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Polish Dance Theater
choreography, text, set: Jo Strømgren
music: Jo Strømgren, Viljo Vesterinen, George Brassens, Fryderyk Chopin, Giacomo Puccini, Francisco Tarrega, Serge Gainsbourg, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Antonio Vivaldi, Ronan Hardiman, Ich Troje, Astor Piazzolla, Alfredo Catalani, Eleni Karaindrou, Lars Årdal
costume design: Bregje van Balen
light design: Hans Skogen
production: Polish Dance Theatre, Poznan
co-production: Jo Strømgren Kompani, Oslo
supported by: Art Council Norway, EEA Grants
premiere: 2015, Zamek Centre, Poznan
”Life is like a book, they say. But life is written on thousands of loose sheets. You can tell a story and say it is the truth. But it’s a matter of choice. Of deciding which papers in which order. Our story is one of these.”
The performance follows a woman, from her birth in 1973 to her birthday in 2013. The timespan of 40 years reflects a period of doubts, hopes, struggles, choices, and unforseen events, driven by heroic virtues – the lust for life and the will to survive. On her journey through a chaotic Europe, she manages to find a compromise between her own ambitions and the circumstances that are forced upon her. The multiple layers of the performance aims to portray not only the quest of a single individual, but also the one of a country and a dance company. Poland has changed radically the last 40 years, what are the future prospects? The 40th anniversary of Polish Dance Theatre raises the same question. As a piece of artwork, the performance does not delve into facts and figures. The truth is never the truth anyway, it’s all a matter of which details you emphasize. Or exaggerate.
Jo Strømgren was born in Trondheim in 1970 and fulfilled the cliché of a Norwegian childhood with wild nature, social democracy values and violent troll fairytales. Apart from a traditional background, he also spent several years in tropical areas due to the occupation of his parents. This early mix of local identity and globetrotter confusion has been relevant in his professional work, both in themes, variation of genres, and perhaps especially in the particular interest in different languages After graduation, he was drawn between two alternative studies – chemical engineering at the Polytechnical College or Russian language with the Norwegian military. A stray application to the National College of Ballet in Oslo was however accepted. So he made an impulsive choice. Due to skepticism towards academic methods and extreme absence, he never managed to graduate neither in classical ballet nor choreography. He nevertheless initiated a fruitful career as a dancer which later led him to choreography and theatre direction. Literary ambitions evolved and was soon to become a steady career also in playwriting. Although these three art forms are defined as his main occupations, he has also been developing a particular style in set design and lighting design. Involvement in film-making, both in front of and behind the camera, is also worth a mention. The multi-disciplinary character of his work is however to be seen as nothing more than a natural interest in the overall process of storytelling. As an artistic director of Jo Strømgren Company, founded 1998, he has developed a significant personal style with a mix of theatre, dance, puppets, film, and live music – wrapped in a nonsensical language frame. As a choreographer he has been commissioned by a wide range of companies – from classical to contemporary. As a theatre director he has mostly been working with national and municipal theatres in Scandinavia, predominantly with plays by Henrik Ibsen. As a playwright he has written a long list of plays for theatre and scripts for film. He is a member of Writer’s Guild of Norway. Strømgren is currently Associated Choreographer with the Norwegian National Ballet.