From Iceland — Weird. Neat. But, Weird

Weird. Neat. But, Weird

Published February 12, 2015

‘TAUGAR’, a review of the Icelandic Dance Company’s new work

Weird. Neat. But, Weird

‘TAUGAR’, a review of the Icelandic Dance Company’s new work

This past Friday I attended the premiere of the Icelandic Dance Company’s ‘TAUGAR’ a two part performance with works by Saga Sigurðardóttir and Karol Tyminski. I had recently interviewed Karol and I was really looking forward to seeing his piece as well as Saga’s piece, which I knew less about. I was expecting a pleasant two hours of dance with some contemporary choreography.

I was not prepared.

Let me clarify: I have a background in dance. I studied Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham in dance history. I learned Paul Taylor technique at the company’s intensive programme. Non-traditional and “weird” choreography rarely shocks me. But I must say, when my friend leaned over during the performance to say “this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” I was inclined to agree. Perhaps in a loft performance space in the Village, these works would feel less alien, but watching them in a large theatre, Borgarleikhúsið, surrounded by dressed up, middle-aged, regular theatre-goers… was a trip.

‘Blýkufl’ by Saga Sigurðardóttir

‘Blýkufl’ (“Cloak”) was bizarre. The music had no counts and the choreography was pointedly unconcerned with technique. However, the most interesting thing about this piece was not what was happening on stage, but instead the effect it had on the audience. I would estimate eighty percent of the room maintained a serious, even pensive, expression throughout the performance (though I am sure at least half of them were faking it). The others laughed; not the grin-and-quiet-chuckle reaction one has before responding with “lol” to a cat picture online, but uncontrollable and unstoppable laughter.

This, no doubt, perturbed the aforementioned dance aficionados, but I thought it was the perfect response. If all contemporary art has one overarching theme it’s a desire to provoke a reaction. Whether they thought the movement was actually funny, or it was more like accidently laughing when your colleague tells you their uncle died, ‘Blýkufl’ engaged the audience in one way or another.

All this being said, it was still very strange choreography that needs some context. For those who would like to appear engaged in the show, but don’t know enough about dance, let’s play a game:

I spy, with my little eye, movement in ‘Blýkufl’ that looks like:

  • Kids playing in a basketball game
  • Being violently ill
  • Having your mouth washed out with soap
  • Spastic seizures
  • R-R-R-Remix!
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • A dog drying itself off
  • Crying and grief
  • Seaweed swaying on the ocean floor
  • Someone dreaming about being a drag queen
  • A class for pageant performers
  • Swimming
  • Drunk English people at a nightclub
  • Toddlers playing
  • Shhh…stop that
  • The I-have-to-pee dance
  • A keg stand
  • Gymnastics

‘Liminal’ by Karol Tyminski

‘Liminal’ was neat. That is really the best way to describe it. It was all about discovering how a body or object can move or be moved. Much of it was a lot like seeing a small child or pet with their head stuck between the rungs on the stairs and wondering how they got there. The dancers would attempt to bend their arms the wrong way or jump up and down on a table, to discover the limits of the physical object. As an audience member you are constantly worried that the dancers are actually going to seriously hurt themselves, but in that way it very similar to watching a toddler discover their world.

After the performance ended, my friend said she was surprised with how “aggressive” the piece was. In my interview with Karol, he kept returning to this idea of brutality—I found I did not fully understand his meaning until I saw the piece. He showed me that if he destroyed his coffee cup it would be a brutal act, but that he could learn something about the physical object by breaking it. This made sense to me at the time: I saw it in the same light as pulling apart old electronics to see how they work. In the performance the dancers throw, push and shove themselves, objects, and other dancers around the stage and at each other. The violence of the piece would have been disturbing if not for the clear look of curiosity on the dancers’ faces. Just like small children, they were re-discovering the physical world on stage before us. As I said at the start, it was just neat.

It was neat until the end when it got very strange. I encourage people to go see the piece so I won’t divulge too much, but I will say that a deer in his tighty-whiteys addresses the audience with the voice of a young girl. Weird, very weird.

I’m confused, should I go or not?

This review may come across as somewhat critical, but I would certainly recommend this show for anyone who does not know how many fouettés Odile does in the third act of Swan Lake for four reasons:

  1. Whatever you think of the choreography, this show is not boring. You could just as easily love or hate what is happening on stage, but both pieces incite such a visceral reaction that you will be on the edge of your seat either way.
  2. You do not need to be a dance expert to get it. In fact, coming in with absolutely no prior knowledge of dance might be to your advantage. The pieces in TAUGAR do not follow any established technique, which makes the movement more similar to actions in everyday life than dance.
  3. This is probably the future of dance. If you missed out on the waves of contractions and loving the floor, this is a good time to get involved in the dance world. We are likely to see a trend of choreographers moving away from technique and towards more ‘pure’ movement, so now is a good time to begin attending performances because it is new to everyone.
  4. If you do know how many fouettés Odile does, TAUGAR probably will not look like dance to you at all, and you are likely to leave the theatre disappointed.

OK, I’ll go. But what do I wear?

The audience was a pretty even distribution of people aged 25-60, and—especially at the premiere—these were probably mostly friends of company members and arts benefactors that hold season passes to the theatre. So, as long as you leave the kids at home, you are unlikely to feel out of place. As for wardrobe, think business casual. Both eveningwear and t-shirts are inappropriate, but a simple dress or jeans and a jacket will do just fine.

Showings: Thursdays February 12 & 26 and Sundays February 15 & 22. All performances begin at 20:00

Admission: 4,500 ISK. Tickets can be purchased here.

Location: Borgarleikhúsið, New Stage B, Listabraut 3, 103 Reykjavík

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