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"Shadowland" by Kari Hoaas Productions
April 6-8, 2023
La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theatre), 66 E. 4th Street
Reviewed by Paul Berss April 6, 2023

Ida Haugen and light sculpture by Gard Gitlestad.

LaMaMa Moves! Dance Festival hosted the world premiere of "Shadowland," performed by the Norway-based ensemble of choreographer/dancer Kari Hoaas. Joining Ms. Hoaas were dancers Ida Haugen, Christine Kjeilberg, and Matias Ronningen. Choreographer Hoaas spent several years studying and performing in New York before returning to her native Oslo and creating her company. Visually and conceptually inspired by the work of Norwegian visual artist Jan Groth, Hoaas has a story to tell.

The work starts with dancers face down on the floor. Foreground: Ida Haugen. Behind: Kari Hoaas and Cristine Kjellberg.

To what I call "new age" music sounds, the work starts with dancers face down on the floor, slowly crawling, twisting, sometimes climbing over one another. They make attempts to rise, but always fall back. The one man and three women are all dressed the same, in blue slacks, socks, and long sleeved pastel-colored tops. It's about 10 minutes into the piece before we see their faces as they slowly rise to their feet, still unsteady, still distorting and twisting. It feels as though they survived a difficult calamity or birth, rising from the earth. Finally they get to their feet but continue to be shaky, fighting to steady themselves, falling, reaching, collapsing. In solo crossings across the stage, they find more balance and perform simple turns, arms out to the sides and hair flying.

L-R Christine Kjellberg, Ida Haugen and Matias Rønningen.

After a while they add long skirts to their costumes and continue the turns and free-wheeling movement, becoming faster and faster. They all finally sit down on the floor as the fast, unrelenting music continues. Finally they rise again and calmly look at their surroundings, as if uncertain of where or who they are.

As darkness takes the stage, a large white form, hanging from the ceiling, spins around. I can't say what it represented - it looked like a huge enlargement of tangled thread, and it spun around and changed shapes.

. Cristine Kjellberg and light sculpture by Gard Gitlestad.

I would remark that the sections of the dance were too extended, especially the beginning - the dancers groveling on the floor before getting to their feet. The vocabulary was, I think, intentionally very limited, but ultimately too repetitive. At the same time, Ms. Hoaas has something to say, and she did something that I find commendable - she gave the audience enough so that they could make up their own stories about her intention. Was she talking about birth, about rebirth, about surviving a calamity, about the eternal continuation of new life? You decide. [PB]


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