Iceland’s glaciers are a rich source of symbolism. We observe these majestic ice caps melt and recede as a stark reminder of the climate crisis. At the same time, they are some of the last areas of land largely untouched by human encroachment, representing a truly wild Iceland. And the glaciers can also act as a broader metaphor for our existence, their cracks and crevasses reminding us of the risks of being human.
‘Hvíla Sprungur’ is a new performance by the Iceland Dance Company that opens tonight at Reykjavík’s Borgarleikhúsið. The title translates as ‘Rest Cracks’, but its given English title of ‘Crevasses’ points more accurately to the focus of choreographer Inga Maren Rúnarsdóttir’s work. The set, designed by Júlíanna Lára Steingrímsdottir, and the dancers’ costumes comprise photos by celebrated Icelandic wilderness photographer RAX, (Ragnar Axelsson).
Two of the four performers—Ásgeir Helgi Magnússon and Emilía Benedikta Gísladóttir—shared their thoughts and experiences just before the premiere performance.
“It’s amazing to work with Inga Maren,” says Ásgeir, when asked how the show was developing. “It’s so good to have somebody orchestrating who really knows what they want, but is open to suggestions.”
“It’s been a really fun process,” Emilía says, “and so nice to be able to come to work during this strange COVID time. So it’s been a blessing to gather here, create something beautiful and have fun.”
Mind the gap
In this work, Inga Maren dives within herself to look at her personal weak points—her cracks and crevasses—and asks: what are the breaches in her own personal glacier into which she falls? And considering wider society, as it traverses the metaphorical glacier: how do we travel together in a way that enables us to pull each other up when we inevitably tumble? And how do we avoid falling in the first place? These questions take on physical expression in ‘Hvíla Sprungur’.
The dancers have also been making personal connections with the core ideas of the piece, as Emilía explains: “Every single one of us has been trying to dig into our own past a little bit and find our own stories, so we’ve been going through that as well. Sometimes the snow goes over the crevasse, so you don’t see it. And also with ourselves, maybe we have a problem that we don’t really show. But it’s there.”
Ásgeir sees the timing of this project as particularly significant. “I think that COVID has become, for many people, a bit of a revelation that they are stuck in a crevasse of some sort. You’re forced to face your personal things because you can’t really go on with life as usual.”
The set is based on glacial imagery from photographer RAX. The scenery is the same design as the dancers’ costumes, which allows the performers to hide on stage.
“I think that comes from Inga’s own childhood, and the memories that she was working with,” Ásgeir explains. “A need for self-protection. How can you blend into the background? Like the ptarmigan in the winter, turning white to blend in with the snow.”
The icy stage set is powerfully striking. “Sometimes when we have the glacier around us, we feel really cold suddenly,” Emilía observes. “And often the people who are watching also feel cold!”
Old collaborators, new collaboration
The project is an opportunity for old friends Ásgeir and Emilía to work together again, for the first time in years, and to work with new friends.
“It’s great for us, the old ones, to be with the young ones,” Emilía laughs, referring to fellow dancers Erna Gunnarsdóttir and Sigurður Andrean Sigurgeirsson. “They keep us on our toes!”
The music for ‘Hvíla Sprungur’ is an evolving piece based on the composition ‘Quadrantes’ by Óttar Sæmundsen and Stephan Stephensen, a former member of Gusgus. In fact, the project is also a four-way reunion for Inga, Stephan, Ásgeir and Emilía, who all worked together on the project ‘Journey’, a collaboration between Gusgus and the Iceland Dance Company back in 2015.
Emilía and Ásgeir are excited to bring ‘Hvíla Sprungur’ to the stage. “This piece is going to be very audience friendly. It’s really dancey, and it has beautiful music,” says Emilía.
So come and experience ‘Hvíla Sprungur’. Just bring a decent coat and some mittens.
Performances are at Borgarleikhúsið on February 4th, 10th and 18th at 20:00. Tickets cost 4,450 ISK and are available from tix.is.
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