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Strømgren / Celis

World premiere February 26, 2011

Dance. "More Stijn Celis for the people of Gothenburg" GT wrote in 2009. Now he’s back in a double program with acclaimed Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren.

Dance program in two parts by Jo Strømgren and Stijn Celis.

The Outskirts by Jo Strømgren.

Choreographer Jo Strømgren
Jo StrømgrenPhoto: Urban Jörén

“First class!” The review by DN refers to Norwegian Jo Strømgren’s internationally successful dance production Herzschmerz at The Göteborg Ballet in 2009, in which he once again created a harmonious production at the intersection between dance and theatre. Strømgren’s sometimes ingenious, sometimes laconic understatements give the performance a sudden and poetic edge that verges between laughter and tears.

Strømgren consciously appeals to the common as well as the playful and intellectual. A quick glance at his long list of productions, that encompass all spectra from terrorism to romantic triangles, nuns on the verge of nervous breakdown and a closed society for coffee drinkers that’s infiltrated by an Asian teabag, gives an idea of the possibilities that open up with this new production. The starting point is a play on the meaning of theater.

Watch a movie from the performance.

Utkanten by Jo Strømgren Göteborgsoperan
Utkanten by Jo Strømgren Göteborgsoperan

Watch an interview with the choreographer Jo Strømgren.

Looming Sky by Stijn Celis.

Choreographer Stijn Celis
Stijn CelisPhoto: Urban Jörén

Within dance there is a phenomenon called “The Belgian Wonder”. It is a group of contemporary choreographers who have created some of the strongest dance productions of the last few decades. Stijn Celis is one of these. In 2006 he was awarded the “Most Promising Choreographer of the Year” by famous magazine Tanz International (previously Ballet Tanz).

Celis has also performed at The Göteborg Opera previously, presenting his production Your Passion is Pure Joy to Me, a part of the dance triple act In memoriam. GT’s critic wrote “I am continuously surprised by the strands of contact improvisation that reoccur; I flutter inside over the original lifts and am fascinated by the slightly nerdy clothes in wonderfully bright colours. More Stijn Celis for the people of Gothenburg!” We would therefore like to bid you all welcome to a long awaited new meeting with Celis and a completely new production created especially for our dancers.

Watch a movie from the performance.

Looming Sky by Stijn Celis Göteborgsoperan
Looming Sky by Stijn Celis Göteborgsoperan

Watch an interview with choreographer Stijn Celis.

The Outskirts by Jo Strømgren

English translation of swedish voiceover.

The year was 1964. China tested its first atomic bomb, The Beatles went to America, and 300 people were trampled to death at a football match in Peru. But all that was in the outside world. In our little suburb, not mentioning where of course, there was just peace and quiet. It had been a good Summer. Not much rain and not too many tourists. But Autumn was approaching and residents were gradually beginning to have doubts about various matters.

What felt safest was watching what others were doing. That didn’t involve any personal risk. Some even watched those doing the watching. On the whole it was rather unlcear – just like when one season ends and another begins.

Carl Gustav Fredriksson worked in the local bank. Not a manager exactly, but he did his job well. He lent money, but not to everyone. For example, when Gustafsson came to take out a loan for his new roof. Fredriksson knew that there was nothing wrong with Gustafsson’s roof – after all they were neighbours. The problem was elsewhere – in a house with children’s toys on the steps. It’s often said that money talks, but from time to time you have to take moral action.

This is Gustav Fredrik Carlsson. He grew up in an orphanage. He’s done well for himself but how he came to be stuck slightly in the past no one really knows. Right now he has made a mistake. A crowd of people is gathering in the public square. ”I’m running out of question marks” says one. The others think. The blood was one thing. An even stranger thing was the person who lay there lifeless – a Catholic. Someone says: ”It must be a sign.” And everyone looks to the heavens.

When you live opposite the public square, as Mr and Mrs Gustafsson did, you unfortunately can’t choose what you see through the window. There was good reason why Magdalena mostly stayed indoors. It was safer. She didn’t know where the nocturnal screams came from, but they sounded slightly alien. She knew the sound of Finnish bastards, that was different. But now a stranger lay out there dressed like a ghost – and it was silent as the grave.

Of course they had seen pictures of Catholics in the paper but their local presence was surprising. They weren’t many and a church wasn’t even an option. But elevated for sure. And with a good view over the mysterious ways of the suburb. Now the only thing missing was a miracle – then the wheels would start turning.

One should never trust what’s seen on a public square but sometimes it’s impossible to doubt. They deliberated and – yes, it was a miracle and nothing less. The Catholic wheel was practically burning the asphalt.

Now, things don’t always turn out as expected. Gustav Fredrik’s mistake was, luckily, already forgotten. One cannot shoot Catholics, at least not these days. But he still didn’t feel happy. He realised, of course, that he now had to go further into the wilderness to fullfil his bipolar inclinations.

