From Iceland — Iceland Dance Company Wins 2020 Subjektprisen Cultural Prize

Iceland Dance Company Wins 2020 Subjektprisen Cultural Prize

Published December 28, 2020

Iceland Dance Company Wins 2020 Subjektprisen Cultural Prize
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Valdimar Jóhannsson

The Iceland Dance Company (IDC) has been awarded the 2020 Subjektprisen, one of the most coveted cultural awards in Norway, for the performance DuEls, which was performed in the Gustav Vigeland Museum. We reached out to IDC art director Erna Ómarsdóttir to learn more.

“It was a big surprise!” she said of the win. “Subjektprisen is a very respected award in Norway and it was already a big honour to have been nominated. To actually win the award was unbelievable and nice to get such warm news at the end of such a strange year.”

Inner & outer struggle

Quite an honour indeed, but what exactly is DuEls?

“It’s a variety of things,” says Erna, who collaborated with long-time choreographic and dance partner Damien Jalet for the piece. Together they put some of their older works, as well as newer pieces, into a new context at the Vigeland Museum and to the setting of the powerful artworks of Gustav Vigeland. “We were asked to make a piece for the Gustav Vigeland Museum. We had been told many times by our Norwegian partners that our work reminded them of the works of Gustav Vigeland. Damien and I have been friends and collaborators for many years and it was nice to put our heads and spirits together again and work on this challenging performance with the amazing dancers of Nagelhus Schia Productions and Iceland Dance Company. Working on older pieces and recycling them in a fresh new way was very rewarding. That’s how life is sometimes; going in circles.”

“It was a blend of old and new, trying to create a dialogue with the sculptures, dealing with the struggle of life,” she adds. “Gustav’s work is very intense and a lot about struggle, both inner and outer. It was a very intense feeling to be in that old museum with the dancers. At first, it felt a bit like we were intruding. Slowly, we got to be friends with each and every sculpture. Somehow it felt like we got to be good friends with the ghosts of the museum. It took a while, but it is a very overwhelming feeling to be in this place.”

Performance in the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has created many challenges for creative endeavours that involve crowds, but fortunately, preparations for the performances were wrapped up in January and February just before restrictions were established.

“DuEls is such an intimate performance and it was a blessing that we managed to perform right before the current limits on performances were put in place,” Erna says. “The piece would be a whole different experience if, for example, a two-meter distance between audience members and the performers was mandatory.”

That said, Erna has her eyes on the future.

“We have a lot of new projects on the horizon, and hopefully we can make them a reality soon. The majority of what we had planned to do this year has been postponed,” she tells us. This includes a piece Erna and Halla Ólafsdóttir had done in Munich 2018, where it was nominated for the Faust award but is now being re-worked for the IDC. “The Iceland Dance Company is a touring company and we have to wait with going abroad. There’s a lot on the schedule, but hopefully, we will be able to travel and perform locally and internationally next year.”

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