Modern Dance Reviews

Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir: Domestic Dances

Three solo dance performances in a Stockholm apartment.

Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir [direction and choreography]
Karin Lundqvist, Marie Nilseng, Louise Perming [dancers]

Moderna Dansteatern Stockholm/Sweden, August 2009

Moving dance performance into a private apartment is a radical attempt to free dance of the conditions associated with a stage performance. While dance in a public space and industrial settings became a commonplace, private areas still have the potential to exploit novel aspects of the relationship between performers and the audience. Traditional spatial constraints are dissolved but restrictions of other kinds arise: space available for movement is confined to areas left free among furniture, the audience is limited to six to ten persons per room, professional

lighting and sound are unavailable. As always in art, the way how external restraints are dealt with and used to open new ways of reception, which means to create artistic novelty, is what determines the value of the resulting work or artifact. The complexly structured space and the necessity to take into account the appliances, accessories and gadgets of the apartment is a challenge and at the same time the charme of a performance kind for which Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir aptly created the name "domestic dance".


The apartment used for the performance was the one rented by the Icelandic choreographer during her stay in Stockholm. The small audience gatherend in front of an outdoor café at Skrapan, which is the tallest skyscraper in Stockholm ("skrapan" actually means skyscraper in Swedish) and went to the apartment from there by foot.


The walk was a guided art tour through part of the Söder district and our guide happened to be the owner of the apartment. She was excellent, I am sorry that I cannot tell her name. The first piece of art she showed us was knitted graffiti: a multicolored sleeve made of knitting yarn around the downspout of a rain gutter. It was the first time I have seen a knitted graffiti. Then we encountered and were explained artifacts created by students of the art school in the park and learned to see the metal rods holding the gate of the house as a projection of energy into eternity, in analogy to a piece of art created by a Swedish sculptor. Apparently the guide normally spoke to the audience in Swedish. Because of us she offered to use English. She asked the others, apparently all Swedish people, and everyone agreed. Respect! I don't encounter this confidence when I ask the question in my lectures, though my audience are advanced university students.

knitted graffiti

We walked up the stairs to the fourth floor, the guide rang the bell of her apartment and the choreograph, who temporarily lived there, opened the door. We were divided into three groups, distinguished by the color stickers we were given. The purpose was to rotate among three parallel performances taking place in the kitchen, the bedroom and the living room. The small corridor got pretty crowded while we were taking off shoes.

in the apartment

Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir: Domestic Dances, Stockholm 2009  Marie Nilseng (press photo by Helen Garke)


My group started in the bedroom. The dancer stood on the window sill with her back towards the room, her head and shoulders hidden behind a short curtains. She moved slowly from the right to the left and back, stepping carefully over a metal box which was resting on the sill. Eventually she jumped down and presented a tiny silent performance along the walls and on and below the bed.

Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir: Domestic Dances, Stockholm 2009  Karin Lundqvist (press photo by Kjell Olausson)

living room

The spectacle in the living room alternated between dance and a dramatic performance. It started on a leather armchair where the performer was exploiting uncommon ways of placing her body along, around and behind - rather than just upon - the upholstery. Then she moved to a sofa where she rolled up and down in fast speed. Rolling down appears simple, but rolling up, from the floor over the seat to the top of the backrest, looks like a film played backwards.

Each dancer performed three times for changing audience, but every performance was different. A visitor would not notice unless he/she attended the performance several times. This also means that what a particular visitor saw that night was a matter of chance, determined by the color of the sticker she received. Randomness has been exploited in numerous ways but this one is substantial: you cannot know which piece you are going to see! If your company has a different sticker, the six performances you are going to see will be all different. Nice, isn't it? Actually Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir recommended friends who came together to take different stickers, but she has not revealed why.

random choice

When we entered the kitchen it appeared to be empty. Then the door of a small cupboard opened (the blue cupboard next to the oven on the photo below). The dancer was hidden inside, which seemed impossible in spite of her tender stature. She did a lot of interesting things. One that stuck in my memory was how she wiped the bench and oven with a piece of cloth, because during this action she smoothly switched from normal movement to dance and back.


This was the second dance performance set in someone's apartment which I experienced. The first of this kind I encounted was during Alkantara Festival in Lisbon in 2006. Putting art exhibitions in domestic environments is one of the current trends in Berlin; I am curious when the first domestic dance appears here.

Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir: Domestic Dances, Stockholm 2009

Louise Perming (press photo by Kjell Olausson)

Text: Petr Karlovsky