Born to an architect/theatre producer father and fashion designer mother, it's no surprise that Alexander Kolpin began dancing as a hobby at age 11 and was awarded the internationally acclaimed Prix Benois de la Danse for best male dancer (it's one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world) at the peak of his career as a ballet dancer. The Copenhagen-based dancer turned hotelier is also a father of three, and is effortlessly blending his love of design with his duties as a dad - lunch box planning, design meetings and office work simultaneously filling up his days...
His newest venture, Hotel Sanders, his stylish yet approachable passion project located in the heart of Copenhagen’s artistic district (The Royal Ballet’s stage door is just across the street), blends comfort with design seamlessly. “To make a hotel is the same as creating a performance. It’s just a longer duration and you are closer to your audience. I approach it my way and hope that we can offer a stay and time that has a different tonality than the conventional luxury hotels.”
We caught up with Alexander to hear how he approaches fatherhood (“It made me aware that I am not the centre of the universe and to be connected to the essential aspect of being alive”), what makes his Hotel Sanders so special and how his own childhood has influenced both his work and family life.
How would you describe fatherhood in three words?
Love, responsibility, sharing.
What has fatherhood taught you so far?
To love unconditionally, to be frustrated and giving my life meaning. That I can have an impact and guide my children. And also to accept that I for some reason have to live with a constant bad conscience/fear of not doing things well enough, but finally accept and trust I do ‘me’ best after all. I treasure and enjoy being a part of them maturing and getting them ready to be independent and soulful individuals with a generous and positive approach to life.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You are ok, chill out and please do not try to make everybody love you. And also find the balance of believing yourself without getting ahead of yourself.
Tell us about your career as a ballet dancer – when did you begin dancing and what are some of your most vivid memories of your days as a ballet dancer?
I first saw my sister dance ballet when I was 11. Immediately I fell in love with dance as it connected me to music, movement, aesthetics, power and theatre in one vocabulary. My teacher introduced me to The Royal Danish Ballet when I was 13, which was two years over the accepted admittance limit. They accepted me and then a journey started that has given me a tremendous education, career and moments that are hard to describe. A time working with unfolding stories, turning my body and sharing these stories and movements with great friends, colleagues, artist and audience that has allowed me to work all over the world for 20 years. It’s a privilege and has been a big part of defining who I am as an artist and as a man. I feel lucky to have been able to live off an element of life I can enjoy since it somehow comes down to sharing moments in time. And then I feel proud to be honoured with Benois De La Danse as “Best Dancer in The world”. Simply a primitive but reassuring sensation of recognition.
What did you love about performing?
That my need and desire to portray a character has the ability to be presented on stage; to step into a frame or time and completely surrender myself to my character; and just be in the moment. And to feel that my body is a tool to facilitate these stories was a great feeling.
When did you step away from ballet – do you ever miss it?
I stopped when I was 35. I do miss the nostalgia of the time and the thought of being invincible and focused on the present. But it was then and it was outstanding. And tough as well. Hard work and lots of struggle. I loved this opportunity, but I would not do it again. Because I have been there, done that.
What lead you to the world of hotels?
For me, it’s a natural extension of what I am brought up with. My mother is a designer, my father is an architect and I have spent my entire life performing, producing and presenting a story to an audience. To make a hotel is the same as creating a performance. It’s just a longer duration and you are closer to your audience. I approach it my way and hope that we can offer a stay and time that has a different tonality than the conventional luxury hotels.
Can you tell us about Hotel Sanders in Copenhagen? How would you describe the interior design/aesthetic?
It’s a personal and unpredictable meeting of residential, club and hotel, that has been carefully curated with different hints and notes of mid-century, colonial, old-world glam, eccentricity and warm homey ambience. Luxury but laid back. High and low key. And little bit sexy. Warm earthy tones, details and cosy. And full of surprises.
What kind of experience do you want your guests to have at Hotel Sanders?
That they are treated with individual attention, taken care of and don’t have to worry about practical stuff. That they know we have prepared their stay and know each guest before they walk in the door.
What are some vivid memories of your childhood?
Tons of good things. I had pretty free and casual parents, but also very private and conservative. One thing stands out. Once we took a trip to Athens with two other families. There were loads of kids. We checked into a hotel for one night and our parents ‘borrowed’ most of the bed linen from the rooms. We walked to the industrial harbour, Piraeus, and boarded a freight boat to Sifnos. After seven hours of sailing we arrived. We walked over some hills to a small empty cove/bay. It was stunning. Here we all spent the day constructing a tent out of all the linen from Athens. This tent/hut represented our home for the next three weeks where we lived on the beach, almost naked the entire time. It was 1979. It was ok then. It’s a memory and time I will never forget. I thank my parents for always making adventures and doing something out of the ordinary.
So far, what has been the most challenging part of fatherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
To cope and support when they are hurt or feel insufficient. To see one of my three children in pain, struggling with personal issues and not being able to help no matter how hard you try, is tough.
Describe a typical day in your life...
There is no typical day. Mornings start with cooking breakfast for my kids, strong coffee and creating what seems to be a buffet of lunch boxes. The rest of the day is a mix of office work/computer and meetings with my GM’s, design, finance and strategy. And best of all, swinging by one of my hotels to see how things are going. I might possibly meet some friends then cook or go out with the kids. I forgot to mention taking the little ones back and forth sometimes, especially in the winter.
What makes you laugh?
People that are foolish, light, tongue in cheek and able to make fun of themselves. British humour usually works for me. When my kids’make up stuff and create pranks (that aren’t at someone else’s expense).
How would you describe your approach to parenting? Are you strict/relaxed?
I am probably a bit strict. I expect that they do their best and that they concentrate and take responsibility for themselves. I try to teach them that they have to offer and share in order to get something back.
Where are your top 3 places to go in Copenhagen with your children?
The park, The Royal Theatre and Sanders.
What about travelling – where do you love to travel to and why?
I love to go to our family home in Mallorca where I have been coming for 32 years and share time with them and my girlfriend who has two wonderful sons. This allows us to get together with my parents as well as friends. It’s wonderful. I love to visit cities around the world and explore hotels to learn and investigate how we can improve ourselves and make ourselves better. When neither one of us has the kids, we improvise and go to places together for 2-3 days. To get away and create our own adventure. Travelling inspires me very much and hotels are in general the ultimate performance as an “everyday theatre”.