Note: Dance For Me was supported by the Kulturkontakt Nord mobility fund to travel to Tampere Theatre Festival in Finland in August 2015. This post revisits that experience.
I was sitting in a circle of friends around a middle aged, portable plastic table at a camp site on the southern, sandy side of Iceland. That weekend you could feel that the short summer would soon turn to autumn and the night went dark for the first time since may. Light is a very dynamic force in Iceland.
My friend Atli said that we as Icelanders might have missed out on many things as children. I asked him what he meant and he explained that because of the cold climate we had never experienced jumping into a tree surrounded lake and dried off on warm stones afterwards as the sun went down. He was right. Over here the outdoors is a foreign environment and Icelandic nature is the deep side of the pool - you can go there, but it takes effort to stay there. The human body is a visitor in Iceland and virginity is something you lose inside a heated house, never in the nature. It’s too barren, too hostile, too alien. We debated for a while the pros and cons of having grown up in Iceland and then went to our tents in the cool summer night.
Three days later I was in Finland with the company Dance For Me, preparing to show the very Icelandic piece Petra to the locals. When showing foreigners your own material you realize that you are the foreigner yourself. You never know if the language and mood will translate the way you want it so we felt the same way when we were premiering the show for the first time in Iceland. Since laughter can sometimes be the only tool a performer can use to measure the impact of his performance on the audience, and the Finnish audience at our show that night sat quiet like a crowd of petrified trolls, I assumed our play just didn’t work in Finland. But as the house lights went on and the audience walked out after a decent applause, I could see their watery eyes. There was obviously a connection, the Finns liked our show and I was extremely relieved. Our creation was not just something that the local Icelandic crowd could understand but also our far neighbours in the east. I can’t remember exactly which Icelandic author said that in order to go global, you have to make something extremely local.
Later that night the festival organizers invited our company to a sauna party of some sorts. Because we had spent the day before rehearsing and I myself had gone overboard when sampling the local alcoholic beverages I almost didn’t go. But thanks to modern medicine I murdered my headache and threw myself in the minibus with my friends and a short drive later I stepped into Atli’s missing childhood dream that I mentioned earlier. The Tampere smoke sauna was something cut out of an Astrid Lindgren’s fantasy and me and the gang took round after round of broiling in the dark, mystical, wooden house and then jumping into the amazingly fresh lake surrounded by tall birch trees. I thought that even though I missed out on losing my virginity somewhere between a smoke sauna and a lake as a teenager, I was thankful that I was able to experience that moment with my friends just for one night.