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Interview with Erna Ómarsdóttir


One of the creators of SACRIFICE- a mini festival

What drives you to be creative?

It’s a need. It’s for myself but also sometimes this strong need to share it with others.
It’s one of these things what makes me want to get out of bed in the morning …
I know few things more satisfying then working with a wonderful, creative group of people, witnessing something that is just a feeling or ideas in mine or someone’s head, becoming step by step more touchable for instance as a performance on stage or a film or a video. The process of trying to make some sort of art together can be really satisfying and fulfilling, the different stages of a creation are all interesting…. Discussion on a theme, investigating, improvising in a group, first ideas, becoming something, putting together, having fun, becoming sad, getting frustrated, all the doubts, getting emotional, getting excited together.

It’s a need. If it’s not there for a while I feel something is missing in my life…. It can be in small and simple things and then sometimes in bigger project… All stages of a creation are interesting… And then of course I love dancing and singing and screaming, performing… Maybe some sort of exhibitionism or just a sad clown.

What role did theatre/dance have for you when you grew up?

I started dancing a small girl in my living room and make performances with my brother for my parents and for the neighbours. In school with my friends I started early to create all sorts of little dance numbers, then I went to dance schools as a teenage hobby. Loved dancing but only found out much later that actually it could be more than just a hobby, yes. I found out at some point for instance after having seen with my mother in Reykjavik art festival one of the few dance shows that came to Iceland in those years. I remember seeing Maybe by Maggy Marin, I remember that I thought then that it could be a way to express myself and say things with my body, use the dance as a tool to express things and that for me it even made more sense than using words.
I was a rather closed and shy teenager and frankly or to be really corny. Then I can say that to have found myself in dance that it kind of saved my life and helped me very often through difficult times. Through dance, I think I also gained some self-confidence and other things in life became easier step by step.

What does your title, SACRIFICE, refer to?

The English word derives from the Latin term, Sacrificium; a combination of two words, Sacer – a common thing/item made holy – and the verb facere, or “to make”. So our title refers to the action of making mundane things holy. That’s a human need that can be traced back to prehistoric times and is even being played today through consumerism and branding. In all the pieces that make up our festival, there’s an ongoing struggle that appears in the adulation of the mundane and the fight against the very idea of it.

You have said that the creativity of the individual is the new religion. Why is that?

We all want to believe in something – and I would consider art and creativity to be my religion. Actually, history of humanity reveals that art and religion have always gone hand in hand and for a very long time they were even thought to be of the very same origin. But as with all religions, believing in the power of the arts is not a rock-solid agenda. Every art piece has an agenda built into it – a conviction, or at least a story to tell. This conviction is founded on a certain righteousness which creates a permanent contradiction every time a production goes on stage, or we shoot a movie.

What would be the ideal way for the performer, the performance and the spectator to come together in the ‘temple’ that is the theatre?

I think we have to regard and enter the “temple” as a place of communion and an ongoing re-invention of rituals and rites. A venue where we can celebrate the metamorphosis of all life. I’m using religious terms here, not in relation with one god or a selection of any gods I favour; I’m using these terms because the human being is “a believer”. Humans have come this far because of their imaginative minds and the way we tell each other stories that sometimes pile up and create a massive fundament for real politics or vast economic systems. And the underlying symbolic thought we rely on – language, visuals – is both a celebration of our inventiveness and a requiem for all those talents and abilities mankind has lost on the path leading so rapidly away from nature and its wholeness. With SACRIFICE we want to show that each and every one of us can and should think and act creatively – we don’t have to become victims of our own development. But I also want the audience to realize the contradiction and the humour that our artistic conviction and endeavours may spark.

Why, as choreographer, did you invite three visual artists to work on this performance? What was it like to work with them?

Yes, we ( me and Valdimar) wanted to see what would happen if those artist would work with dancers and dance, choreographers. We gave them a project that was very open in a way but would only have to have that certain ritual as a starting point. The three rituals were 1. wedding ritual, 2. confirmation or manhood ritual, 3. requiem or funeral.
In Iceland at least I feel that there is more interesting connection between the art forms dance and visual arts then between dance and theatre for example… The artists could do anything they wanted with this words, but this was the starting point. Some sort of carte blanche. So the concept and also what would happen if Iceland dance company as an institution which used to often be doing rather conventional works would work with those particular artist that are known for their innovative art.
As Iceland is small then those three were all friends of mine and Valdi s and Gabriéla is also a long term collaborator. The three of them all use theatricality in their visual arts, so in fact it was not so farfetched.
Then for instance when the idea of Ragnar developed into becoming a sound guitar ballet, he asked Margrét Bjarnadóttir, choreographer, who I was also asking already to come and work with the  company and Bryce to compose the music for 8 dancers that had to learn how to play the guitar…
For sure the outcome is something we would never come up with.. All the proposals were such a great challenge and often a bit headache as well. It was really a privilege and amazing to work with all of them and then when Margrét Bjarnadóttir came in as a choreographer and collaborator of Ragnar things started to role. They were such a cool duo. Me and Valdi collaborated very closely with Matthew and then also with Gabriéla.
Asking Matthew was in fact the starting point of the whole  project idea. We had been thinking about the idea of getting for real in fact married… We thought it would be cool to do it like we heard somewhere Marlene Manson did, asking the cinema director Alejandro Jodorowsky to direct his marriage. So we asked Matthew to create a ceremony for us, that at the end would more be like a piece of art. We didn’t get married yet in real though we might at some point…hum???
Those three visual artist are often working with certain theatricality in their work and even … It was just amazing to work with all those artist and they brought light, hope and great energy into the companies daily life. All of them were so excited and impressed by the dancers and so on. So it was a mutual respect in both direction and a big gift.

You indicate that the ritual is important to you and that you see the ritual as an essential part of life. In SACRIFICE, you use multiple disciplines to express this view. How have cross-overs between the various disciplines contributed to your rendering of the ritual as an essential part of life?

To begin with, rituals are of course related to the routine we seek out, as part of our longing for security and purpose in life. And rituals are played out in various forms – in SACRIFICE we’re focusing on the death mass, the confirmation, and the wedding; all of which belong to the oldest ceremonies of mankind.


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