Sometimes you forget to breathe: N.A.R.G.

For a moment there is a complete silence at the Bora Bora theatre. Noora and Simon have just found the magical state of equilibrium: if one of them moves a tiny bit without the other counterbalancing, the stage will tumble over with a loud bang.

By Annabella Stieren

Noora and Simon are two of the four dancers currently performing in N.A.R.G, North Arena Rumble Game, which had it’s premiere on Thursday 30th at the Bora Bora Dans & Visuelt Teater, Aarhus. The two performers are standing on a wooden 4-diameter platform attached to a ball, a giant rotating custom build that weights almost half a ton: The Turmoil. Depending on how the dancers interact, play and use the stage, it tilts in different directions, giddily spins or miraculously stands still.

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“The dancers have to work with the stage, they need to follow it and listen to each other more than ever before because there is a danger, a real risk of failure. That is why I sometimes forget to breathe while watching them”, Kristoffer Louis Andrup Pedersen one of the three choreographers explains. Together with Jannik Elkær and the filmmaker Christoffer Brekne he forms the artist collaboration Don*Gnu that concentrates on dance and physical theatre.

Their new performance N.A.R.G. begins quietly. The dancers seem insecure, maybe even lost on top of the massive shaky stage. In a sequence of little humorous scenes they then slowly and very carefully start to play with their new unsteady environment. Once used to it, they seem unstoppable: alone, in pairs of two or all together they set the stage into oscillation, jump on it, fly and slip over it, fighting it’s natural forces of gravity. It is fascinating how the mood changes depending on the constellation and movement of the stage. If the four of them swing together the air is full of energy and power-related conflict, alone they seem fragile and helplessly exposed. When Noora and Simon dance together in the end, they seem to have defeated the power of the Turmoil – with conscious attentiveness of each other they fill the room with harmony and tenderness.

Don*Gnu’s previous award-winning performances always revolved around the question of understanding oneself as both an individual and part of a collective. With the creation of the gigantic balancing stage they are taking their quest for answers to a new level. In order to tame the powerful stage, the four N.A.R.G. dancers transcend their physical limits, responding to the presence, movements and rhythm of their counterparts. Everything Noora, Simon, Petras and Cesar do on top, underneath or besides the stage immediately influences and challenges the other’s balance – if one steps out chaos emerges immediately.

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N.A.R.G tells different abstract social stories about inclusion and exclusion, violence and affection. The interaction of the stage and its four dancers can therefore be considered as an allegory for society – every action forces a reaction and even a peaceful intention can end up in disorder if we lose our attentiveness for one another.

For the process of developing N.A.R.G. and exploring the stage Don*Gnu and its dancers emphasized the importance of improvisation and communication. Since Kristoffer and Jannik first had the idea of a round tilting stage in 2010 it has been used in a series of workshops in Denmark and Finland (among others a democracy project with Tunisian dancers) with different performers. Now the four dancers brought a lot of their own personalities and inspiration into the performance. They themselves represent a modern multicultural society: Noora Hannula from Finnland, Petras Lisauskas, a former Lithuanian hammer thrower, Simon Beyer-Pedersen from Denmark and César Garcia a Swedish dancer with Spanish roots.

“You cannot force an idea on this stage it has to come naturally otherwise the energy can get lost”, the choreographers say. That is also the reason why the main idea of the performance has modified during the development process. Starting out with the desire of portraying ‘Nordic aggression’ N.A.R.G. is now more about aggression being a universal primal force. Just as the rotating stage aggression is an underlining power that creates different actions and emotions: rejection and despair but also energy and hope.

Who wants to experience this performance can buy tickets for the two last N.A.R.G. shows at Bora Bora Dans & Visuelt Teater Aarhus, Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th of November. Tickets are available at: www.bora-bora.dk. Costs: 150 DK, students pay 90 DK.

Annabella Stieren is a journalist from Berlin, Germany and a contributor at Jutland Station.