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Bergen report: winds from the north.

THE PORT CITY of Bergen, Norway's second largest, teems in the bright months with tourists as boats embark on cruises around the country's natural wonders. But as nights grow long, Bergen's focus shifts to cultural wonders. Oktoberdans, the city's fifth biennial dance festival, took place over a 10-day period last fall. It happened in three theaters--including a converted sardine factory and an old garage--only blocks apart. Showcased were 16 troupes, hall of them Norwegian, the others from Belgium, England, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, and Slovenia. Tickets cost less than $20.

For the most part, the artists and the work were new to this visitor. The slickest, most professional and politically resonant piece I saw was Departementet (The Department), presented at BIT Teatergarasjen (of "theater-garage") by Bergen's Jo Stromgren Kompani. Set in an anonymous office in a remote outpost, possibly part of a national broadcasting system, the piece has four male performers speaking a gibberish that seems derived from Polish. As fluent with their bodies as with language, they sing, sort papers, go berserk, and snap to attention when buzzers go off, signaling the need to receive of send messages. We live with these people for an hour, and miss them terribly when the lights come up.

Other work attempted social commentary, like Montrealer Martin Belanger's Spoken word/body and a curious piece of intellectualized erotica called Gold, by Switzerland's Alexandra Bachzetsis. She videotaped simulated masturbation accompanied by a recording of soothing classical music. We looked on, then she left us in the dark to watch the video, now underscored by deafening rock. More interesting conceptually than in its execution, the work revealed the possibilities for manipulation inherent in the transfer from live to mediated performance.

Deep Blue, a collective consisting of Norwegian and Japanese dancer/choreographers Heine Rosdal Avdal and Yukiko Shinozaki and Belgian composer Christophe De Boeck, showed the mysterious closer, in which a dark space was hung with floor-to-ceiling faux-bamboo stalks creating pathways and divisions. The shoeless audience (wearing headphones that channeled electronic sounds directly into their ears) and performers wandered the space together, the spectators sitting or standing as the dancers moved among them. Choreographer Hooman Sharifi, a Norwegian born in Iran, showed Hopefully someone will carry out great vengeance on me, in which his troupe of four dancers--first naked and later dressed--threw themselves at the floor and each other, and ran frantically around the huge Teatergarasgen stage.

During two days of presentations and panel discussions, presented under the rubric "Dance Moves--Into the Social and Political Context," visitors from England and America were besieged by questioning Norwegian students. It eventually became clear that the European dance community has stopped feeling the pull of New York as a place to study, of perform, and has shifted its attention to Brussels, where Meg Stuart and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker now attract some of the best minds in the dance world. English may have been the lingua franca of this conference, but things American took a back seat to considerations of dance and politics in Belgium, India, Oslo, Rio, and Sarajevo.
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Author:Zimmer, Elizabeth
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:4EXNO
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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