Dansehallerne, a converted warehouse in the middle of the ever-developing Carlsberg complex, is rapidly becoming the centre of modern contemporary dance for northern Europe. With groundbreaking dance companies like Mute Comp Physical Theatre in the building, it is not hard to understand why.
Now in its 14th year of existence, Mute Comp Physical Theatre is known for mixing styles, tackling issues and taking risks. Meeting the co-founders of the company, Jacob Stage and Kasper Ravnhøj, you are immediately struck by their infectious enthusiasm and eagerness to juggle ideas. One such idea sprang from watching a young guy “performing insane martial arts flips” on a Hong Kong beach, and has finally come to life in the shape of Conspiracy of Spring. Set to an otherworldly live soundtrack specially composed by multi-instrumentalist Henriette Groth, the performance promises to be a gravity-defying affirmation of life.
Ravnhøj, the choreographer of the piece, admits that the title is deliberately ambiguous. Although spring returns faithfully each year, we are never the same, but still we “want to relive the great moment again and again”. The performance embraces themes of repetition, looking for the perfect jump and striving for beautiful moments. Ravnhøj sees the performance as being “a tribute to all the things I love”. Stage adds that is also a “tribute to the capabilities of the human body”. This is the first time that Ravnhøj will not be on stage in one of his performances, something that he clearly finds challenging, but he solemnly promises that the dancers will not “for the next hour, die, get tired or old”. Ravnhøj’s eyes light up and, perhaps afraid of missing out on life, he rushes back to the dance studio to put the four dancers through their paces.
Meeting the dancers themselves proves to be an equally inspiring experience. Ravnhøj has deliberately assembled a curious yet intoxicating cocktail of dancers to interpret the ideas behind the performance. “A troupe of fighters”, as Stage describes them: not only fighting gravity, but quite literally fighting each other on stage – for the show features two of the best stuntmen around.
It was love at first sight for an astounded Ravnhøj as he watched Andi Long on that beach in Hong Kong. Long is a permanent member of the Jackie Chan stunt team and has been flying between Copenhagen and Malaysia to fit in his various commitments. A fellow Berlin stuntman and martial arts tricker, Hannes Pastor, came along for the ride. Martial arts tricking has become popular in recent years, and Pastor describes this as “combinations of flips, twists and kicks”. Putting these elements on the modern dance stage promises to be a breathtakingly unique experience. The meeting between martial arts and modern dance is a fascinating one – Long says that watching the flowing graceful moves of the dancers makes him feel that he is “disturbing them”, while co-performer, ballet-trained Stina Malmgreen, is equally in awe of the two stuntmen’s acrobatics.
The effervescent Malmgreen has reached the stage in her career where she refuses to allow her passion for dance to be compromised or eroded. There simply has to be “something unique to bring to an audience”. The collaborative nature of Mute Comp Physical theatre suits her perfectly, contributing to the evolution of her own character while also asking “Why am I doing this?” − a question to which she demands an answer. These are instincts that perfectly intertwine with the sense of urgency embedded in Conspiracy of Spring.
Perhaps the philosopher of the troupe, Raphaël Ferdinand Eder Kastling started ballet dancing as a child, but has found his style and passion in street dance. Contemplating the title of the performance, he says: “If I let go of the passion, I don’t know when summer will come.” For Kastling, Conspiracy of Spring is about continual rebirth and rediscovery, putting his body in difficult positions, and an awareness that he is working against time.
For all four performers, the insecurity of freelance life inevitably propels them forward into new and unknown territory. Pastor says that the last three years have undeniably been hard years, but would he do it again? Absolutely! Life is too short for regrets and he is doing what he loves. He suddenly turns the tables and asks if I recognise this feeling – here, I realise that while we all have passions in life, few of us are fortunate enough to have the driving passions of the six people I have met. I avoid answering.
A couple of hours in the company of Ravnhøj, Stage and the four dancers leave you humbled, inspired, just a little dizzy and looking forward to seeing something special. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” –these are the immortal words of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, words which hit a raw nerve in Ravnshøj. Conspiracy of Spring promises to be a performance where the almost inconceivable blend of dancers rage against death and push themselves to the outer limits of movement in an effort to rebel against both gravity and time. It’s a performance where choreography stares defiantly into the eyes of the grim reaper.
Conspiracy of Spring
Dansehallerne, Pasteursvej 20, Cph V
Starts Sat, ends April 4, performances at 20:00 on Sat & Mon-April 4, 12:00 on April 3-4