Interview with dancer and choreographer Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir

26. Mar 2014


Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir is one of Iceland´s most known dancer and choreographer. For the last six years she has worked with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, one of the most in demand choreographers of today. Valgerður recently made a new creation for Iceland Dance Company as well as creating a new piece along with two other artists. These two dance pieces were premiered two weeks apart in February.

Performing Arts Iceland recently interviewed Valgerður on her life as a dancer and a choreographer…

You premiered two dance pieces recently, ÓRAUNVERULEIKIR (e. Is it real?) and F A R A N G U R (e. L U G G A G E) , do these pieces have anything in common?

I started working with my co-producers and creative team on Óraunveruleikir last summer then I went on tour with Cherkaouis work. When I got back to Iceland I started working with the Iceland Dance Company. The rehearsal periods were very organized and these pieces were not rehearsed at the same time. After we premiered Óraunveruleikir I headed straight back to the Iceland Dance Company. These two pieces are in fact totally separate works it just so happens that they are premiered almost at the same time.
It would of course be preferable to work solely on one piece at a time but I enjoy some level of chaos and a full schedule. It inspires me. I find it rewarding to run between places and projects, it creates a certain flow even though the pieces are not related.

It must have been quite hectic, there were only two weeks between the premieres, how did you manage?

There is a huge difference between producing your own work like Óraunveruleikir where you have to handle everything by yourself, and working for another company like the Iceland Dance Company, where you are only working within the creative part of the production. It would be a little over the top to produce two pieces entirely at the same time. In both cases I had good breaks in between rehearsal periods It gave me a certain distance, letting the material rest with you a bit longer before you delve into it again. Even though you are not constantly thinking of the piece during those breaks it is fermenting and festering within your subconsciousness and for me personally that is very good.


Does the work undergo more changes than usual because of its long yet periodic rehearsals?

Yes, most definitely, the script is constantly in the making as we work. We are doing everything at the same time i.e. writing the script and rehearsing and even though it starts with a basic idea, it changes a lot in the process. Like, with the Dance Company, even though I bring idea and the work is titled as mine, it is a collaboration. We bounce the ball between us, I give the dancers an idea and they work with it and bounce the ball back to me for feedback. This is the way we work and it creates a dynamic conversation between collaborators and that keeps the creativity flowing.

Where such a dynamic collaboration takes place, aren´t there any disagreements that come up?

Well, yes sometimes that happens. There are always pros and cons to such collaborations. Even though our cooperation in Óraunveruleikir was good we all needed to make compromises. All three of us made every decision together. Each step taken needs to be discussed and agreed upon and sometimes we needed to set aside our differences to make it work, but I guess that is just the way it is in all collaborative work.

How do you feel about being a dancer on one hand and a choreographer on the other?

I find it incredibly rewarding being able to jump between those two jobs that are quite distinct yet similar. As a dancer today, you are constantly creating. As with the dancers of the Iceland Dance Company, they are constantly in the creation process and it is not like I enter and feed them with what I want them to do. The work is always a collaborative dialogue.

How do you feel about working as a dancer for another choreographer when you know what it feels like to work entirely with your own ideas and to produce your own work?

I find both quite stimulating. It is good to be able to jump between roles, I still enjoy dancing for other choreographers. It can take the pressure of you for a moment cause if I am producing my own piece I have to have my fingers on everything. But when you are dancing you really only need to take responsibility for yourself and sometimes that suits me well. In our production, Óraunveruleikir, all of us three creators also performed the work. This was a bit of a challenge as we were so involved in the work we never got the chance to gain another perspective, i.e. to see the work from outside. But we got some of our colleagues to help us in the last week of rehearsals to comment on our work. Up to this point I love to take on different projects both as a dancer and choreographer, both for others and to produce my own shows.

From Is it real? From Is it real?

Did you always plan on becoming a dancers? Are you content with your position now?

Yes, I think so and in my adolescence it was quite clear where I was heading. I am totally satisfied with where I am right now in my career. I have been able to do incredible things as a dancer and choreographer working with amazing people. I have had many different opportunities which I am grateful for so I cannot complain and I sincerely hope I will continue on this road. Of course you have to create your own opportunites but that is an integral part of the process of being a dance artist.

You have spent quite some time abroad, touring with various companies. What are your thoughts on the international dance scene? And in comparison to the Icelandic dance scene?

The tradition for dance is much stronger on the mainland of Europe than here in Iceland and accordingly there seem to follow more respect and fundings with this tradition. The dance as an artform is relatively young in Iceland which gives us a certain freedom from fixed ideas and traditions. But because of our location on the globe we are somewhat out of the way and therefore not many foreign guest performances come here nor do many Icelandic performances travel abroad.  Icelandic dancers are, however, increasingly traveling with their work abroad where the market is bigger and diverse. The Iceland Dance Company has through the years created an identity in the international scene and is a very important part of the Icelandic culture.  Now there is a house for dance in Reykjavik, namely the Reykjavik Dance Atelier, where independent dancers can work on their projects in a more appropriate environment. I am very optimistic that one fine day there will rise a dance hall or a center for dance in Iceland where the independent dance scene will have their own stage for performances. I think that with a center like that the cultural flora will grow significantly. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I hope I will still be doing interesting work which is rewarding, exciting and turns me on artistically. I see myself still dancing because I cannot see a problem with keeping on dancing for as long as you like, perhaps you need to change the physicality of the work a bit as the body changes. Certainly there are things you will stop being able to do as you get older but if your mind is there, you can reach pretty far. I find it so incredibly fun to be on stage, love it, so I will not quit dancing anytime soon. While I enjoy myself on stage I will continue dancing.

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