From Iceland — We Are Never Ready

We Are Never Ready

We Are Never Ready

Published October 13, 2010

We caught up with Erna Ómarsdóttir, Gabríela Friðrikdóttir and Damien Jalet as they were rehearsing their new piece ‘Transaquania – Into Thin Air’ and asked them all about it.

“Normally we are never ready,” a flushed Erna Ómarsdóttir tells me when I ask how the preparations are coming along. “We never look at the premiere as something finished or perfect. It’s a goal, but it would be boring to have everything ready. Often it is when you are confronted with the audience that the performance reveals itself, and from there the piece will continue to grow and develop. Of course we have to be sensible—so in this case everything will be pretty much in place, but you have to leave room for the piece to grow. You hope that you have put it together in such a way that something beautiful can happen – and a sort of magic can take place.”

“I agree with Erna,” Damien Jalet chimes in, “even after a hundred shows the work will still be growing. It’s always a great step to see that a piece suddenly works for itself. You start to understand its needs, and start to see the bigger picture of all the scenes getting together. It’s like seeing the picture of an unknown puzzle appearing clearer and clearer. We have something to show you for sure…”

What is Transaquania – Into Thin Air about?
Erna: It started with a performance in the Blue Lagoon last year, where we wanted to create our own mythology of the Blue Lagoon about these creatures we call Transaquanian. Now it is as if the Lagoon has dried up and these creatures that lived there are venturing onto dry land. 

Damien: Yes I think after our project in the Blue Lagoon—where we experienced what it was to dance in water; how breathing becomes a struggle, and where your body floats—we really took oxygen and gravity as central themes. And it is still a story of mutation and of evolution—looking at how human nature finds its roots in the animal and vegetal world, and how we are a part of something much bigger than culture or civilization.

Gabríela Friðriksdóttir: I feel also that creating a certain universe gives you so much space for surprises—it allows things to grow inside it. Even by just finding a space and giving the first creatures a name, like Transaquanians, it starts to evolve by itself. This story or fiction of an evolution becomes our way of thinking, it becomes our daily lives and that’s how it starts to grow naturally. It mutates and it is reborn and it dies—and it’s sucked into a black hole and spat out again.

What have been your main influences and sources of inspiration?
Damien: Gabríela, Erna and I have some common gods: Jan Svankmajer, David Attenborough, Tarkovski… we also had a few images of certain things including a population residing on an island in Japan that live permanently with gas masks, because of the possible gas eruptions from a volcano they are living on, the recent discovery of an animal that doesn’t need oxygen to live, cosmonauts in zero gravity and the opening scene of 2001 Space Odyssey…

Gabriela: Also the Sun, the Moon and all the other planets. As well as the elements: earth, fire, water, air and space. Transaquania has been created by three of you in collaboration, can you tell us a little about how you work together? Damien: It’s very intuitive and I think the three of us really rely strongly on intuition whether we work together or not. What is really inspiring for Erna and I is seeing what Gabríela creates— the costumes and sculptures—because they become a departure point for us to create movement, or a scene, or a new species. Sometimes Gabríela has an idea of a costume and we realise afterwards that it fits perfectly into a scene we started to work on. So we never talk too much.

Erna: Often Damien and I do not even need to speak and we are working like kindred spirits. Then on other occasions it can be difficult and Damien and I fight like cat and dogs. But that’s why we do it—it is a total collaboration. Obviously Damien and I have focused more on the choreography and Gabríela on the costumes, but the process is very close.

Gabríela: I think all three of us just love to work. There is this satisfaction in the process that is so generous and inspiring. We always try to be completely open to changes and possibilities whilst working on a piece, and the life with all its elements joins into this collaboration also—adding to it humour, pain and joy.

Now we’re working with the dancers from the Iceland Dance Company and they add their personalities, with their humour, pain and joy as well.


Transaquania premiered in Borgaleikhúsið yesterday—with further shows planned tonight, and then every Sunday until the end of November.

Transaquania – Into Thin Air and Teach us to Outgrow Our Madness are both being performed as part of Keðja—a huge, one off dance convention taking place this weekend in Reykjavík. For further details about Keðja and other events taking place check out

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