Sex, Power and Kitchen Utensils?
By Margrete Kvalbein, VG, January 3, 2003.
Intelligent, somewhat unresolved, but appetizing and richly associative dance art in the intimate sphere.
In “capricorn domestic” Ingun Bjørnsgaard places herself and her eminent performers in the domestic arena. She does it with a knack for unusual symbols and a distinct gift for slinking away from clichés. The performance invites expectations of romance, but there are more near-encounters than actual ones. What might be perceived as unresolved interaction could just as well be a precise portrayal of the complex communication between two people trying to share one dream.
We meet Him and Her in front of the plan drawing for a palace garden. A fantasy about something grand and well trimmed is immediately evoked. But the picture is confusing, seemingly fragmented; contemporary costumes, unharmonious colours, new and old, pastel and earthen hues are all intertwined. It is as if both the set designer and the performers want to piece together things that do not fit.
The comic high point of the performance occurs when She steps into a dress which does not fit at all, and He dons another “garment” which mostly gets in the way. Witty, but painful. Do they make contact with each other? Are they playing with each other? Or are they just acting out separate scenes?
There is a similar ambivalence in the couple’s intercourse with cutlery and strings of liquorice (!). Erotic playfulness – or abuse?
Interwoven with the unusual use of props is, obviously, the expression of the dance. Rich, precise, but again ambiguous; near-gestures, near-poses, and now and then well-known movements and images which are distorted before they start to look too much like their origins. One of the keys to Bjørnsgaard’s success has for a long time consisted of her mastery of the art of suggestion, often with an underlying theme of gender issues; She is charming, striking her pose, He is cool, but remains the agent. Thereby, “capricorn domestic” also comments on the language of power through dancing. The spectator is given nourishment for the brain as well as the eye.
From the Norwegian national newspaper Dagbladet, February 2, 2003
Barefoot in the Park
By Anette Mürer
An imaginative, wry look at domestic bliss
Ingun Bjørnsgaard’s “capricorn domestic”, which opened at the Norwegian National Theatre during last autumn’s contemporary dance festival CODA, is back on the stage. And inside Black Box Theatre the spectator is easily enchanted by the bourgeois and apparently calm idyll created by Bjørnsgaard and her set designer Olav Myrtvedt.
The plan drawing for a large and lovely park is spread on the stage floor, to the left of a worn-out rococo chair. A dream about a dream? According to the drawing, the park has a large labyrinth in its centre. Bjørnsgaard captures the idyll, grace and discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.
But within the domestic sphere, other forces grapple with each other. Before long, She and He are fighting tooth and nail over the gardening trowel, right in front of the grand garden drawing.
The two dancers, Sigrid Edvardsson and Christopher Arouni, both possess a highly disciplined playfulness of body which enables them to fulfill the choreographer’s numerous imaginative digressions.
The trivialities of everyday life can be made both beautiful and funny, and from this seemingly safe, domestic world there suddenly emerge dangerous, wild forces, which both threaten and challenge.
Fragmented pieces of different games and attempts at drama are thrown together. The dancers’ powers of expression remain sufficient in keeping the associations together.
On stage they are also provided with a powerful supporting and sometimes opposing accompaniment by musician Emery Cardas and his cello.
From the magazine ballettanz, November issue 2003
h2. Ingun Bjørnsgaard Love-struck duet in a secret garden
“capricorn domestic” in Oslo
By Marit Strømmen
Adam and Eve in the garden of delights is one obvious association in Ingun Bjørnsgaard’s piece for two dancers, “capricorn domestic”. This garden is not just any paradise but the park surrounding the royal castle of Sanssouci, Potsdam. Many Norwegian dance companies have received a warm welcome at Fabrik Potsdam and as Bjørnsgaard is an artist who appreciates symmetry, it is no wonder that she has found a place for the nearby gardens’ architecture in one of her pieces. It is a place without sorrows – until the snake appears, which in “capricorn domestic” takes the shape of a spade. The couple’s idyll is destroyed as the garden is dug up around them. Despite this rather literal interpretation, with its revolving props, costumes and hair changes, the performance invites the audience to enter a world of associations.
In the beginning there was a man and a woman. It is an archaic story and the choreographer could not tell it without any clichés. The two dancers interact with Olav Myrtvedt’s explicit scenery in a way that reveals both hope and disillusion. The woman dances like a forest nymph in her evocative dress. The man wants to eat her like a piece of meat and helps himself with a spoon and fork. The couple’s disharmony creates an imbalance that emerges in even the most minute movement details.
The duet is a format Bjørnsgaard has never before cultivated to this extent, her trademark so far having been elegant productions with a whole crew of Norway’s best contemporary dancers. She has provided some of the highlights of new Scandinavian dance with both her own company and with Carte Blanche. Although “capricorn domestic” undoubtedly has the familiar Bjørnsgaard stamp, with its erotic battles and departures beyond neat aesthetics and proper music, it is not as complex as her previous works. Nevertheless, dancer Sigrid Edvardsson exudes superb presence, maintaining sparkling eye contact with the audience, while Christopher Arouni is slightly more reserved in his graceful outbursts. Emery Cardas on the violoncello demands ever more stage space, ending up at the front of the stage and surrendering passionately to the music’s emotional roller coaster. By then the couple are as well lit as they were at the beginning, basking in light designer Jean Vincent Kerebel’s fireplace glow. And that’s when it seems that the world was made for lovers after all.
From the daily Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen, October 8, 2002
By Grete Indahl
Choreographer Ingun Bjørnsgaard creates exciting vibrations on an intimate scale at the National Theatre of Norway, during the CODA contemporary dance festival in Oslo. In the performance “capricorn domestic”, Bjørnsgaard explores the possibilities of the duet while portraying a sensitive study of the relationship between man and woman. He and She are living in a castle. She is soft and stubborn. He is energetically persistent. Each whir about on their own, like two entities seeking their better halves.
The intimate format is visually arranged as a playroom. The set designer Olav Myrtvedt has constructed a small cardboard castle, while the garden has been drawn onto a thick material partly hanging, partly covering the floor like a rug. The contemporary dance is diluted with domestic activities like eating and digging in the garden. As these activities are enacted within a symbolic universe, the dance establishes a dynamic relationship between everyday and myth.
The male and female figures are abstracted into archetypes or two forms of energy. As a result, the play between the sexes which Bjørnsgaard explores never turns offensive in the sense of constructing a hierarchy of power between man and woman, or advocating stereotypes. Rather, they complement and contrast each other in tender harmony, as physical representations of yin and yang, or anima and animus.
Another positive trait of Ingun Bjørnsgaard’s dance is her decision to move beyond the expression of performance and the aesthetic clichés that can so easily result from this form. In “capricorn domestic”, Bjørnsgaard works in closer relation to the theatre, allowing her objects a symbolic function, rather than visual value alone. As in performance dancing, the dancers change their clothes on stage, fetch props and move chairs around.
Cello player Emery Cardas is placed on stage among the dancers, playing J.S. Bach and Benjamin Britten. But this is done as a part of the fiction, and not to demonstrate the performance as illusion or the dancers and musician as performers on a stage. The scenic expression of “capricorn domestic” relies on the creativity and flexibility of the dancers, and their interplay with Cardas.
Ingun Bjørnsgaard expresses her strength as a choreographer with greater clarity than ever. She takes hold of the natural mobility of the body, while refraining from pressing the dancers into a rigid pattern of movement. The movement seems to grow from the body as a necessity and as the result of a need for expression. Sigrid Edvardsson and Christopher Arouni dance with integrity, personality and expression, creating well-defined characters in this epic dance.