A dance made for the Skagastrond Country Line Dance Club, Hofarnir, choreographed by Anna Marie Shogren. Performed here to Bill Callahan at the Nes Artist Residency Studios in late April 2010. And performed at the Icelandic Line Dancing Competition in Reykjavik on May 1, 2010 to "Irish Spirit" from Dave King's Celtic Rock. The 3rd place winner.
While in Skagastrond, Iceland, a failing fishing village of 500, at the Nes Artist Residency, after interloping with the town’s line dance club, Hofarnir, I was asked to choreograph and perform in a dance for the Icelandic Line Dance Competition soon to be held in Reykjavik.
As a dance based artist, I was already interested in this cool and complicated, walking-based folk form, and I was, obviously, enthusiastic for my art career to benefit from any cultural exchange, as is often much of the point of an international residency. After a year of big city, pretentious, artist types invading the calm and magical town of Skagastrond, and after politely pushing my way into the Hofarnir group, I understood that I was being charged with this request. I was expected to deliver the team a gold medal and an invitation to the next round of competition in far away Glasgow, and/or at the very least be a shiny and fabulous New York choreographer awed by their diamond-in-the-rough-ness. Feeling nauseated about the general idea of competition, though grateful to be included, and empathetically pissed off by my own presence in the club as well, I agreed to do my very best in delivering upon both presumptions.
Three months of rehearsals and social events passed, including peaks of high drama between Linda Bjork AEvarsdottir (the club’s director), myself, and the other members of Hofarnir. Exchange is somewhat of a weak spot, a hurdle in the path to esteem, for dance as a medium, as the most desirable elements of dance are restricted to liveness. My project here was becoming a physical collecting of perspectives, projections, and stereotypes. My approach, to rather all applications of this conjugation, became a noticing; a simple, gestural framing of detail, moments when these diverse expectations and artistic motivations met, exposing the borders of acceptance and generosity. We took third out of five in Reykjavik.
Everything reduces down to an exchange of energy. Energy existing in time. Sometimes the energy endures calmly in isolation and wanes away, sometimes there is a shining story to be told. Near the beginning, there was a sincere conversation had between Linda and I where she explained that working as a farmer, as opposed to moving to Reykjavik and/or having a day job, suited her as she milked cows in the early morning and evening and beyond that had maximum time to work on dance and other tangible art and craft. Well then, she was me, and I was her, though my cows were art modeling and sporadic days as a thrift shop clerk. Two and a half years later, I am seeing the whole experience like a large durational piece, the audience being those who witnessed the collection of these public showings and social brushes firsthand. It all came to pass as it did. Knowing now how much fuel and fodder that exchange gave to me and is still furnishing, I hope, more and more, that Linda and the gang came out the other side with something other than a sour taste in the mouth. I have no clue as to how I could have held my end better, pleased more of their expectations. But, right? Isn’t the goal of cultural understanding just that we continue to look and try and experience empathetically, intellectually, and physically, if possible. And, lighting the pointed differences might remind us, again, of the ground that is our sameness. I live in the ever stimulating Brooklyn where so much is accessible, whereas the only dance instruction Linda has found has been country and suburban studio dances demonstrated online. This is a story of a small international collaboration, and just like any story, any life, any time based work, the best of it is the twinkling details, the melodramatic moments, the bits that speak to the teller. The project is this transposition, impossible because there is no way to recount these happenings without a cultural and personal voice. As it is certain that I have gained from the encounter, as a further and final gesture of recognition and to soothe my feelings of ethical imbalance, I’d like to put away my typically subdued stylings and tell this story with as much shimmer as possible, like a fabulous choreographer from New York city should, just like an enormous pink and purple Icelandic sunset, over a mountain top, with the beautiful horses tolting about. -AMS