Although Mark and I have certainly not been suffering for cultural experiences here in Reykjavík, there are certain inherent limitations to which cultural activities we can participate in without speaking Icelandic. (We’ll leave music out of this conversation for now–a lot of Icelandic musicians sing in English, and even if they don’t, music is on one those forms of artistic expression in which linguistic clarity is frequently not the point.)
Performance-based art is difficult to see and understand in another language, though. Theater is generally out, for instance, and although we’ve actually been to a lot of movies lately–thanks to the recent European Film Festival (different from the Rekjavík International Film Festival) and a whole host of American movies of interest which have made their way to Iceland–foreign/non-English language films generally only have Icelandic subtitles. (The one main exception to this is that Icelandic movies and animated movies generally have two versions playing simultaneously at the theater–one in Icelandic and one in English, or with English subtitles.)
So what about dance performances, you ask? I’m glad that you asked. Because, after seeing ads all around town for the Icelandic Dance Company‘s piece “This is not a metaphor,” we went to see our first Icelandic dance performance at the end of November.
Now, the title “This is not a metaphor,” was compelling enough to me that I didn’t really do any further research on the performance. (Mark did, but I went into the whole thing blind.) It was a delightful, short piece with three dancers accompanied by a pianist on stage (playing a John Cage composition), and the whole thing was surprisingly narrative and very funny.
The “story” centered around two of the dancers–a man and a woman–dressed in simple, street-style clothes in neutral tones who were very seriously practicing a dance piece, only to be frequently interrupted by an enthusiastic girl (herself dressed in vibrant colors–lots of sequins and tulle) who, after watching them in adoration for a short time, keeps trying to insert herself between them. The pair was lithe and sophisticated, the girl was gangly and infantile. Their dance involved a lot of mirrored movements, modernized balletic motion, and body contact, and and the interloper–the literal third wheel–just kept getting in their way and trying to participate where she was clearly not wanted. There was also a legitimately funny bit in which the girl tried to act out a sequence that she watched the other two dancers perform with an inflatable orca whale pool toy.
Here’s a video preview of the piece from the ÍD website, as well as the company’s own description of the piece:
A straightforward and clear exploration of movement, time, space, and performance. A lighter perspective on dance than people are used to seeing, yet sensitive if not always sensual. A revisit to some of the major themes and art movements of the 20th century.