Spring Forward 2022: Going Somewhere

Just before the grand finale of this year’s Spring Forward, Gran Bolero choreographer Jesús Rubio Gamo told the story of the beginning of his epic creation. Feeling stuck and lonely in his life he listened repeatedly to Ravel’s Bolero. It spoke to him: ‘Come with me and I’ll take you somewhere.’

That is exactly my feeling about what this festival was like – a train. (In fact, we did make a beaten track next to a retired and now botanical railway of Elefsina, marching nearly 20,000 steps in between all the venues, as evidenced on a colleague’s phone.) The event was also like a rollercoaster. We ten Springbackers watched 25 shows in four days, wrote approximately 8 reviews each (into the wee hours of the night) and contributed an outdoor panel discussion. The sleepless nights and hours of sitting sometimes left my brain and body as squished as the fallen oranges and lemons splayed out on the city’s streets. But not once did I lose confidence or faith in the fact that what we were doing was important. Why? Because dance is important.

The pieces that moved me kinaesthetically, electrified me inside and out and transported me to other places are the ones which made the deepest marks. Andreas Hannes’ Warping Soul unified me into the dancers’ common, disrupted body language. Beings by Wang Yeu-Kwn felt like falling from the top of a building, blissfully knowing that you will land softly. Soothed by a soft sea breeze thanks to an open-air staging, POCKETART collective’s Treatment of Remembering made me feel like it was okay to close my eyes from time to time and rest, a small action that amplified my absorption of their healing dance. Gran Bolero lifted me up onto my feet to sing a ‘la-la-la’ version of Ravel, shoulder to shoulder with local audiences and professionals, in an intoxicating celebration of dance. And after watching Sigrid Stigsdatter Mathiaassen’s Cold Hawaii I certainly won’t say ‘Oh my god’ in the same way ever again.

Amongst my curious mix of luggage content (woollen wear for Norway, summer dresses for Greece) was a small, round box containing ten iodine pills – just in case. A couple of weeks prior to Spring Forward, it seems that every Norwegian resident under 35 had rushed to their local pharmacy to acquire some of these pills should a nuclear accident occur. Few were available. I was one of the lucky ones. But such was my total immersion in the festival bubble that back at home in Oslo, unpacking my bag, I realised I’d mostly completely forgotten about both my stash of pills and the state of the world. Was this good or bad, I wondered. And yet one of the scheduled performances, Plastic Bag by Yulia Arsen, did remind me acutely of contemporary politics, and did so by its absence. Created by a Russian artist, this work was withdrawn – or is cancelled a better word? – from the programme as a consequence of the war in Ukraine. The loss of communication and debate around this controversial decision left me baffled, worried and full of questions.

On a lighter note, it felt good to be one among some 300 buzzing voices in the massive hall where we dance enthusiasts gathered for lunch and dinner. Wolfing down our salads and pies, spilling wine and words across the table, we all contributed to a very special and urgent kind of rhythm that seemed especially intense because it was essentially so temporary.

Now it’s all over, but music from some of the shows is still looping round my head and phrases I struggled to put down on paper are still working inside me. After the panel discussion I was handed an envelope from the Taiwanese artist, Wang Yeu-Kwn. Inside was a small piece of the dance’s scenography, a paper with spots of spilled ink on it that now hangs on the wall next to my desk. On the envelope it says: Thank you for being here.

Here. Somewhere. That somewhere will have been a different place for each of us. All we knew is that we wanted to go there, and that it was easier to reach together with other people. And, for me, it became that much easier because movement was involved in all its beautiful facets.

Berit Einemo Frøysland