It's not that easy to describe Goldberg Variations - ternary patterns for insomnia. It's a choreographed contemporary dance show, a performance piece, a classical concert... and none of those things. As an audience member, it's difficult to know beforehand exactly what to expect.
Cecilia Djurberg from sverigesradio.se came to the premiere performance at Dansens Hus, Stockholm and shared her description of what the event entails.
What exactly are Andersson Dance and Scottish Ensemble doing?
Musically, they stay, as far as I can judge, close to the notes; it is Sitkovetsky’s renowned transcription for strings that forms the basis of this show. What choreographer Örjan Andersson does is that he integrates dance and music physically on stage. It is not uncommon to put dance to live string music, but we are more accustomed to the musicians sitting in an orchestra pit, or at least out of the way for the dancers. Here, Scottish Ensemble moves around amongst the dancers on the stage and this is both entertaining to watch and a sort of comment on what constitutes ‘dance’. On paper, perhaps a string ensemble’s movements could be interpreted as some kind of dance, but here there is a clear intention to highlight musicians as choreographed performers, and some of the musicians get even own dance solos. So this orchestra really has to work hard for its fee.
So what are the dancers' tasks?
There are five dancers on stage. And they are performing any fictional action, but together with the musicians, create performance-tableaux that interpret the variations and comment on them physically and sometimes with words. Although it is not always clear-coded language, but often quite absurd - as when a dancer says "I am variation number 21" and thrusts one arm into a plastic tube.
What is the overall impression of the show?
It is quite playful. There are props that function much like toys. Except for plastic pipe there is a small wagon, some gold-coloured cushions and pennants... It looks a bit like the dancers and the orchestra have met to play or jam together, or just pass the time. The show has a subtitle which references mathematical patterns for insomniacs, but despite the unsentimental and quite loose form the piece is very well-rehearsed and respectful. I find myself having to sit with one of those happy smiles through the show and I realize that it is precisely this type of visual setting that people like me, a dance geek, usually misses when I go to classical concerts. So I think that Örjan Andersson manages to blend the best of both worlds - this is like an animated Bach concerto.