Avatar at the High Performance Rodeo


Calgary can look forward to a different kind of chinook this January. Starting January 3, the High Performance Rodeo is presenting the Icelandic Heat Wave — four shows either from Iceland or containing Icelandic roots.

Freya Björg Olafson’s AVATAR, one of the High Performance Rodeo’s most talked about performances in the Icelandic Heat Wave, is a contemporary dance commenting on our relationship with the online world, social networking and general technological dependence.

The performance is an hour-long modern dance consisting of Olafson, her computer, webcam and software that she uses as tools to engage and connect with her audience. The performance, though somewhat enigmatic to those unfamiliar with the post-modern dance style, is a must-see in the rodeo’s line-up for its societal relevance and overall originality.

This Icelandic themed project is sure to grab the attention of the politically- and Internet-savvy, thanks to the current star-status of Jón Gnarr, former punk rocker and current mayor of Iceland’s capital city. Gnarr has been plastered on the front page of the Internet for his unconventional leadership and general bad-assery, leaving many to question and look further into the unique and mysterious culture of Iceland.

Olafson’s AVATAR is a prime example of this unique and mysterious genre. Her interdisciplinary dances are known for using video, audio and painting to illustrate a bigger theme. But, as for this performance’s theme, Olafson says AVATAR is meant to ask more questions about our online proclivity than answer them.

“It asks the viewer to reflect on their own relationship with their laptop. It questions how much we learn and lose about ourselves through online engagement, and how it disassociates ourselves from our body.”

The idea of “I post, therefore I am” is a concept Olafson utilized to conceive the performance while she was doing her Masters of Fine Arts in 2007.

“[The concept] revolves around our desires and how we use the Internet to publish our existence. What you eat, who you’ve been with, who you’ve seen… We consistently update our whereabouts and, in essence, our existence.”

As for the reaction she’s gotten for the piece, Olafson says it changes every time she performs it. With the video, audio and the dance to engage audiences, she says anyone can find a connection to the performance because, as far as contemporary dance goes, AVATAR is rather accessible for audiences.

For the audience to get best out of the performance, she says they should “just relax, breathe and respond to the piece.”

“There’s no right way to respond to something like this,” Olafson says. “Everyone’s feelings and reactions to a piece are individual. Don’t get too worried trying to figure out what [my] intentions are.”

To drive her point home, Olafson added an interactive element between herself and her audience to act as the climax to her piece. Though she says she wants to keep most of the details a surprise, the audience participation is in the form of an informal Q and A.

“[The details] are a surprise, but it doesn’t put any individuals on the spot. It’s a small portion that’s quite impactful.”

Mark Hopkins, associate producer of the High Performance Rodeo, says that the performance’s Icelandic roots are a great exhibition of things we just don’t get to see in Calgary.

“I’m really pumped for it. It’s especially cool because when do we get exposed to that here? Never.”

AVATAR’s first performance is Jan. 8 at 8:00 p.m. at the Big Secret Theatre. VisitHProdeo.com for ticket information.

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