Shifting states and mood swings: Skånes Dansteater in Remind Me I’m Not Dead

Live stream from Skånes Dansteater, Malmö
February 20, 2021

Maggie Foyer

With the prospect of a 2020/2021 season of live performances in a packed house receding, innovative companies are moving to live streaming new works. Mira Helenius Martinsson, director of Skånes Dansteater in Malmö is one of these, working hard to keep the creative flame alive. For the audience, observing the convention of coming together at a set hour and waiting for lights up on live action gives a welcome sense of normalcy, as does the thrill of knowing this is a premiere.

The title of Mari Carrasco’s new work, Remind Me I’m Not Dead, has a potent resonance with the times, echoing the strangeness of a world we could not have imagined two years back. Familiar scenes take on high-definition newness, frighteningly out of kilter. Lighting and stage designer, Mateus Manninen, has created such a world taking us to where normal is a façade, an antechamber to another undiscovered space or maybe just a dream. The performance space is a box where shifting lighting states are a barometer for the mood swings. The panel above, now a powerful source of light, becomes a new heaven.

Skånes Dansteater in Remind Me I’m Not DeadPhoto Märta Thisner
Skånes Dansteater in Remind Me I’m Not Dead
Photo Märta Thisner

The ten dancers, all booted and suited in black, animated by striped shirts, occupy their individual bubbles. Throughout the 45-minute work, despite sometimes moving as an ensemble, they preserve their contained individuality, a situation many of us now accept as the new normal. What they all share is the nervous energy that infuses the piece propelled by Mikael Karlsson’s score. At time the music is setting the pace, at times the dancers find their own rhythm within a continuous drone of sound. Karlsson, one of the most experienced composers for new dance, leads or follows understanding intrinsically what is needed.

The work opens in a world of blue light so dense it eliminates boundaries, so the dark shapes of the dancers seem detached as the camera pans through 360 degrees. Tiemen Stemerding, strong and grounded, first takes the driving seat and others join him. Bodies slightly hunched guard their solitary space pulsing to a staccato beat, each body holding a core of tension. The tension releases briefly as dancers share moves: nimble feet flicker into a folksy caper and flexible ankles update to Memphis jookin’ swivels.

The colours shift as a sharp orange softens to a pastel pink or black andwhite stripes that march across the ceiling like a barcode. Karlsson’s music supports variety but while the dancers are sometimes as regimented as a corps in straight lines, moving to a shared rhythm, they still remain individual agents. Jing Yi Wang sets the bar for heightened intensity while Anette Jellne plays out a personal subtext in concentrated inward rumination, briefly beating out a rhythm on heeled boots.

A lengthy section into the final third finds a hiatus where the work threatened to lose track but is rescued by rising dynamics as dancers, with faces set, shift to a rigid format and the lights pulse in slow multi-coloured strobe.  As the programme notes say, ‘the performance carries with it a unique DNA from the time and place for which it has been created.’ It was a special experience for a special time and needs to be treasured for offering the experience.