Meet the Ministry! A participant describes the project
By Matti Arbiv
Anyone who has been lucky enough to see GöteborgsOperans Danskompani (the Göteborg Opera’s dance company) in action will never forget the experience. The Meet the Ministry project was initiated in an attempt to make young people like me aware of contemporary dance and of the dance company itself, one of our city’s crowning glories. The project includes around 15 young people, as well as dancers from the company and project managers. A warm, friendly atmosphere in the workshops emerged simply from everyone working and doing things together. We all share some common ground – whether professionals or amateurs.
The name of our workshop – Meet the Ministry – refers to a dance piece: The Ministry of Unresolved Emotions by Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren, who came up with the idea of using dance to express the emotions that we normally suppress when we can’t see a way to resolve them. The performance, which is aimed primarily at young people, has its world premiere on the Small Stage in April 2019. Apart from letting us come up with suggestions for some of the ”unresolved emotions”, Meet the Ministry also allowed us to observe the creative process at close quarters as well as to interpret and express our own emotions and dilemmas through dance.
We were given wigs, jackets and hats to help spice up our dancing and characterisation if we wanted to – a method typical for Jo Strømgren’s quirky, theatrical style. Our task was to interpret and transform an emotion or dilemma into movement and to create our own choreography from that. Guidance and freedom. The dilemma that my own group was given to interpret through dance related to the ways in which different cultures and generations greet each other, and how this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
One of the dancers said: ‘There are so many things that we do automatically because we’ve done the same thing so many times before ... Try to define your movements more ... Think in detail about how you stretch out your hand to greet another person.’ Two more dancers gave me the tips like: ‘Think parkour! ... Your movements are constantly deviating ... Switch between big and small movements! ... Try varying the tempo.’
Through playful exercises we learnt to open up to everything that is contemporary dance. In the end, it’s all about being able to dance freely without instruction or restriction. Instead, we are given guidance to challenge our imagination and allow us to explore new movements. For example, while being recorded, we were asked to verbally list four simple movements. The recordings were then used as a kind of verbal choreography on which we based our dancing depending on different emotions, paces, concrete or abstract movements, upright dance techniques or floorwork.
Besides dance, we’ve also had the chance to explore the rest of the opera house. We’ve met and interviewed people like the costume cutters, who are responsible for making specially designed dancewear that enables the dancers to make quick, grandiose movements. The dancers sometimes have to wear things like tight pencil skirts or suits on stage – it is the job of the cutters to transform such costumes into comfortable dancewear.
The Meet the Ministry project has allowed us to be inspired by each other. Even if some of the participating dancers have been dancing eight times a week for most of their life and others prefer making films or drawing, there is never a feeling of competition between us. Beginning in September 2018 and for the next three seasons, we will dive deep into the aura of GöteborgsOperans Danskompani – a life-giving eldorado that too many people my age do not know exists, and are missing out on. We want to let young people know what a gold mine they are sitting on! Soon rehearsals will start for The Ministry of Unresolved Emotions. Everyone from Meet the Ministry project will be there to see how anxiety based first-world problems, to which we all reluctantly relate, are miraculously transformed into therapeutic art.
In the photo: Matti Arbiv