Review: A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football (Jo Strømgren Kompani)

artoffootball

World Stage in Toronto scores with a tribute to European football

I had some trouble not leaping from my seat and yelling “GOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!” as the dancers came out for their bows at the opening of A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football. I hate to revert to puns – actually, I love them – but I think that reaction would’ve been appropriate considering how much World Stage has scored bringing Norway’s Jo Strømgren Kompani to Toronto.

The production, already in its 15th year of existence, takes everything about the game of football –the European kind we call soccer- and throws it together in a powerful, dynamic dance piece both impressive in stamina and theatrical in delivery. There’s also a fair share of humour and it all wraps up in a breezy 55 minutes.

Let me put on the record that I know virtually nothing about football aside from having played a little soccer in my early high school years. What I do know about the sport and its culture I’ve most likely learned from friends of fans or from watching bits and pieces of sports on television -something I don’t usually do, I prefer them live- so I do think I did miss out on some nuances of the performance. The man sitting next to me kept whispering to his companion through fits of laughter though, and the few snippets I caught were things like “Oh, that’s so true!” and “They really aren’t leaving anything out,” so I imagine the Kompani aren’t too far off in their tribute.

Between mesmerizing duets, high energy partner work and hard-hitting solos, the dancers each have their own distinct characters that they hold throughout the show. They’re a well-blended group, too, each different enough in style to stand out, but fluid enough to mesh together seamlessly. I was especially drawn to the comedic theatricality of the show as each dancer has exceptional timing. Watching their extreme facial expressions is almost as fascinating as watching their bodies move. Almost.

The soundscape of the show ranges from classical music, heavy metal, yelling into megaphones, and the squeaking sounds of shoes playing football. I thought the blend was interesting and really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the sounds of football while the dancers went through a stylistic choreographed “football practice”.

There’s a definite story arc in the show also, which lends well to bringing all the elements of a football game together, from the first half -where the dancing centers more on the art of practice- to the second –where they play the actual game and hit the showers, revealing something interesting about one of the members of the team.

A show that riffs on the notion of sport as theatre, A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football plays with the theatricality of live athletics and the religiosity of its fans and players. It’s fun, impressive, and might make a football fan out of a dance enthusiast at the same time as it might make a dance enthusiast out of a football fan.

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Photo of Mikkel Are Olsenlund, Jan Nicolai Wesnes, Maria Henriette Nygård and Geir Hytten by .