Skånes Dansteater in The View from Here

Livestream from Skånes Dansteater, Malmö
April 18, 2021

Maggie Foyer

Skånes Dansteater, based in Malmö and under the direction of Mira Helenius Martinsson, is fighting the virus full on. A very inclusive programme of workshops, kids’ clubs, talks continue while performances stand ready to leap back on stage as soon as permitted. For the moment performances play as live streams.

The latest work from Tilman O’Donnell takes its title from a nostalgic family memory. His cinematographer uncle would send Polaroid photos from various locations always labelled, ‘The View from Here’. O’Donnell plays with this idea on an uncluttered stage, as the cast of five men and three women position themselves to see life through their personal viewfinders.

Skånes Danstheater in The View From Here by Tilman O’DonnellPhoto Thomas Zamolo
Skånes Danstheater in The View From Here
Photo Thomas Zamolo

In this millennium, and exacerbated by Covid, we have become even more intrigued by the identity of self. Working in their own time, the dancers create individual movement phrases exploring the fluid transitions from floor to standing, shifting weight and testing different rhythms. Choosing trainers or socks, they codeswitch to add a touch of Spanish zapateado or a tap break. They move with skill and improvise with imagination, yet as the camera moves between bodies, it is strangely soporific.

O’Donnell explores change. Is it how we adapt to newness that defines us, rather than the potentially stable identity we present to the world? An intriguing concept but in the contemplative atmosphere with little tension and no conflict, the changes are slow and subtle. They become more explicit as dancers leave their solitary spaces to form a diagonal line, swaying first in harmony then making changes to find an alternate pulse. Experimenting with such ideas is intriguing for the dancers, judging by their remarks in the web page interviews, but possibly less engaging for the viewer.

When props came into play, change moves to a new level. A selection of screens and flats creates exits and entrances as dancers continue their movement experiment with an added dimension.

The work has a private air; it seems almost improper to ask for more. The dancers, committed and fully engaged in their world, continue at their own pace against a vocabulary of chirps and plosives developed by Dehendrik Lechat Willekens into a sound collage.

As the lights faded, I pondered if this work, that seemed such a suitable subject for camera, needed the immediacy of a live audience to make it more than a very interesting workshop. It seems a little dated in its stubborn anti-theatricality yet doesn’t go far enough to make the dancers’ inner journeys something to really care about. Yet modern dance should be about exploration and pushing the boundaries, I hope there will be the chance to see this on stage soon.