'DOUBLEtake' Act 2.  Photo © Mats Bäcker

‘DOUBLEtake’ Act 2.
Photo © Mats Bäcker

Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm, Sweden;
November 8, 2014

Maggie Foyer

Skånes Dansteater have patiently waited for a new work from Kenneth Kvarnström but now he has delivered and in grand style, writing an impressive ensemble piece with full orchestra on stage with extraordinary design elements to boot.

“DOUBLEtake”, as the title implies, is double value: Kvarnström’s own company of six dancers being accompanied by Jonas Nordberg on period instruments for the first act. The programme premiered in Malmö last month at the Music Theatre but did less well at Stadsteatern, not an ideal dance venue and one where many of the audience did not see it to best effect.

Act 1 was a fully integrated work of choreography and music. Nordberg, who also curated the musical selection for the show, was on stage with the dancers and there was an easy exchange verbally, musically and physically between performers. Added to this, the psychological under current of relationships between the dancers initiated and sustained the action. Kvarnström has assembled an impressive troupe. The tone is sophisticated and mature generously sprinkled with irony as the dancers mixed and matched. The intimacy of a duet will be interrupted as more dancers join in or an ensemble section will dissolve into a moment of solo reflection all couched in dance language that is fluid and even nonchalant but physical enough to constantly stimulate.

Patrick Bragdell and Hazuki Kojima in 'DOUBLEtake', Act 2.  Photo © Mats Bäcker.

Patrick Bragdell and Hazuki Kojima in ‘DOUBLEtake’, Act 2.
Photo © Mats Bäcker.

Act 2 was a work of pure theatre and the dancers from Skånes Dansteater have done it proud performing with passion and precision. Working on a broad canvas, Kvarnström harnesses his artistic team to create a stylish and strikingly modern piece. It is all in black and white, varied by textures and illuminated by Jens Sethzman’s brilliant designs and lighting. He plays with cross lighting, focusing dozens of single lights across the stage which then reflecting back onto the surface. Astrid Olsson’s designs are distinguished by simple sharp lines with extraordinary appendages of ruffs or collars that complement the bravura of the choreography.

Kvarnström’s choreography is distinctive. The movement, often initiated by arms and torso before engaging the full body, is varied and eloquent. The musical choice is also varied, predominantly classical but closing on a contemporary work, “Arena 2” from Magnus Lindberg: a powerful burst of sound that lifted the work to a strong climax. Each section of music brings a different flavour to the dance. For the excerpt from the Ravel String Quartet the dancers literally high jacked the orchestra members – removing their music stands and chairs and bringing them to the front of the stage – while a tower of facetted iridescent fabric moved to background the dancers. The pizzicato elements in the music lightened the mood as did the crinoline skirts on the three dancers. This is Kvarnström at his confident best.

Jan-Erik Wikström (back) and Pontus Sundset in 'The Tenth Muse'.  Photo © Carl Thorborg

Jan-Erik Wikström (back) and Pontus Sundset in ‘The Tenth Muse’.
Photo © Carl Thorborg

The Tenth Muse

Meantime at the Dance Museum a lunchtime show featured two of Sweden’s top male dancers, Jan-Erik Wikström and Pontus Sundset. Stockholm’s Dansmuseet, is one of the few museums dedicated to dance and well worth a visit in its own right. “The Tenth Muse” choreographed by Sigge Modigh, is presented in the intimate setting of the former art nouveau banking hall. The audience are close enough to enjoy the fine detail of the dancers’ movements while each man has the presence to fill the space effortlessly.

Sundset is an independent performer who works with most of the top names in Swedish contemporary dance while Wikström has recently retired from the Royal Swedish Ballet where he held the title of court dancer.  The two are both very similar and also very different. Wikström has a classical purity while Sundset’s hyperflexibility brings a softer more fluid style. A pirouette into arabesque will be complemented by a more extreme extension and a roll across the floor as the two merge their preferences. They share the art form and the space in a relationship that leaves room for difference: intimate yet unrelated and mesmerising in the beauty of form.