Arvio: (play)

Ann Enström – Västerbottens-Kuriren – 20111205

Wild play in exquisite dance work

It says in the programme that Kenneth Kvarnström’s dance work (play) compositionally resembles a chamber play. There, chamber play is a generic term used originally for the simple and intimate drama. Not the least by August Strindberg. Since then this generic term has also been transferred to other art forms such as, in this case, the dance.

At the same time, it should be pointed out that in the field of theatre, the generic term chamber play was taken from a generic term in the field of music: chamber music. Chamber music for its part was intended to be performed by a small number of solo instruments or solo voices and thus can be considered as a type of antithesis to orchestral music.

In (play), Kvarnström combines the chamber play with chamber music and introduces everything with the chamber’s opposite, an act of orchestral music, which of course creates a cathartic effect as a setting.

From Marcus Fjellström’s melancholic decline in Degenerator to Mats Larsson Gothe’s fateful outburst in Symphony no 2, so intensively conducted by Shi-Yeon Sung, Kvarnström with the help of the orchestral music’s more grandiose opportunities for expression purifies the audience before the more intimate chamber play between music and dance begins in act 2.

The scenographer and lighting designers, Jens Sethzman, creates a chamber for the dancers and musicians, where both parties can feel at home. The half-height backdrop has the same white colour and structure as the walls in the Tonsalen. In contrast, the floor surface consists of a classical dance mat. In other words, a meeting of two worlds.

Kvarnström’s (play) consists of 10 scenes accompanied by music by an equal number of composers: Castaldi, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, de Visée, Vivaldi, Glass, Kapsberger, de Lassus and Shostakovich. It starts with warm up scenes in jogging clothes to music by Castaldi and Mozart. After which one of the dancers takes the microphone and talks a while about the musical pieces played, the rehearsal process and what is going to come later; an element of commentary in the performance that recurs at regular intervals.

The aspect that fascinates above all is the meeting of opposites in the dance. There are elements of Japanese samurai culture, with blows and kicks, of the French court culture’s dance games, and then there are the Brechtian elements where the dance is suddenly interrupted in full flow by an alienating stamp, or similar, before the flow is picked up once again. Because in (play), Kvarnström plays wildly. At the same time, it is clear that the ten scenes are assembled epically in relation to each other to provide commentary and illumination with the help of clear contrasts. This is also reinforced by the fact the Kvarnström has let three different costume designers, independently of each other, Martin Bergström, Helena Hörstedt and Erika Turunen, contribute costumes for the dance work.

I was struck by the fact that the only scene not fragmented by alienating elements in the dance is the one accompanied by Philip Glass’ String Quartet no 5, where it is the music itself that stands for the fragmentation. A scene that starts with a dancer talking about the large cloth pockets that are part of the costume, which is designed by Turunen, as well as the rather more facetious movements that did not make it into the choreography.

The play with contrasts that appear between word, costume, dance and music is at its most clear in this particular scene.

Kvarnström always offers surprises. It is difficult to know in advance what to expect in purely scenic terms. On the other hand, what can always be expected is an aesthetic experience, well thought-out down to the smallest details. (play) is an exquisite dance work with a number of rude elements for the already purified.

(Translation: Multiprint Oy / Multidoc)