Last fall, American dancer Eva Mohn joined Sweden's eclectic Cullberg Ballet. The company, founded in 1967 as part of Sweden's National Touring Theatre, showcases zany choreography and distinctive stage personalities. Here, Mohn shares her experience with pointemagazine.com.
There is something happening in the Cullberg Ballet company that is truly unique for a troupe of its size and historical significance. The word that comes to mind is patience. I was intending to write for this blog in August, when I first started the season. But upon getting here, I noticed that I had to slow my motor down and take some time to watch the way this company works. There was a difference that was unfamiliar and subtle enough that I couldn't put a name on it. The schedule was not so different from the Kassel State Theater job I was coming from. And the physical demand on the body was equal parts training and creation, also not dissimilar to way I was familiar with working. I enjoy athletic training, and I get consumed by creative process, but I noticed a very tender and playful way that my colleagues managed the rehearsals, and a patience that was used in the physical explorations, as well as the conversations. I noticed on the schedule that for the first two weeks, my days would be 100 percent dedicated to practicing a specific improvisation structure. This was my luxurious way to meet to these individuals. I felt the carnivorous appetite that I have for “work” start to be satiated by small tastes of strong sensations in the body. I was enjoying watching the inventions of my colleagues as much as inventing myself. The first days I felt like I was hurrying, and then I noticed that hurrying didn’t make any sense. There was nothing to "know” or “learn” the way I had been anticipating. I was only asked to arrive and participate, and the “knowing” would follow. Even our company meetings were slowly paced, regularily occurring on the schedule, and allowed for plenty of conversation and questioning of our intentions, methods and goals.
The company has a commitment to work somatically and I see that practiced in the training studio, in creation, in the office, at lunch, in the green room. It’s an ever-present part of our days.
Now I have been here for 8 months. I've had many confrontations with myself. I have, of course, had the recurring questions that I think all dancers ask themselves about his or her “place” in this industry of entertainment, the value of his or her efforts, the discipline by which we all judge ourselves, the longevity, the sacrifices. However, I've noticed that being in this environment where we encourage each other to let our intuitive body lead us, and are given independence to work as we see fit, that I have lightened up. I approach all of these questions with a greater sense of ease, and let the grappling go much more quickly than I was able to before. In a physical sense, I let it pass through my structure.
The Cullberg is taking an enormous risk in the creations it is choosing to premiere, this year featuring Benoit Lachambre and Jefta Van Dinther, as well as taking another enormous risk to manage its dancers in a loose and playful manner. It seems that this company trusts that it does not have to be the industry of entertainment that dictates our working methods, but that a commitment to curiosity can open the experience beyond being merely fed a spectacle, and into being nourished by an experience.