Jo Strømgren Kompani (Norway)
Saturday, September 12
60 min.DescriptionAbout the ArtistInterview
“The outsider look has always been linked to art—and who are more outsiders than dissidents?” Jo Stømgren, choreographer of There
“Strømgren elevates everyday behavior into the realms of the bizarre and the extreme.” Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice
The groundbreaking company’s most popular show features former Soviet Union dissidents stranded on a journey between East and West. In an interzonal holding area with wooden shipping crates—perhaps a warehouse, perhaps the hull of a ship—they wrestle, they dance, they sing, they yearn for what they’ve lost. By turns Vaudevillian, poetic, and balletic, There is a work of dance–theater about choosing the unknown or going back to what you came from.
In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, these dissidents are haunted by the music of their past, a link to their former culture and citizenship, which they by turns rejoice and fight against. They have no music for the future. Existential doubt becomes a heartbreaking reality, and wild mood swings rule the atmosphere of human insecurity, creating wonderfully absurd scenarios matched by the wistful longings of a new home.
There is performed in an invented “Sovietic” language, the company’s trademark nonsensensical dialogue that sounds like a real language but isn’t.
3 by Strømgren at the 2015 Fringe Festival: Special retrospective of the Jo Strømgren Kompani features The Border, There, and the all-new A Doll’s House. Catch this unique opportunity to see the breadth of work from Scandinavia’s most innovative performing arts company.
Support for There is provided by The Norwegian Arts Council and the Norwegian Consulate General.
Festival Star Producers Alan and Nancy Hirsig
About Jo Strømgren Kompani
Jo Strømgren Kompani, founded in 1998, has become one of the best known independent groups in Scandinavia, with 100–200 performances in 10–20 countries annually. Strømgren’s style is characterized by a peculiar mix of dance and theater, with puppet theater, film, and live music often added. He also has a career as a freelance choreographer, theater director, and playwright. The Border is a collaboration between Jo Strømgren Kompani and one of the northernmost theaters in the world, Hålogaland Teater in Tromsø, Norway.
Past Festival shows The Society, The European Lesson, The Convent.
Photos: Knut Bry
Interview with Jo Strømgren
Jo Stømgren: The idea was there already in the early nineties, in the aftermath of the Soviet Union dissolvement. However, the theme, and especially the music used, required some quarantine time before being on stage. For non-Soviets, the music has no luggage, apart from sounding “Eastern European,” but for those who are linked to the music by culture and citizenship it is not exactly easy listening. Think Stalin and the death of millions, World War II, propaganda, such things. But in 2000 I felt the time was due.
FringeArts: Can you describe your approach to building the performance?
Jo Stømgren: Details and info and development of characters and such are portioned out bit by bit. It’s a classic thing I think, to unreveal scarcely but at the right times. The show is also a hybrid of styles and methods. Dance or theater? Epic or abstract? Political or slapstick? On some occasions I have thought, Could There be described as a Beckett Musical? Two forms that have never and never will cross paths—I hope.
FringeArts: What is it about the dissident world that interests you?
Jo Stømgren: The outsider look has always been linked to art and who are more outsiders than dissidents? As a European I’m particularily interested in the relocation of people; our history is more messy than what especially Americans think. And there are still dictators here, still genocides going on, still political refugees, still a hilariously lot of circumstances that does not rhyme with the image we like to create. I was recently in Liechtenstein, a feudal principality in the middle of Europe where it’s the Prince’s way or the highway. The list of European peculiarities is long.
FringeArts: When you see There performed today, what are your impressions?
Jo Stømgren: It is always a privilege to see a work restaged. Not being just a memory or a video, but actually testing if it withstands the ravages of time. I see now that it is a show based on some simple principles and intentions. Which is, for any artist I suppose, easy to forget when a career develops or takes off. We all tend to become more complex over the years. But simple is good. Less is more and so on.