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The Iceland Dance Company, IDC, opens the Kennedy Center’s Nordic Cool 2013 (@ Kennedy Center, February 27 – March 16 ) with a mixed repertoire that covers the range of human emotion including love, loss, love lost!, and the individual. Acclaimed as a contemporary dance company on a world-class scale, IDC is gaining recognition for its unique contemporary repertoire and its emerging Icelandic choreographers whose progressive movements explore what feels like almost existential themes. The company debuted Norwegian choreographer Jo Strömgren’s Großstadtsafari (“Big City Safari”), Frank Fannar Pederson’s Til, and Artistic Director Lára Stefánsdóttir’s The Swan.

Duo  Íslenski dansflokkurinn

Hannes Þór Egilsson and Emilía Benedikta Guðmundsdóttir in the Swan; Photos by Golli

TIL

Ásgeir Helgi Magnússon and Unnur Elísabet Gunnarsdóttir in Til; Photos by Golli

The performance opened with Frank Fannar Pederson’s Til, a poignant duet between Icelandic dancers Unnur Elísabet Gunnarsdóttir and Ásgeir Helgi Magnússon. The piece depicts, “A woman who has love and lost. A woman stuck on the border of fantasy and reality.” The set accentuates the in-between state of this transient individual, with the two dancers set apart by a translucent screen that acts almost like a third character. Man and woman separated by merely space and their ephemeral nature. Mens workshirts hang abstractly, suspended like a sculpture, possibly hinting at what is lost through what is known. Both Gunnarsdóttir and Magnússon’s movements are fluid, and play on classic Tharp elements with sharp, side-by-side moves, with stretching, kicking, and swinging legs, especially when partnered together their movements become more effortless and strong. Music by Philip Glass continues to play on Thwarp’s contemporary ballet In the Upper Room.

Lára Stefánsdóttir’s The Swan was the evening’s anticipated work with performances from Hannes Þór Egilsson and  Ellen Margrét Bæhrenz. A much darker performance, the Swan has an almost animalistic quality that evokes both nature, infancy, and the Other. Stefánsdóttir distorts classical ballet themes to convey a macabe or, “fairytale world about a man hiding behind [his] memories, fading memories that appear in his mind like shadows and lights.” A strange sadness defined Bæhrenz’s portrayal of the swan adorned in dust and a tattered tutu (more Black Swan than Swan Lake). Her erratic movements transformed Swedish sound artist B.J. Nilsen’s experimental music into a rhythmic accompaniment to the enchanting and, remarkably, acrobatic pas de deux with the thinly clad Egilsson. A glimpse of Ego? Or nether world? Or just Egilsson’s crazy fantasia? Either way both had remarkable chemistry and left the audience entranced to Prokiev’s Romeo and Juliet, a little snowfall, and this particular balcony scene’s satirical, strange charm. The piece ends where it begins with Egilsson resting inside of a clear, acrylic half-sphere (once again) suspended from his fading memories and fleeting dreams.

Grossstadsafari

Ásgeir Helgi Magnússon and Emilía Benedikta Guðmundsdóttir in Großstadtsafari; Photos by Golli

Norwegian choreographer Jo Strömgren’s Großstadtsafari (“Big City Safari”) was the final performance of the night. The piece was quite physical and demonstrated the company’s contemporary range, however, it was the least coherent piece of the bunch. Strömgren’s work intended to reflect on the accumulation of tension in crowded places and the drawback of urban lifestyle, but felt more campy than chaotic with the leather costumes and smoking set designs. Maybe there’s something supremely Scandinavian that’s driving this more black metal storyline.

The Iceland Dance Company, the Reykjavik-based company, successfully presented three contemporary works that piqued an interest in Scandinavian dance and hopefully will encourage more frequent North American tours. With a repertoire of over forty works by many of Europe’s leading contemporary choreographers including Jirí Kylián, Richard Wherlock, Itzik Galili, Stijn Celis, Alan Lucien Øyen, and others, the company tours internationally, primarily throughout Europe, but also to North America and Asia.Nordic Cool 2013’s dance engagements are supported by the Nordic Culture Fund.

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Don’t miss the upcoming performance from the Norwegian National Company of Contemporary Dance, Carte Blanche brings Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar’s Corps de Walk, a work about a static condition of unique moments and tiny, subtle changes in body posture. Mar. 6 – 7, 2013; Terrace Theater; $29.00.

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