Golden Fleece (2016)

Golden Fleece (trailer) from Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt on Vimeo.

Golden Fleece

Premiered January 28th 2016, at Dansens Hus, Oslo, Norway
January 28-31, 2016

In Golden Fleece, the figures apparently move freely around, in a space between, in transit, between meaning and non-meaning. They are on their way somewhere, and from something. They are governed by private and individual desire and longing, and at the same time they take part in intricate patterns of automated and ritual interconnections. They are trapped both by coincidence and fate.

You can get glimpses of post-modernity’s drama of intimacy, probing references to the iconography of Martha Graham, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Maria Callas, but also non-abstract re-painting of the ancient Greek myth of Medea. Yes, maybe that is the case: Love, escape and betrayal between Medea and Jason (including, of course, the young princess Glauke, the destructive female execution of the treesome), put into play around the quest for a golden fleece?

Or are they, the figurants, not protagonists at all, not main characters, but just belonging to an almost wiped-out and ridiculously vanishing choir? Merely a bunch of groupies, a fake-argonautic complaints choir on anti-depressive medication?

We would all like to play the title role in our own life, but often end up as extras in somebody else’s fragmented mythological landscape. And maybe that is precisely what touches us.

Kai Johnsen

Choreographer: Ingun Bjørnsgaard
Composer: Henrik Hellstenius
Set designer: Thomas Björk
Costume designer: Thomas Björk
Dramaturge: Kai Johnsen
Sound designer: Morten Pettersen
Light designer: Hans Skogen
Violinist: Karin Hellqvist
Dancers: Ida Wigdel, Erik Rulin, Marianne Haugli, Catharina Vehre Gresslien og Stian Danielsen
Music by: Paul Hindemith og Georg Philipp Telemann
Seam:  Else Ciljan Jacobsen og Caroline Evju
Produced by: Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt
Co-produced by: Dansens Hus Norway
Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt is funded by Art Council Norway



On myth and man

There is no doubt that Ingun Bjørnsgaard is one of Norway’s foremost choreographers within contemporary dance.

The choreographer Ingun Bjørnsgaard has her own distinct signature. Her use of classical narrative, the playful yet sophisticated expression, the interaction between musicians and dancers live on stage. We have seen her means of expression before, and now we revisit them in a new context. This time Bjørnsgaard displays mastery through her singular use of the ancient myth of Jason and Medea. In the theatre, the violent drama of jealousy between the two characters is often emphasized, preferably through Euripides’ tragedy Medea. But there is more to this myth. In a prior part of the story, Medea helps Jason in finding a golden fleece on the premises that he promises to marry her. The performance focuses on the dramatic quest for this golden fleece. Or at least mostly takes its cue from it.

The golden fleece, Golden Fleece, is here literary transformed into a fleece blanket which occurs crawling across the stage from time to time. Bjørnsgaard plays freely and rigorously with her mythical subject matter, and creates interlaced transitions between the human and the mythical. We encounter a female centaur in the opening scene who later is divided into both woman and man to take part in a human universe. Bjørnsgaard seems to have an explicit wish to create a liaison between the mythical and the private in this performance. How the relationship between the mythical and the private manifests is not always transparent, but the way myth relates to the human comes clearly across. Myths and tradition are a part of us. The myths are ours, but we also belong to them – at least if you believe that we as human beings are shaped by narratives that sustain across generations.

The relational dimension of the myth is however subdued, and the dancers mostly appear as abstract figures who move in certain lines and groups, fighting against visible and invisible forces inside themselves, or outside. The dancers – Ida Wigdel, Erik Rulin, Marianne Haugli, Catharina Vehre Gresslien and Stian Danielsen – work with both large and minuscule movement, and there is tension and concentration down to the tiniest detail. Also in the interaction with contemporary violinist Karin Hellqvist live on stage, a most particular sense of space emerges. Bjørnsgaard has an exceptional sense of timing, and use of intervals in time and space, and it is in the composition itself that the master choreographer Bjørnsgaard is fully displayed. I rarely see a dance performance with a fine ending like this one – or with an ending at all.

If I were to make a critical comment, it regards the density and the darkness of the performance at times. There is little light in the room, and the extent of abstraction involved requires that the observer continuously process the impressions in order to transform them into more than a series of characters freely drifting by. It is also an advantage to be familiar with the somehow complex mythical backdrop of the performance. Thus the performance addresses the few and does not open up towards a larger audience, as Bjørnsgaard and her dancers deserve.

Inger Marie Kjølstadmyr, Dagsavisen January 29th 2016