set up the Erasmus project Cirkus++. And then she came in as administrative support to Head of Department Walter Ferrero when he took on more topics than just the circus. But now, at the end of March, she is finally going to retire for good. A new grandchild is going to demand her attention.

When she looks back, it is precisely the diversification and all the different roles that she feels have taught her so much.

“I am just grateful that I have been able to make this journey,” Anna Karin concludes. “Just this insight into all these different areas and subjects. Everything that is required to make a university work. And you realise that it involves so much, from so many different people.”

SKH is turning ten

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SKH is celebrating ten years as a university college in 2024, ad we'll be filling the year with retrospection, foresight, articles and events that connect to the decennial in various ways.

Read about the anniversary and our history on our website

Danspedagogutbildningen Grahamlektion på Kor Inst vt 1970 På bilden Anna-Karin Ståhle Foto Sören Anshelm K473 K1-7.jpg
Anna Karin during a Graham lesson at the Choreographic Institute in 1969. Photo: Sören Anshelm

Anna-Karin Ståhle personalporträtt 1980-tal kansli, Spansk dans, K1-1 K5.jpg
Anna Karin’s staff photo, 1980s.

Anna-Karin Ståhle  (Varney) personalporträtt juni 1995 K1-1 K19.jpg
Anna Karin’s staff photo, 1995.

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