Choreographers Katrín Gunnarsdóttir and Melkorka Magnúsdóttir from Samsteypan Collective, a dance company based in Reykjavík Iceland, are premiering a new dance piece called Coming Up tonight March 22nd in Tjarnarbíó theatre. Team Snoop–Around saw their piece ÚPS! last year, and were so impressed that we surely didn’t want to miss out on this one. We dropped by Tjarnarbíó and met with professional dancers and choreographers Katrín and Melkorka.
So, what can you tell me about your dance company, Samsteypan Collective?
Melkorka: Many independent dance groups often produce various projects; as does our company that shares each and everyone’s member’s interests. So Samsteypan is exactly that.
Katrín and me had been thinking about this idea for this piece for a long time, or for roughly three years, and now we had the change to add this project in to our year schedule, with support from our dance group Samsteypan Collective.
What can you tell me about the piece, Coming Up?
Melkorka: It’s a dance piece where the search for the climax is always present. We wanted to explore how a piece can build up, without going all the way, sometimes the situation is that we are working with two climaxes at the same time that always has the same fate, it fades out without success.
The concept, beginning, middle and the end, what are your thoughts about that?
Melkorka: This is something that we learn in choreography 101, you learn about the importance of having a build up in a piece, sometimes its said that if the beginning and the end is good, it’s OK that the middle is mediocre. Of course there are very strong stereotypical ideas around on how one should build up a piece. Clichés are clichés because they work.
That is the reason why, its maybe kind of dangerous and also very exciting to create a dance piece that is not like that at all. To try to go out of this box, and create something new and unpredictable. I think this Anti- climax is very interesting in a way; this deconstruction has been so intriguing for us to take on.
What can you tell me about the set design?
Melkorka: We wanted to have the stage fairly simple, we have one little grass spot on the stage with a lot of instruments, a synthesiser, and a computer so we are also creating the sound world in the piece ourselves. We started out to have elements with us on stage in the practising period, a pot plant, a lamp and other small elements. We wanted to frame the piece with this white dance floor, to separate us from the audience, to make this world within the theatre.
Are you both very musically involved?
Melkorka: I started out by bringing my keyboard, and then we wanted to add voices and other musical elements to the piece. This sound world is not written especially for the piece like we have been doing in the past, but we use sound examples from Edward Grieg mixed with synthesizers sounds. We are also working with the anti- climax in this piece as well, because classical music is all about fiddles and the highest points (the climax) but the techno music is not. The techno, in a historical sense, was about repetition and speed, sometimes working with just one tone.
Photograph: Bart Grietens
You have a lot of instructions on the floor, lines and arrows…
Melkorka: Yes, this is our internal instructive map and play with the memories on what spots are the most important in the piece. We started out by objectifying the climax and walked around the stage, discussing where we should place it. We have also played on this idea about the climax in a historical context.
If we would talk about ballet for example, the climax itself is very literal; everything evolves around lifting your partner and getting as high in the air as possible. In modern and contemporary dance, then it can be exactly the other way around, by the power of repetition. On the other hand, in modern dance the endurance pieces were made in its time as well, with no climaxes
I am curious, do you work with a director?
Melkorka: No, we decided to direct ourselves this time around. Samsteypan Collective has worked a lot with the director Víkingur Kristjánsson for the last two pieces we produced and that was fantastic.
Katrín and me worked on an intimate level for this piece, where we dug up our original idea and we wanted to focus on the dynamic between us two in the piece in a stripped down way.
Photograph: Bart Grietens
Have you worked on a piece together before?
Katrín: We are both independent professional dancers, and we have worked together several times with bigger groups but never as a duo. Now we finally both had time to make it happen and we are very happy about that.
There are pros and cons that come with working independent, it is a great experience to work in a theatre that we have freedom to operate as we please. But the downside is that in bigger theatres you have more people and production departments, make up, costumes and all kinds of support. When you are independent, you are creating and producing everything on our own. But of course we have great people behind us.
Melkorka: Independent dance companies have been seeking unconventional spaces like empty factories and such but that is also very expensive to import a sound system, lighting and all that we need for a dance piece production. That is expensive and troublesome in many ways. So we wanted to create a piece here again in Tjarnarbíó theatre, in a classic black box, with the strategy of challenging the theatre format, within the theatre itself.
What is the most exciting factor in this piece, if you could phrase that in one sentence?
Melkorka: This mountain climbing towards the climax, and the fate of the situation always continuously falling down.
Katrín: This examination of this human interaction, and this disfunctional communication, that is the most exciting part.
Photograph: Bart Grietens
Coming Up is premiered March 22nd 2013 and will be shown on March 23rd, March 26th March and March 28th at 21:00. We would like to point out that there will be only these four performances, so please check out tickets on midi.is here
Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photographs: Ása Baldursdóttir