Liv Strand on Drömmen om Svansjön

“The Dream about Swan Lake” is a combination of the classic ballet Swan Lake and a new story added by Pär Isberg about an competitive audition to have a leading role in the drama.

Ballet is an specific version of dance that have less to do with music than with a regulated manner to move the body. Movements are accomplished in a maximum of stretching, jumping or bending. Professional dancers have trained for years, a friend told that you have to adjust and “open” the hips of a ballet dancer before reaching the age of 15, to be able to provide the needed flexibility of the legs, with them autonomous in relation to the torso. Imagine persons with extremely developed thighs because there are a lot of high jumps in this tradition of dance. If you are a man you jump by your own momentum, if you are a woman a man will most often support your elevations but you are supposed to dance and spin a lot on the tip of your toes with straighten ankles. By elitist force the dancers always strive upwards, as if connected to the ceiling in a string. Up on the toes to become even higher and seemingly lighter. Ballet is a coalition of muscle power and weightlessness. Always an indifferent or smiling face no matter what exhaustion a moving body could harbour.

It is the music that organize and carry the emotions in the piece. It is played live by an orchestra and out of their instruments the intensity of the emotions is respectively strengthen, hasten or lowered. There are moments when the sound of many soft shoes tapping the floor is mixed in with the music and that gives away facts about the energy employed. The floor is pulsating, heavier and louder when men jump, softer when women run-dance around as whirling snow flakes. It is like the orchestra performing the music is the heart of the whole “body” of the piece. The music makes the blood run through the veins of the scattered limbs of the dance company-body, and of the theatre carcass.

What it’s all about is quite abstract, there seems to be a law of nature in that a singled out man, getting in focus, must form a couple with the singled out most important woman. The importance of the hierarchy of getting singled out as THE ONE is duplicated in the story about the dancers in the dance company competing to get the leading roles. Being the one amongst the many is on stage showed by several different methods: by having an even brighter coloured (or far darker) dress than the others or always being central as the one all others turn their frontal bodies to, and by that their attention and willingness to be in communication. There are many triangles, with the tip up and the base towards the floor. In jumps, in duo lifting in approaching and leaving. There is numerous versions of partner dance. It is utilized both as test-runs for possible couples (lovers/dancers) and battling other (arbitrary) issues. Think of how it is when being close, touching, the intimacy that body contact include and the sensation of flesh and strength (or lack thereof) and the possible force by which to push, caress or hit. Body contact as a play and a way to share rhythm and pulse, testing the attention of the other. One experience is just lifting an object together with someone else: do you have a collaboration or are you out of contact. Perhaps these qualities of the twosome is at play in the dance piece. Reason remains in disguise.

Repeating passages of music imply that something might be under consideration or in revelation. The exertion amongst the singled out individuals, pairs and even in the flock dances call for our attention to what that happens, but for my attention imploding along the piece, the major benefit is the orchestra. I whish I had been sitting on row 2 so I could have looked down at them, and also have had been able to orient them spatially. In stead of being caught in the clattering applauses (too often).

Writing about the space makes me remembering one more thing that caught my eyes: the shifts of the stage room. How it could change size and even the level of the horizon as the dancers were simultaneously doing their motions. It was a formal pleasure that might sound scary if you would be visually impaired, as if the wall that a second ago reflected sound would suddenly be gone. It was a liberation of rules, freedom as a science fiction.

Liv Strand