Iceland Dance Company’s new production Sacrifice is unlike any dance I have seen before. With vocals, guitars, and a screaming chamber, the festival explores everyday objects, and our experience of religion.
The festival is comprised of three performances, with an arts market and film during the two intervals. The first performance Shrine, is without doubt the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. A warning: if you do not like loud noises then do not come to the festival. Shrine is a dance piece full of unusual props, including giant rubber bands and a huge inflatable Dunkin’ Donuts dome.
“Shrine teaches us to laugh at death, acknowledge the weird reality of human existence, and to make the most of our lives.”
The piece takes inspiration from old Norse rituals, incorporating ancient traditions with contemporary choreography. The dancers are seen writhing in pain, screaming out as they interact with each other in a truly gothic fashion. Yet while some seem to be in agony, other dancers parade around the action, most notably imitating the choreographic styles of Swan Lake, and the Samba and Salsa rhythms of Latin America. Shrine could easily be seen as confusing and even pointless, yet this delicate balance of the gothic and the comedic added purpose to the show. The mash of genres created an amused and bemused atmosphere among the audience, which injected life back into our notions of death. Shrine teaches us to laugh at death, acknowledge the weird reality of human existence, and to make the most of our lives.
This frivolity was sharply contrasted by the second performance, No Tomorrow. The female members of Iceland Dance Company proved the versatility of their talents in this piece, as they played guitars, sang, and danced. Each dancer had their own guitar, and played beautiful music – composed by Bryce Dessner – all the while dancing in perfect synchronisation. Classified as a ballet, No Tomorrow showed how an interdisciplinary approach to the arts can create something truly unique.
The final production of the night, Union Of The North, builds upon the rituals explored in Shrine. This feature length film took the ancient rituals of Iceland and transposed them into a modern day shopping mall. With a reemergence of the Dunkin Donuts Dome, the film told the story of a marriage ritual in a bizarre, at times borderline pornographic style, yet it somehow retained the beauty and mystery of Iceland.
Sacrifice is a unique festival which reminds us to take a more light hearted approach to life and death. It is an experience which must be witnessed first hand, and with an open mind, one which can induce a great catharsis among its audience.
Sacrifice is part of the Southbank Centre’s Nordic Matters – a year long exploration into Nordic arts and culture
Image: Jónatan Grétarsson