3rd of march 2009
Muriel Steinmetz

All the bodies’insolence at the « Antipodes » (…) Erna Omarsdottir, a central figure of the Icelandic dance scene, presents « Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness », a liberating stage experience. They are five, sisters, nuns, witches, best friends and polygamist-wives at the same time. They have hair on their faces and boots on their hands, a spectacular example of an upside down world. For around one and a half hour, they dance their hysteria with jerky movements to heavy-metal music, interspersed with tender lulls that come as short healings. With such a perfectly controlled and orchestrated frenzy, this piece will surely be talked about in the near future.

3rd of march 2009
by Marie-Christine Vernay

(…) They tear off their hair in a rock'n'roll piece by Erna Omarsdottir : « Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness ». Offering multiple variations of pilosity, the furious icelandic choreographer unleashes creatures from nightmarish tales, women in furs and enemy sisters.

France Info
5th of march 2009
by Claire Baudéan

"Teach us to outgrow our madness", by the Icelandic choreographer Erna Omarsdottir just premiered in the festival Les Antipodes in Brest, last weekend, a piece that shows how live performances of the early 21st century are changing and dares to cross some limits which fascinates. Erna, the terrifying child of the dance theater, gives birth to a world crazy with vitality where little girls compete with menopaused women. Between raged dances, singing sirens or eructations, five Nordic creatures with haunting hair, knit their terrors and fantasies together into a furious and liberating theatrical experience.

taken from: http://www.grapevine.is/Art/ReadArticle/Art-Teach-Us-How-to-Roar-Like-a-Monster

Teach Us How to Roar Like a Monster
by Sari Peltonen

Bad hair day, spin the bottle, beat on a pregnant woman and forge an unbreakable connection.

Erna Ómarsdóttir’s “Teach Us How To Outgrow Our Madness” premiered at the National Theatre on June 19 to a full house of fans and a who’s who of Reykjavik – a well deserved celebration of one of Iceland’s most individual and accomplished artists.

The date was also Icelandic women’s rights day, an appropriate choice for a performance that explores the intense relationships between middle aged women. A performance in which the characters’ movements are defined by a secret shared amidst the rivalry, cruelty and bonds of their deep connections.

Combining dance, storytelling and theatre with heavy electronic beats and live singing, Ómarsdóttir continues to walk an unaffected path of her own through the sometimes spurious world of the arts. Once again employing collaboration to help blaze the individualistic trail, Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness was conceived and performed together with previous cohorts Sissel Merete Bjorkli, Riina Huhtanen, Sigríður Soffía Níelsdóttir and Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir (with music by Reykjavík!’s Valdimar Jóhannsson and musician Lieven Dousselaere).

Assuredly confronting taboos, the challenging performance also provided the perfect occasion to observe some awkward squirming from a fair proportion of the well-turned out National Theatre audience.

With her profoundly, and at times disturbingly, dynamic movement, the diminutive Ómarsdóttir stands out even when surrounded by statuesque Nordic blondes lassoing jump-ropes in a deep trance. Indeed, the only shame was that the nature of the piece required this aspect of her work to be dialled down.

At least for a female viewer the pull-no-punches themes hit hard, cutting wisdom and knife-sharp honesty in the performance, mixing with a refreshingly wild streak of humour. Building to the dancers’ full blooded expressions of hysteria and insanity, the journey was at times shockingly powerful.

But hitting hardest of all was the sheer force of Ms. Ómarsdóttir’s vocals. Her repertoire ranges from childlike utterings to aggressive expulsions of the lungs in sync with the movement and a full-blown heavy-metal roar that is impossible to escape, engulfing the listener and irresistibly driving them in her direction. Or in less poetic terms, a fucking awesome noise.

“My hobby is screaming” she says after the show, “but it causes trouble with the neighbours.”

taken from: http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_life/?cat_id=59343&ew_0_a_id=335936

Dancing with the Stars
25/06/2009 | 11:00
by Simon Barker

The Paris Salon in the 18th and 19th centuries, Ballet Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet in early 20th century Paris, the drama of the opera scenes in Gossip Girl—the events at which great art met with society’s elite to create the quintessential moments of a civilization.

Old world romance long since passed, driven into the dust by the grand democratization of culture. Or at least that is the case everywhere that isn’t Iceland.

Each Erna Ómarsdóttir performance seems to offer something unique, over and above the incredible dancing. Submerged in the Blue Lagoon, vaudevillian ribaldry with the ID Company, vulnerably crammed in a baking hot old wooden loft in Borgarnes.

