In the third of our series of interviews with women working in the Icelandic arts, we talked to Erna Ómarsdóttir, the creative director of the Iceland Dance Company.
This year’s focus is women in art. Do you think there’s still some way to go for equality in art, and the arts generally?
Of course, there should be equality in the arts, as in the other fields in life. Women are equally important to the arts, and so it’s a bit ridiculous and unfair that guys generally get bigger chances, and have to work less to get there. There are many reasons for it, that we will not get into right now, but we should indeed take care of this matter and find ways to fix the problem.
How long have you been going to Reykjavík Arts Festival and how has it developed in that time?
I’ve been going since I was a teenager, at least – I think since 1986 or earlier. I went to see some dance shows and visual arts with my mother, and at some point I started to perform my own work in the festival, first with IBM 1401 (a users manual) in 2002, or a duet between me and Johann Johannsson, the composer, in 2003. Every now and then I’ve performed, which of course changes my relationship to it. I’m always happy when there are some good dance performances, although in the last years it was not always the case. But the program was still amazingly good.
What are your best memories of the festival?
I saw a piece by Maguy Marin, around 1987, that changed my view on dance, and was quite revolutionary for me. When I saw it I realised that dance is something I really want to do – that it was about more, or even something else completely, than throwing your limbs in the air and doing fancy beautiful dance steps. Quite the opposite, even. I saw that you can express things really strongly, using dance as an artform.
What do you think RAF brings to the life of the city?
It brings creative vibes, fresh and nurturing air into the city. Art is completely necessary for Icelanders to survive and celebrate, and completely necessary for the tourist industry as well. It’s really important to have one big festival that combines all the art forms and celebrates collaborations and cross-discipline art as well.
Do you think the city’s young artists & art students benefit?
Young artists should go more to the festival, and try to benefit as much as possible – There should be a special program or a special deal for them, to encourage them and help their education.
Anything you’d like to highlight, that you’re particularly looking forward to in the programme so far?
Yes – Blæði, premiered on the 19th of May. It’s a dance evening curated by myself for the Iceland Dance Company, including works by some of the most important European choreographers like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet. In that program I also choreograph a piece together with damien jalet. the piece is called black marrow which we orignally made and premiered in Melbourne International Festival for the renowned Australian dance company Chunky Move. Now we are reworking it for and with the amazing dancers of Iceland Dance Company. Ben Frost created a beautiful soundtrack especially for this piece.
Sorry to be so egotistical but this is indeed what I look most forward to at this moment, as my mind is totally in that creation right now! But then I also look forward to see the Guerilla Girls, and to go to Mengi and everything else.
Learn more about Erna’s work here.