Anna Westberg: Elektrakomplexet

I saw Anna Westberg’s Elektrakomplexet at Stockholm’s WELD on October 29, 2015. This staged work is accompanied by Viktor Wendin’s light design and Ronja Svenning Berge’s drawings – some of which are featured in this article.


In her written introduction to the staged work, Anna expresses the following:

I have worked with dance & choreography for more than twenty five years now and often in collaboration with composers of electronic music. They have all been men. When I started looking for women in this field, I found a lot of exciting music and I wonder why I hadn’t heard it before. Elektrakomplexet is a way to highlight this amazing music and the artists behind the work. I chose to focus on the pioneers, being grateful to these women who were at the head of development, opening our ears & minds and pointing towards all possibilities. AW

I decided to reference Anna’s note in its entirety because I think her writing reflects a nuanced combination of calm and interest – of passion that moves quickly, but is not in a hurry or concerned with arrival – which was crucial to how I saw her perform and to what I admired in her performing. Another way of approaching her delivery would be to say that it comes across with confident authority, which does not seem to be busy with itself in any way, positive or negative. It simply is. And then there is the information offered.

I bring this up because what impressed me most about Elektrakomplexet was how generous, yet not-self-conscious it was in it’s delivery – which is not something I can say about many a work put forward by single freelance dance-artists that I get to see these days. Another thing that Elektrakomplexet is, that not many a work of single freelance dance-artists that I get to see these days are, is a means to an end – a means to an end that is not an end concerned with the wellbeing of dance in the world. Or, to be even more specific, it’s a means to an end that is not concerned with the wellbeing of dance in the dance world. (Dance, choreography, you name it.)

It was refreshing to see a dance artist using her abilities, her language and her context to focus the audience’s attention on something almost-entirely external to the world of dance: which, in this case, is the world of women pioneering in electronic music making.

Featured in the performance-lecture are this artist’s personal reflections on the relationship she had and/or maintains with the world of electronic music (both as a dancer and as a person), her insightful thoughts on history and the writing of history; and the music of  Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Else Marie Pade, Laurie Spiegel, and Beatriz Ferreyra. Referred to is, too, the work of Éliane Radigue.

When dancing to their music, I though, Anna’s performance allowed me not to watch dancing that was made to music, or dancing that was made to express, explain, interpret… Instead, what she did was enabled me to listen to some music in the same time as I got to watch some-one dancing. This particular sensibility, allowed me – almost demanded of me – to consider at least two sources of information at the same time – and in a way in which I could observe how each related to the other, and when; in a way in which I was free to decide when to immerse myself into Anna’s world of impressions, when to observe it from a distance, when to reflect intellectually, when to do so emotionally, when to daydream… This sensibility suddenly seemed to me to be a politically relevant sensibility.

What I was watching, I realised, was not only a informative performance-lecture, or an unconventional dance-piece. On the contrary, I was given the opportunity to participate in a social experiment; in an exercise of attention from which I was obliged to learn – because why not learn from this space in which attention was given to multiple sources at the same time, none of which suffered from the other’s presence, and none of which suffered lack of attention.

For a moment there the environment I inhabited was free of fear, and full of consideration – which I thought remarkable at a time when fear is lurking behind every corner, even in the most friendly of environments. And for a moment there it was good to be reminded – experientially – that it’s not a matter of possibility, or probability. It’s a matter of initiative, authority, heart and will. It’s a matter of taking space to make space. And it’s a matter of priority, I guess. So – you know. I leave you with that.


Ludvig Daae and Joanna Nordahl: Hyperfruit

Hyperfruit premiered in Stockholm on October 27, 2015 to a roomful of people who honoured the work with a hyper-standing ovation. Being the cynic that I am, I wondered if it was dance that they were applauding…

…or was it the line-up of youtube-diary kind-of confessionals that were thrown at us alongside a number of stunning hyper-defined videos that remind one of high-class advertising?


If Hyperfruit teaches us that the internet is an aesthetic category, and a way of being and behaving recognised by many, both quickly and easily – given the daily proximity an average contemporary westerner has to The Great Online – than the standing ovation that followed the work reflects, I think, a behaviour that is not common to the freelance dance- and choreography-making scene. (When was the last time you’ve witnessed or participated in a standing ovation after having seen freelance-made dance work?)

Standing ovation is a type of adrenaline-driven behaviour seen at music festivals, American host-based TV shows, and other events the likes of which could be part of the internet culture. It is also a thing of “the crowd”. In theatre culture standing ovation is common, I would say, to a more traditional set-up and is (or was?) meant to express awe following a miraculous achievement of some kind. Standing ovation in a traditional set-up is also a thing of “the crowd”.

This is to say that when following a freelance-made work, standing ovation is either out of place or archaic. Unless, that is, Hyperfruit was a miraculous achievement… which freelance events rarely are, I would say. Not because they never are miraculous achievement, but because even if they are – they function in an altogether different economy. Which is not a crowd funded economy.

When all those people in the packed auditorium rose to their feet, I was left baffled. I didn’t understand what was going on. Have we already passed our judgement? How do we know we are not jumping to conclusions? Shouldn’t we take some time to think about this? Isn’t this reaction too easy a reaction? I considered standing up just so I wouldn’t be the odd one out… which was a bit of a wake-up call. Wasn’t I in a queer-aware environment? Shouldn’t this place be resistant to peer pressure? Question mark.


