“Icelandic born, Dutch trained, Berlin based experimental dancer and choreographer”
Sadler’s Wells is a world leading contemporary dance house, showcasing the best dance from around the globe. This week Sadler’s Wells presents new work by Icelandic born, Dutch trained, Berlin based experimental dancer and choreographer, Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir. Margrét’s new work, ‘Variations on Closer’ questions what it means to be engaged in the act of watching. The Wonderful World of Dance spoke with Margrét from Germany on the eve of her London premiere.
You’re presenting your work for the first time in London, what can audiences expect with ‘Variations on Closer’?
I would say a challenging, surprising performance where you as an audience are confronted with yourself through the performers’ gaze.
What was the inspiration behind Variations on Closer?
I have always been interested in the relationship between the audience and the performers. Each of the five scenes in the performance Variations on Closer explores what makes you feel close to the person in front of you.
Can you tell us about your career to date and how that has influenced the development of Variations on Closer?
I’m originally from Iceland and studied in Holland, following which I worked as a performer with artists like Jan Fabre and Gisele Vienne, Dennis Cooper, Erna Ómarsdóttir and Jóhann Jóhannsson, Constanza Macras/Dorky Park, Esther Salamon, Jared Gradinger. Paralleled to working with them I developed my own work. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I decided to really shift my emphasis from being a performer to being a choreographer and stepping off stage in my own work.
I then made ‘Soft Target’ (Margrét’s earlier work – you can watch the video here) which made me feel that my work was mature enough for me to be able to fully stand behind it and travel and share it with more audiences.
How do you describe your choreographic language?
I try to work on a specific type of presence with the performers. I like to focus on creating a very strong individual presence and to strip down referential body language; referential dance material – shape, form and symbolic gestures – so that when I use it or I slide it into the choreography it has a clear punch.
I want you to feel that you’re looking at a human being and not at a dancer or the aesthetics of a dancer’s body. But that you somehow feel more then see the person in front of you. I try to keep my artistic propositions as simple and clear cut as possible and to stay fully loyal to the politics that I’m dealing with in each performance.
You have a very intellectual approach to your choreographic and aesthetic vision, which seems to come from both an intellectual and an emotional place…
Yes, in my work I always like to work very clearly and equally with these two levels. So as an audience member you can experience the performance very strongly through your body. It’s like a vibrational experience, a sub-conscious taking-in of the stage and what is being presented and lived with you as an audience. And then there’s another level of each performance where you can dive into the conceptual side of it. So you can jump between the intellectual and the more animalistic physical experience that the performances bring you. And I’m consciously eager about proposing work that offers those two levels of reading simultaneously.
Variations on Closer explores different levels of closeness between individuals and observers, do you have a specific message you’re trying to convey through this piece?
It depends who is watching; I wanted to experience what makes you empathetic and what opens you up as an audience, and what makes you feel alienated and intimidated. I just wanted to play with those flavours and dive into that with this piece.
Given the experimental nature of your work, how do you define or categorise your work, does it fit into a genre?
I like to be a part of the dance genre because after all I see my work as being dance. Dance is my background and I choose to work with experienced dancers to develop my work. Regardless, people from all different disciplines can really relate to what I do, be it called dance or something else, and this is great as I think since my work is in many ways experimental and still its seems to be communicative to different types of people from different professions.
You must be very excited about performing Variations on Closer at Sadler’s Wells?
I think it’s just wonderful that they are interested in presenting my work which in fact means that they’re interested in progressive dance works and think that their audience is as well. And that’s always something to celebrate.
And finally, as a dancer and choreographer, what advice do you have for aspiring dancers and/or choreographers?
Stick to your own vision and try to develop your own vision; and continue to ask Why am I doing this? How do I do it? What would I like to achieve? Why is that important to me? And how could that be important for others as well?
Now if that hasn’t intrigued you to discover and experience Variations on Closer, then I’m not sure what will! Book your ticket for an unforgettable, intellectual and thoroughly unique night of experimental dance.
More about Variations on Closer
In Variations on Closer, the audience comes face to face with three charismatic female performers. They explore different levels of physical closeness between themselves and their observers. Audiences are offered a chance to reassess what it feels like to be observed, breaking traditional theatrical conventions. The performance is accompanied by a soundtrack from experimental electronic music pioneer, Peter Rehberg (known as PITA). This performance is part of Sadler’s Wells Northern Light season.
For more information about Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir visit: www.msgudjonsdottir.com
by Savannah Saunders