Many faces of contemporary dance on display in Umea
Four days, seven theatrical spaces, twenty four shows. These are the most important numbers of the 4th Spring Forward Dance Festival which took place in the Swedish city of Umeå from 24th to 27th of April 2014.
Let’s start with the first impressions: sunny and warm weather welcome us there, surprise number one. The big, modern and beautiful house of NorrlandsOperan was surprise number two. Until the last day we kept discovering new places in this palace of culture that has a concert hall, a big theatre hall, a black box and a small studio. This house, together with the wide offering of museums and galleries, a high school with a dance, theatre, music and film programme (and a very well equipped theatre!) convinced me that this city really deserved being European Capital City of Culture 2014.
The official selection offered twenty contemporary dance choreographies from many European countries plus other pieces from local production and one “encore“. The selection is always individual and the process is difficult, especially if the selectors did not see most of the works live, just few minutes of it on video.
Many pieces were mesmerizing, intelligent, funny, deep and fascinating, but some of them felt just tiring because of using well-known patterns and concepts. A common topic for these shows was also length and repetition – more than 30 minutes of continuous movement without changes of dynamic, not to mention dramatic structure, is way too much. The themes laid out in these pieces would be certainly well understandable in shorter time. The length of the choreography might have ruined the overall response to it, even if the topic itself and the execution were interesting. But as they say, the exception proves the rule, and Jan Martens’ The Dog Days Are Over – a 70-minute celebration of endurance and repetition – was fascinating and admirable. Another aspect that caught my attention was the frequent use of silence in entire choreographies, a feature which is certainly not a new discovery, but clearly is still a useful tool for creators.
When watching so many shows in a row, the brain of the viewer starts to make a selection on its own. I believe that many performances would be viewed in very different ways if the brain were fresh and ready to perceive all the nuances. On the other hand, it is true that good work will wake you up (credit for this nice definition goes to Donald Hutera). And of course, perception of what is a good work is still very individual.
So what woke me up? Sometimes it was flow of movement and energy, Eléonore Valère Lachky (Whirling), and other kinds of appealing physicality, Tereza Ondrová & Peter Šavel (Boys who like to play with dolls), Csaba Molnár, Viktória Dányi & Tamara Zsófia Vadas (Skin me), with live music on stage, Gala Moody & Michael Carter, and poetic juggler/dancer Clément Dazin. Other times I was captivated by some kind of mystery and tension which was very often depicted not only by the movement and set, but also by the expression of the performers: bewitching Tove Skeidsvoll (NoMoDaCo: Duo), Icelandic quartet Step right to it, Russian Recollective and unsettling Finnish trio Dig my jockey. A hilarious surprise for me was the funny, impressive and emotional Lander Patrick’s duet Cascas d’OvO.