The description of Hyperfruit, which can be found here, tells of another concern that drove the creation of this work – which is to translate ways of communicating online into the structure of a dance performance. This I found interesting when, upon much reflection, I finally decided I wouldn’t categorise Hyperfruit as a dance performance. I would categorise Hyperfruit as a film, and/or a piece of visual arts which features dancing, and does that mostly in reference to a specific kind of dance that could be (or is also) seen online.

Why I chose to categorise Hyperfruit as a film was due to the fact that the way it portrayed and relied on the emotional arch, in accordance with the dramaturgical rhythm within which the work remained through it’s duration reminded me more of a good rom-com and/or an episode of Oprah! or So You Think You Can Dance? than of an interesting dance piece. (Suddenly, the standing ovation didn’t seem to be out of place; it confirmed this new categorisation.)

But then, what of the artist’s claim that they were working with the form of a dance performance?

I couldn’t help but wonder: what if the artist never, in fact, worked with the form of a dance performance? What if positioning this work within the context of dance was a question of timing, strategy and politics when, in fact, the artists simply followed their interests and loved their job – no matter the category? Question mark.

I though more simply: what would be the difference between a dance performance, and another kind of performance that features dance, and evidently expects this feature to cater to specific outcomes? This question could be asked in another way: what is the difference between dancing, and dance in service of… and what is either good for? That is to say that I don’t think one is per definition better than the other. What I am looking for is a way of distinguishing between the two so as to find more ways of understanding and relating to all dance is and could be, and so that I can stop expecting everyone using and referencing dance to actually make interesting dances.

This is to say that I think that of all the interesting things Hyperfruit features – dance was not one of them. The actual dancing featured in the work I found simplistic, symbolic and unimaginative. The dancing body was square, classic, and elegant in a way that no amount of sparkling neon could make queer. It was also always in service of – be that of the emotional arch, an aesthetic one, or another.

And it worked. The dance (in this particular case) was recognised by the crowd, approved of, sighed at – all of which added to the overall positive (as in ecstatic, pleasure driven) atmosphere the work was promoting.

I left the theatre pleased, because the evening was pleasant. Easy. In some ways also very impressive. (Adele’s new hit, released just days before the premiere, was fully incorporated in the work. You have to admire that. And the quality of that video was stunning, even if what it showed was not the most interesting.) When, on top of that, I found peace by calling Hyperfruit a work of visual art – because suddenly dance was not at stake, but was a feature – I was left with nothing to do but enjoy myself. And isn’t that nice?

A bit boring, maybe… but hey.

Genesis by Mala Kline

Genesis premiered on September 21st, 2015 in the freshly renovated French Pavilion (or at least I think it is – freshly renovated) at the 5th edition of Zagreb’s Ganz Novi Festival. The work is worked in different ways by Loup Abramovici, Tomislav Feller, Mala Kline, Jasmina Križaj, Andrius Mulokas, Petra Veber, Gideon Kiers, and Florence Augendre.


Genesis is an exemplary specimen of work that is conscious of its background, but is only conscious of it – it is not dependent on it. It establishes itself categorically, as a work of dance and choreography – periodically, and always for barely long enough to become recognised as such by those who are looking for it; by those who need that type of categorical conformation in order to feel addressed/safe/whatnot. That is to say that others will not even think in those terms whilst watching Genesis, but will observe the work, delight in the transformational temper of its peculiar character whilst (obviously) enjoying themselves.

From what I observed, it is in this work’s “nature” to – upon any kind of establishment – disintegrate established identity within a pool of principles, and do so quickly. This seems to be what is allowing the work to behave, or live if you will, as a body/organism would in “real life” – which I think is in line with the work’s intended purpose. At the end of its time, the work resonates in the memory of its witnesses (at least it does in mine) as something that is a result of performer’s will, skill and vision, as much as it is something almost simply, but magnificently: a product of circumstance.


I use the word principle because I recognise that what is stable in the moved environment is not, in fact, a visual cue – such would be movement vocabulary, for example. It is rather a recognisable stability in the performer’s ways of moving about – that is their decision making materialised – in which their thinking is reflected. It is the continual referral to the driving principles that are thought – that enables them (the performers, who are also and only people) to not get lost in the continual becoming of the unstable and visually contingent environment their movement is establishing in communication with the spectator.

This is exciting to the spectator, one could say, because every once in a while s/he gets an insight into what thinking – looks like. At other times s/he gets to witness enticing dancing, cunning choreography, even well versed acting.

I would probably be pushing it too far if I were to imply that the work actually fails at becoming representative of any recognisable category for long enough to be labeled accordingly. The visual signature is strong, after all; and the soundtrack almost filmic at times. The movement, too, is well crafted, and precise; concerned and attentive – which is why, I imagine, some would readily describe the work [at least] as choreographed (given that the notion of choreography in that case should have to be taken as expanded). I joyfully restrain myself from labelling the work as choreography, or: at all. What is clear to me, and what excites me is that the work is obviously made by someone who knows of choreography, refers to choreography for readability (communication purposes) – but is definitely, primarily and courageously thinking from and with the experience of a dancer.


So attentive, at times, is the movement aka performer’s focus that it seems to become utterly consumed by itself. At other times, however, the performer seems to be almost painfully aware of the spectator’s gaze, seems worried and distracted from the work. I am conscious of the fact that I am watching a premiere, but am enjoying it. Because this too is a part of life. Denying it would be unnecessarily regressive.

For more information on Mala Kline and her work please, incl. upcoming dates go to