Top of my list is the performance of “Mysteries of Love” that I caught at The Place dance theatre in London. The show fused darkness to dance and reminded me for all the world of the surreal theatre scene in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive—a chance encounter in an elegiac underworld that distils the pure and maddening beauty of art.

The Icelandic premiere of “Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness” at the National Theatre (June 19th) carried on this tradition. Choreographed and performed by a group of five Nordic dancers, the show took the audience through an experience of sisterhood, play and torment, love and madness.

It was in moments funny, touching and creepy as a Japanese ghost story. Often it was quite deranged—the disturbing nature of existence a recurring theme of Erna’s work.

This brush with the surreal and shocking made for a wonderful contrast with the social nature of the occasion.

In the networked to the balls hyper-society of today, culture has splintered into a million subsets and genres. Iceland, though, is geographically so isolated that even the power of the internet is not enough to fracture the cream of its society.

World renowned musicians in gold negligee’s, cultural heads, hip young 101 things and artists all bravely stepped up to play the roles of cultural aristocrats, political industrialists, society debutantes with their chaperones and... well, artists.

The revolutionary spirit of the times was no barrier to resurrecting the Tsarist sentiments of the past and indulging a taste for the grandiose. The whole thing making for such a heady mix that I was not entirely sure where the performance began and ended.

Of course this is just how culture should be—and perhaps modern trends are just a means of getting back to this. The threads of art and society woven silk tight. But the moments in which you truly experience the feeling are sadly few and far between.

This is all part of the charm of living in Iceland, with a small yet culturally-conscious society there is often the chance to experience something a little surreal and fantastic. And few moments could offer more of either than Friday’s collision of the social calendar with bleeding edge performance.

Angry black noise thunders out the theatre speakers and the dancers, now wielding microphones, scream violent death metal defiance. A fair percentage of the glittering audience shift uneasily in their seats, captured in the moment by shock and awe.
Isn’t it just wonderful!

(The five dancers and composer Valdimar Jóhannsson received a rapturous response for their brilliant performance—from the entire audience.) ? ?

P.S. I urge everyone to go see Erna perform as soon as possible and to read Austrian writer Robert Musil’s splendid fiction of culturally-conscious high society: The Man Without Qualities.

taken from http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_09/jul09/rr_rev_erna_omarsdottir_0609.htm

Erna Omarsdottir
‘Help Us To Outgrow Our Madness’
June 2009
London, Place
by Rebecca Rosier

Some artists approach art as a challenge. The task is this: explore the medium to the most absolute boundary that you can, vigorously examine as many avenues as you can bear, and project in the art form something stirringly contemporaneous, so that all the observers are challenged in their artistic understanding.
As a dim light shone on a hobbling creature with flame-red, waist-length curls cascading from the front of a black hood, the bud of the challenge pushed its way through the fourth wall. Omarsdottir sets up a throbbing, anguished emotion that runs through the entire show. In both a cult-like section where matted, fake hair is piled on one dancer, who swirls her yeti-like torso around in a shamanistic seething, and a contrastingly tender, but altogether intense moment, where the women go about brushing and plaiting one another’s hair, the emotional angst grips the viewer without interruption.

The ferocity of an extended, rapid and exhausting breath-rhythm section contrasts gruesomely with long flowing hair and 1940s-style flowery dresses. In this way, you are drawn toward a parallel for the paradoxical social perception of women, and their stereotypical traits: sweet and gentle in their calf-length chiffon, yet jealously pounding a fist at another woman’s pregnant stomach.

The show climaxed with what Omarsdottir referred to as “playing a song”, where she screamed, impressively, into her microphone (quite the opposite to her soft, sultry vocals heard in her band, Poni) as the other women crawled, headbanging, and intermittently giving a scream. It was intimidating and wild with passion. Curiously, and amusingly, Omarsdottir announced that as we had been “such a good audience,” that they were going to “play another song”. The dancers lined up behind their microphone stands, and ‘shoop-shoop’-ed their way through a crooning soul song. It was a fair attempt to show that despite their emotional intensity, they could be ironic and fun. The effect, however, was an alienating discontinuity.

The performance was a witty and vibrant exploration of femininity, sexuality, and spirituality. While the ideas were executed dynamically and were outstandingly innovative, what was conveyed was a feeling that the ideas might have benefited from further analysis and editing so that the piece could unreservedly possess the charming and ambiguous nature that this style of art seems to demand.