Dance Matters: Chill Out

February 27, 2013

Nordic dance groups in DC and NYC



Carte Blanche in
Corps de Walk, by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar. Photo by Erik Berg, Courtesy Kennedy Center.



Think Scandinavian; think design—the style is instantly recognizable. However, Scandinavian contemporary dance is still, for many, an intriguing unknown, although it bears similar hallmarks: bold, smart, and innovative. Beginning Feb. 27, the Ice Hot Nordic Dance Platform at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts shines some light on five such companies, as part of the multidisciplinary Nordic Cool Festival. Three of the troupes will also perform at the Joyce Theater in New York City this month. Hailing from Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, these five companies are stylistically distinctive.


Tero Saarinen, who came to prominence in 2004 with Borrowed Light, is noted for his integration of design, music, and choreography. His work with lighting designer Mikki Kunttu creates moments of visual genius. His company will perform mixed bills in Washington, DC, and New York, including HUNT, his iconic solo to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, danced amid Kunttu’s explosions of patterned light.


Tim Rushton’s Danish Dance Theatre will also dance in both cities. Rushton says, “My strength is to pull out the personality of a dancer, finding something unique.” Love Songs, a celebration of jazz music and dance set to standards sung by Danish vocalist Caroline Henderson, is brimming with humanity: a lively display of dancers as people and people as dancers.


Iceland has one of the oldest cultures in Europe, but geologically the land is still being born. This turbulent environment has bred a nation that must innovate to survive. Director Lára Stefánsdóttir sees this as the defining force of the Iceland Dance Company. Their program includes her erotic duet, The Swan; Frank Fannar Pedersen’s Til; and Großstadtsafari by Jo Strömgren.


GöteborgsOperans Danskompani (formerly The Göteborg Ballet) is now the largest Nordic contemporary dance troupe at 40 members. It has built a repertoire of high-quality innovative programming by the region’s most in-demand choreographers. At the Kennedy Center, the Swedish company will perform Kenneth Kvarnström’s take on Ravel’s Boléro, Stijn Celis’ intricate Your Passion is Pure Joy to Me, and Örjan Andersson’s uncharacteristic foray into romanticism, Beethoven’s 32 Variations.


Carte Blanche is on the front line of Norway’s contemporary dance scene, touring extensively (it will run at the Kennedy Center and the Joyce) and attracting top choreographers. In the critically acclaimed Corps de Walk by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, the dancers’ individuality is negated by flesh-colored suits, white hair, and white contact lenses, a piece exploring group dynamics framed by extraordinary lighting.