This February will see the premiere of two new pieces performed by the Icelandic Dance Company, an independent national institution focusing solely on contemporary and modern dance. Working this time with two internationally acclaimed choreographers, the group is in its final stage of rehearsing and creating the next performance that will premiere February 23rd.
While trying to be as versatile as possible, nurturing young artists, developing the art form and pushing it to the furthest limits with the aim of introducing Icelandic and international talents to the public and the world, the Dance Company has always emphasized giving the audience a chance to see cutting-edge performances often connected with a wide range of local music creations to give it that little extra kick. In recent years, the Dance Company has worked with artists and composers such as Quarashi, Gusgus, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and múm to name just a few.
Currently, it is a company of 14 dancers. Despite that fact, the group has been touring the world in recent years and earning a good reputation, being described as an energetic, humourous, vivacious and sexy group and a world-class company, by critics across the globe. Its international recognition is growing by the minute and with this year’s schedule – the group is not only preparing for the February show, but is working on a dance-film project, a dance-theatre competition and various workshops, not to mention scheduled tours to China, USA, France and The Netherlands – there’s no way to predict how far the group can go in the international dance community.
When the company was established in 1973 it used to consist of all women dancers. Since then it has undergone certain changes and now includes seven male professional dancers. Remarkably, six of them are foreigners. Grapevine met with Brad Sykes and Cameron Corbett, and learned among other things that they love the small institution and their life in Reykjavík, they think of the group as cultural ambassadors and would like to see more support from the government to give this art form the chance to grow at the same pace as other cultural institutions in the country.
Cameron Corbett, born in Portland, Oregon, has been dancing in Iceland since 1997 and during that period has not only worked for the Dance Company but has also taught a lot. He is one of the founders of the Reykjavík Dance Festival.
“Before I came here, I was working in Germany as a solo artist for four years with basically one choreographer. Working with the Icelandic Dance Company is therefore a completely different experience for me,“ he says.
Brad Sykes, a Canadian native, came to Iceland because of his urge to move abroad and the gypsy blood running through his veins. He thought the fact that a small island even has a dance company remarkable enough to see it for himself, and hopefully join in the fun.
They will both be important parts of the February performance, consisting of two new and challenging pieces, created by award-winning choreographers Roberto Oliván from Spain and Canadian André Gingras, who is known for his radical and critical creations where sensitive subjects are usually his prime inspiration.
Gingras’s piece revolves around transformation, from small insects to religious beliefs, with music created by Belgian musician/composer Jurgen DeBlonde. Roberto Oliván, who is currently working with the dancers, has a very different take on things. He gathers his inspiration from Icelandic folklore.
When asked to clarify a bit, the guys became quite mysterious. “We are doing two very different and challenging pieces that are not predictable theatre pieces. There is lots of crazy dancing, a huge amount of energy and acrobatics. One of the pieces, the one we just started working on with Oliván, is actually a bit of a secret because we are still creating it and don’t know exactly how it will turn out. We do have certain themes we are focusing on though. Icelandic folklore, like trolls, elves and stuff like that. Oliván is using some of that idealism as inspiration. It’s not like the piece is going to be us dressed as little trolls though,” Brad tells me.
Although they have witnessed some increasing interests in the art of dance in Iceland, Cameron doesn’t want to go so far as saying there has been an awakening in society.
“We have a nice core audience that always comes to shows and we do see new people coming in. We are respected in the community but the numbers aren’t growing. Today we can do only six or seven shows per production,” he says.
“I think people are a little bit scared of dance here. The work doesn’t appeal to as many people as theatre does for example. It can be frustrating being a dancer knowing how popular theatre is. There are two large theatres and extra independent stuff. Why does a bad play get 30 performances for example and a good dance production only eight? That’s frustrating,” Brad adds.
Cameron has his own theory: “I think the audience doesn’t know what to expect and find that not exciting maybe. Sometimes a dance performance is just pretty pictures and all sorts of emotions and that is just enough. You don’t have to get worried if you don’t understand everything that is going on. It’s more like looking at a painting than watching TV.”
And then there is the question of money. A production like the one in the making takes endless time and daily rehearsals not to mention the financial costs. The yearly finances are far from being enough and Brad and Cameron both agree that they would like to see more support, especially as the company provides service and entertainment to the public.
“You would hope Iceland would have an organisation helping those who want to do the art and so the kids practising ballet can have the hope of dancing as professionals in the future. This is one of the reasons for having a dance company and a reason for supporting it” Brad explains and continues: “Our dream would be to be more important in Icelandic culture. We are also introducing Icelandic modern dance to the world, by touring for example. Dance is an international language, that’s the beautiful thing about it. Dance companies are like cultural ambassadors because they can travel the world and represent a certain society. Dance is something so many people are afraid to do but with each performance you see, you kind of want to imagine yourself a part of it, you want to relate to the people on stage, you can watch and imagine yourself being part of the show and get excited about it.”
The duo is hopeful about bringing in bigger audiences for the forthcoming shows and promises some incredible dance moves and tough acrobatics in a show bubbling with freedom, emotion and explosions of energy.
Premiering in the Reykjavík City Theatre on February 23, the performances will be held every Sunday after that until March 25. For tickets visit: www.id.is or call 568-8000.