In late 2016, Iceland’s dance scene got a fresh addition when a group of LHÍ students decided to form the REAL Collective. Having been fascinated and inspired by an improv workshop from Israeli dancers Emma Rozgoni and Noam Carmeli, the aim of the group is to investigate and express the possibilities of group improvisation, through research, workshops and performances.
Selma Reynisdóttir, Yelena Arakelow and Erna Gunnarsdóttir are three of the founding members. “We’ve been dancing a lot together, at school,” smiles Selma. “It’s like a funny, disrupted family.” Yelena smiles, adding: “You spent 12-14 hours together in a small studio, body on body, going in and out of the shower.”
Aware and connected
This level of intimacy was perhaps a factor in forming their aesthetic. Along with the spontaneity and freedom of improvisation, they share an interest in developing a mindful style of silent communication.
“We train a lot around awareness,” says Yelena. “How much awareness you have of yourself, your body, your movement, and what the group is doing. We found some kind of magic in it… it’s like flocking, when a huge amount of birds move together. Sometimes you have a moment that’s mesmerising, like you start to develop a collective body. You take decisions together that are suitable for everyone. And that’s a certain artistic message, for life—to be present.”
“They’re plugged-in moments,” adds Erna, “when everyone is totally on board.”
This weekend, the group will invite the public to join them in a workshop at the Breiðholt Festival, where participants can experience their spontaneous, mindful and mutually supportive technique first hand. “It’s different every time,” says Yelena. “We judge what we do on the crowd, how used to moving they are and their age. We work on some trust exercises, and loosen up the bodies. Then we have an open session, where everything is allowed.”
“The audience is responsible for the space,” says Erna. “We give them some tools on how to approach it. We’ve been doing sessions like this at our Real Monday workshops, and it’s been going well. It’s blossoming.”
The collective recently ran a successful campaign to raise money for a trip to Israel to further their studies, exceeding their €14000 goal on the Karolina Fund crowdfunding platform. While there isn’t a huge amount of money around to fund dance projects, Selma explains that with that comes a certain sense of freedom.
“People often say art is on the bottom of the budget—and dance is at the bottom of the arts,” she says. “So it doesn’t belong to a capitalistic wheel… so it can do whatever the fuck it wants. It’s a young scene here in Iceland, with a lot of independence. And it’s growing fast.”
The audience for dance is Iceland is also on the rise. “Dance is often linked to high culture, and people don’t feel like they understand it,” says Selma. “But there are so many things happening, in Central Europe, and Sweden. They’re choreographing books, and asking ‘What is choreography?’ And choreography is just organising things in time and space.”
“People are getting more used to it and starting to understand it a bit more,” finishes Yelena. “Today, people are starting to understand that movement and dance aren’t connected to a specific genre like ballet. It’s jumping ahead, as an art form.”