Interview with choreographers Nanna Stigsdatter & Snorre Elvin

Jeffrey S. Stratton

It may, or may not be, that you were able to see the premiere of ‘pour it’ at Aaben Dans in Roskilde earlier this year. Regardless, there will be something new to experience from the upcoming showing of the work in Copenhagen Contemporary—shifting from a black box to a somewhat white cube format, to name one.

And while the format change is sure to create some aesthetic changes in the work, we wanted to sit down with Nanna & Snorre to dive deeper into the overall development of the piece—to provide some deeper context for the work:

Related article: Subverting expectations by allowing a diversity of aesthetic and compositional choices

To start, I would like to speak about the duo between you two. Tell me, how did you two begin working together?

Snorre: Beyond the many years that we have shared a workspace in Danseatelier, I would say that Nanna and I both share a relationship with Berlin. We both lived in Berlin at different periods, and it was there that we began development on the concepts found in this piece. Back then, it was a different iteration of the work, called Drivtømmer [Driftwood].
Nanna: Yeah, Berlin is like a second home for us and a source of inspiration.

And through your shared artistic development, what are some of the strengths that have manifested in your work together?

Nanna: Of course, I think there’s a very big strength in knowing each other so well—through school, graduation projects, internships, residencies and, of course, all the years in a shared collective. There are a lot of years of trust. One could say that we share a vocabulary.
Snorre: Yeah, definitely trust. Trust in that sense, where you know each other on many different levels—privately and professionally.
Nanna: ‘Friendship’ is one of the recurring themes in pour it. I also think that you can feel it as an audience. There are places in the work where the relationship between us is somewhat performative, a circumstance that lies in the choreographic material, and then there are places where it is just Snorre and me sitting and singing. So, we slip in and out of intimate moments that we share and something else that is more constructed.

At the beginning of this process, Snorre and I just met in the studio, shared ideas, and let different things arise. Because of that process, I think our personal friendship has been allowed to shine through in several places in the work.

Snorre: Ya, actually, “allowing” is a term that we used a lot during this whole process. Allowing images to be there without them having to fit into a concept. Allowing a multiplicity of stories, all co-existing in a space—like a kind of ecosystem of performativity.

I want to dive deeper into how the process for ‘pour it’ began to develop. Was there a critical point where specific ideas began to manifest themselves, or was the work more holistic?

Snorre: Our development with pour it was a little different than one might experience in starting a work from scratch. We based the work on some of the same themes and material that exists in Drivtømmer. Therefore, we began by meeting in the studio, knowing that we would produce a work and that it would be related to what we developed in Drivtømmer. But, it was also essential for us to ‘allow’ new things.
Nanna: I guess when you look at the development of the work, there is Drivtømmer and pour it, which can be said are from the same source. However, the wish for pour it, was to bring in collaborators with their knowledge and practices and “allow” those influences to be present in the work as well.

So what were some of the discoveries or revelations that you made through this practice of Allowing?

Snorre: Working in the way we did allowed to us ideate several independent scenes that we developed at the same time. We thought a lot about how they could co-exist or intertwine, which led us to develop what we call choreographic ‘thresholds’ or portals, a method where we physically charge ourselves with energy and then release it through a kind of metaphorical portal or threshold. This methodology became a way for us to work with some kind of transitions between the different elements. What does it mean to step into a portal or over a threshold and then end up in something new, for example? Or to end up in another practice or another state?
Nanna: For me, I think it has been very playful in this sense, working with the notion of thresholds. For example, exploring the length of a threshold. Like, when does the in-between become a thing of its own?
Snorre: We worked a lot with time and “spending time.” Like, how long is a transition before the transition is actually felt? Is there a length of time when a transition becomes a place in itself? More specifically, how long can something be stretched in time before one arrives at a conscious difference state of mind…like an understanding of: “oh, now I have arrived somewhere new.”
Nanna: Also, the music was a bit of a revelation, I suppose you could say. There is a lot of subtle humour to the music, and it was interesting exploring how that could feed the choreography.

So, with transitions playing such a large part in the development of pour it, was there a conscious awareness of the transition between it and its predecessor Drivtømmer? More specifically, is this a series? Or an evolution?

Snorre: I would say our awareness of the transition was very much there.
But, pour it is pour it, just as Drivtømmer is Drivtømmer. It’s more about thinking of them as sister pieces. For Pour It, it was about further development, but with more people and new manifestations of similar ideas.

I like this image of musicians and concerts. You know, they might release a new album, but they still play a few from their last album. There is something like that in these works.

I want to get back to this methodology of Allowing. pour it contains a lot of elements that, even on their own, could be major drivers of the piece—queer relationships, ecology, hydrofeminism, pop culture, etc. How did you “allow” for such a variety of thematic references without going too far into direct representation?

Nanna: Well, we knew that we could not insist on everything being in a scene at the same time.
Snorre: Ya, never giving too clear of an image. For example, if the sound, the music, and the movement really build the “swamp” feeling…then it’s like, okay, are we now too deep into the swamp? It’s direct representation. Then we could ask which one of the elements can be altered to kind of pull it into another direction?
Nanna: Although, we also wanted to “allow” representation to happen as well. It was a balance of never becoming too literal. Always asking, “what do we layer it with? How do we frame it?

For my final question, what are your thoughts on the trajectory of research and the work that you two are doing together?

Snorre: I think for me, there’s something important as an artist in simply working with people that I trust and know. I don’t have this need to always be looking to make new original pieces with new concepts. I can easily see myself doing another piece with the same concept and with the same research.