Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt dances in NY
The Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt, a dance company based in Oslo, had their New York premiere at the Battery Park Dance Festival 2015, which was held in Wagner Park on Aug. 19. Two days later, their full work was performed by their own company. I have never seen the company dance but was grateful to find pieces of their performances on video. Omega and the deer from (2011) was especially impressive with its graceful athleticism.
Founded in 1992 by dancer Ingun Bjørnsgaard, who had danced with both the the Statens balletthøgskole and the Martha Graham company, it has made a great splash in Europe and is now hoping to take on the New World. I had a chance to speak to the company’s director and founder, as well as their general manager.
Victoria Hofmo: Ingun, you were an acclaimed dancer. Why did you convert to choreography?
Ingun Bjørnsgaard: As a student, first at the Norwegian Academy of Ballet and later at the Martha Graham school (1985 to ’87) in New York City, I started to do some small choreographic creations. As a professional I continued to do choreographic work parallel with working as dancer. Suddenly it took over: the ambition to be a choreographer and interest to see the dance with an outside eye. I wanted to make a platform and visualize my choreographic work. My intention was to develop my own movement expression and create my choreographic signature.
VH: You’ve created pieces for a wide breadth of dance companies in many countries. Do your pieces take into consideration those cultures?
IB: The two latest commissioned works have been for Ballet de Lorraine in France, with the piece Hedda, and with Göteborg Operans Danskompani. Yes, I find inspiration in the meeting with the companies’ countries’ culture. The latest was with my work with Göteborg Operans Danskompani, with Orfila. I had a reference to August Strindberg Inferno. It is always a great experience to go into a new arena that is given in these situations.
VH: With your busy schedule, how do you juggle it all?
IB: I am grateful to be asked to create new commissioned works. The variations with working with my own company Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt and doing new creations with other companies gives a good energy.
VH: Your themes are reminiscent of Martha Graham’s Greek archetypes. Do you see any parallels between the two of you? Has she influenced you?
IB: Yes, my early years at Martha Graham’s school made a strong influence on me. I liked it and I also got tired of the old modern school of dance. I have—like Martha Graham—had the possibility to work with archetypes. Female archetypes have been important in my artistic career. For my next work with Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt I will be departing from an investigation into different aspects of the Medea myth. My last for the company was Rotating Nora, which also had an archetypical aspect.
The company’s General Manager, Kirre Q. Anneberg, also shared what she feels is unique about Ingun Bjørnsgaard: “I personally think the work is excellent, having a strong expression, and also is of very high quality. The dancers are selected for their technical and personal expressions—each one with an individual personality. This is some of the specifics in the company.”
Norway is known for their support of the arts and dance is no exception. Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt is funded by Arts Council Norway, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Consulate in New York, and Performing Arts Hub Norway. However, they also have ambitions to widen their audience beyond Europe, and these New York performances are a step in that direction.
VH: Ingun, what pieces will you be featuring at your two New York performances, and why were those chosen?
IB: Ingun Bjørnsgaard Prosjekt was selected by the jury of ICE HOT Nordic Dance Platform to present Praeambulum in Oslo last December. Gabriella Cipolla from Battery Dance Company was present and chose to invite us for the festival. The outdoor presentation is an extract of the Praeambulum with six of the original seven dancers. At Schimmel Center we will present the full-length version of Praeambulum with all seven dancers.
VH: Do you have any other upcoming performances in the U.S.?
IB: At the moment we have not made such plans, but this is what we work for and hope to be invited to come back and share our dance productions with a huge U.S. audience.
VH: Is there anything you’d like to add?
IB: It was fantastic to play Praeambulum in Battery Park last Wednesday. The outdoor setting was unique. The Statue of Liberty, the wind, all the boats on Hudson River in the beautiful and wild cloudy sunset gave us good energy.
Anneberg elaborates: “I hope that with this presentation in New York we will gain some attention and festivals and venues might want to invite us to present some of our other productions. I think our artistic expression might communicate well here in the U.S. But then again, this is my personal view. Hopefully I might not be too wrong.”
I doubt she will be. Just check out one of the Ingun Bjornsgaard Prosjekt’s pieces online. With their sophisticated content, technique, and sheer beauty, they are destined to succeed and delight.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 11, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.