Live Performances in Norway

An innovative project by the Norwegian National Ballet is enabling small groups of dancers to get back on stage. Artistic director INGRID LORENTZEN explains how this has been managed while satisfying the Norwegian government’s restrictions.

We started planning it when the restrictions were even harder than today. So we said what is the premise - what can we actually do? We cannot have an audience, we cannot touch, we cannot be more than five people at a time and, when we started, we had to be a minimum of two metres’ distance. Now it’s one metre distance – so it’s a little bit softer. It means that transportation is very, very strict. They are all going in a huge bus – only seven of them – and casting now comes down to those who live together! But it’s so beautiful to see people actually dancing together in this time of social distancing. It was forbidden to perform for an audience, but now we can have an audience of up to 50 providing that they are sitting spread out. This means that when we go into a prison they look out of their windows, or into a care home, they sit on their balconies or sit spaced outside. We’ve just done two shows so far and we are already booked for 19 more. We are planning up to three shows a day with different groups of dancers alternating. We are in this situation where we cannot have a normal audience, so what do we do? I think to be able to reach people who cannot get out, or are in lockdown, who have not seen close friends or their relatives for so long, this has so much meaning because those people, even when we can open for 200, they still will not be able to visit the theatre. I also saw this feeling of meaning in the dancers and I’ve rarely seen such joy, like real joy, in being able to do what they love the most in front of people who it really makes a difference to. 

As for the repertoire, we normally plan this several years in advance, but now is within a few days. For the pas de deux, we have the second act of Giselle, Le Corsaire – but just the adagio as these stages are not enormous – 6 x 8 metres. Then we do Cinderella pas de deux, the Dying Swan, also a contemporary duet and a contemporary solo. And for some of the venues – tomorrow we are going to a women’s prison – and this will be my first time in prison! - Peasant pas. We also have, and we’ve started rehearsing La Sylphide, which is perfect as it’s a 200-year-old ballet where they don’t touch – which is ideal. I just called the Bournonville expert, Dinna Bjørn, my predecessor, and she said: “Well, he was ahead of his time!” So we’ll be adding to the repertory all the time to get as many dancers out as possible. This will be our main focus now for the rest of the season.

We will also present a new premiere on the roof on June 15th, because from that day we’ll be allowed to gather 200 people in the open air. So we are creating it now and the dancers are also making it with our house director, and the working title is We’re Better Now. It’s about quite personal stories – we are also casting family members because they can touch each other. So it means that the mother of a 13-year-old girl at the ballet school, she now finds herself in the piece. And also the engineer, who was supposed to get married to Samantha in Australia – they had to cancel the wedding – but she is now part of the performance, going bananas in the background in her wedding dress. This whole thing would not be possible without my staff, who have been planning this so carefully, enabling us able to access our studios - like first, five dancers at a time, now it’s ten - with people accessing the building from one side and exiting from the other. So it’s not about being crazy but about being very thorough. So everything has been approved. So there is hope!