It wasn’t as terrifying as “Black Swan,” recalls Danish synthpop singer Nanna Oland Fabricius, who performs as Oh Land and appears in San Francisco this week.
But her teenage years spent striving toward a professional dance career were cutthroat and competitive.
“So already, at 10, I was aware that I could be replaced by somebody else, at any time. I definitely grew up with a number on my belly,” she says. “Because at ballet school, half of the ones they took in each year were thrown out the next, and you would get a letter each year, telling you if you if you could continue or not. It was quite horrible, just like ‘Lord of the Flies.’”
Oh Land did wind up taking center stage. She’s currently touring behind her eponymous new album for Epic, her second, playing an unusual keyboard-projector-drum machine called The Contraption she created with her boyfriend/artistic conceptualist Eske Kath.
Her performances aren’t what she planned. The daughter of an organist and an opera singer initially rebelled by choosing dance over classical-music, and her folks did enroll her in Denmark’s Royal Ballet School at 10, and in the Royal Swedish Ballet at 15.
“I was a very determined child. If there was something I decided to do, there was no way to argue with it,” says Oh Land.
But at 18, her world ground to a heartbreaking halt. “I’d had this problem with my back for a long time, but I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just warm up my muscles and it’ll be OK,’” she says. “But at this one performance, I just didn’t land correctly. I could feel something went wrong, but you have so much adrenaline, I kept on going for the whole show.”
The doctor’s diagnosis was a slipped disc, and the pain was excruciating.
“I was lying on my kitchen floor, literally, for two months, living like a reptile,” Oh Land says. “But the one thing I could still do while lying like that was singing. And I slowly came to realize that the reason I’d been dancing was to express the music.”
Her early compositions, many about agony and bones, were so good, her friends encouraged her to post them on MySpace. Soon, she had home-recorded enough for a debut, 2008’s “Fauna.”
The new followup is more ethereal. The starry “Wolf & I,” for instance, was inspired by Oh Land’s love of astronomy and old fables.
“So being in the dance world gave me a lot of discipline,” she says. “But I think it was in the cards for me to become a musician.”
IF YOU GO
Opening for Francis and the Lights
Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., San Francisco
When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday
Contact: (415) 861-5016, www.cafedunord.com, www.ticketweb.com