It wasn’t only in Constantinople that a schism took its time. Even in our little suburb they were, at first, a little unused to all the new things. However, once blessed with a miracle, there is no room for hesitation. With houses full of new appliances, people started living their lives at the public square instead. It was a wonderful new behaviour. Silly and strange, yes, but the joy of being together spread and everyone gave a lot of themselves. Pleasant surprises were simply queing up. Carl Gustav and Johanna Fredriksson, for instance, never wanted to share their secret happiness with anyone. Now all people got to enjoy their generous openness.

Neighbourly love blossomed. Every word and every gesture became a caress and they felt that now there really was a meaning to it all. At night and during rainy days, when they sat indoors waiting for good weather and morning rosy skies to continue their good deeds, they sent kind thoughts to each other instead. Even those with children’s toys on their steps had time for quiet prayer.

Now the nocturnal screams weren’t as frightening as before. All places find their own sound, their own voice. The Pacific islands have the waves, the Nordic mountains the wind, and Venice the songs from its gondolas. Now our suburb had found its voice too. And it could be heard high up in the heavens.

The only one who didn’t have a voice was Johanna. She was different. Not just the ugly foot, the disgusting eye, the greasy hair, the different sized ears, and the fact that she spoilt the Lucia celebrations last year. No, she kept her mouth shut. For good reasons.

Yes, they could laugh. But within herself she laughed as well. ”What silly fools”, she thought, ”Father, do not forgive them for they know what they are doing.” The spit from Mrs Gustafsson, or according to Johanna – the sloppytitted dry cunt, ran down her neck. ”Well, well”, she thought, ”there’s a lot of spit in Mrs Gustafsson’s coffee as well.” But that was something only Johanna knew. She also knew that the dark force had come to the suburb. No golden calf had been made yet but that was just a matter of time. Evil was there, in every corner, in every shadow.

Of course Hell existed. Here as anywhere. ”Hell is not the real threat”, Johanna thought, ”but the coward inside each one of us. Look Satan straight in the eye!”

”Yes it hurts when bodies burn”, said the cardinal during mass, ”Why else would the thighs fry? Why would all our heat be bound in what is frozen?” What the church preached was far from comprehensible, but at least they understood that money alone wouldn’t keep the sin away.

Johanna thought: ”We’ll all burn.” She took the bus and met with her friends in town instead. They appreciated other qualities in her. And she got what she wanted. Later they asked themselves if it was Johanna who bit the apple. In reality it could have been anyone. But the sin came and the sin stayed. Seven days with stormy weather and seven days with stomach bugs. They thought of snakes, Egyptians, burning bushes, and greasy lads from Sodoma. Someone even came up with the idea of building a great big boat for everybody, just in case.

Suddenly the storm calmed down. Gustafsson was standing in his kitchen with both arms stretched out and with a strange thought in his head. One says ”the calm before the storm” but in this case it was ”the calm after the storm”. Something was about to happen. God’s wrath was definitively not over.

And then, it was as if the Red Sea opened. Yet again, in our little suburb, a miracle was unfolding. Not big, not dramatic, but still, it was true love of the old kind. Nursery school teacher Magdalena Carlsson and Fredrik Fredrik Fredriksson, the silent loyal worker with holes in his pockets and no money left, felt a knot in their stomachs. They could barely breathe.

”Stop!”, screamed Carlsson. ”What in Mary Magdalene’s and Saint Jesus’ and the Three Spirit Apostles’s name!!!” However it happened. It was now that the worst thing took place. A murder. In the middle of the square, in full public view. Saint Pauls insight on his way to Damascus was nothing compared to this. The cardinal was no real cardinal. He was just a fortune hunter from Örebro who had read a few pages in the Bible. And now he was also a murderer. A nefarious person craved a nefarious punishment. It was as simple as that.

The time of miracles was over. Death was just death and nothing else. If anything could be done, it would be to remember those who’d passed away. Little Lajka, born in 1958, whose name was a tribute to the first creature to ever leave the earth for real was now also ready for space travel. Not to Heaven, nor to Hell. Maybe to another body?

Returning to normality was not an easy task. Surely the rubbish bins were filled with things but the houses were empty. People had to pursue new meanings to life and underwent a period of alternative research. Existential experiments on a sophisticated level they were indeed. There were no answers to be found, however. The questions were too big. Earth, air, and sunlight were the only solid proof of an existence. The flowers didn’t need to worry about anything. Should then people go around screaming in the night without even knowing why? ”The flowers”, thought Gustafsson, ”what new thing is it that bursts and wears?” One thing was for certain. For some people children’s toys on the steps really hurt. A scumbag was now nothing more than a scumbag.

Mrs Gustafsson thought: ”No! Damn it. That’s enough.” And then she rode her bike into town. ”I’m a woman and I know what I want!” It’s not always easy to know exactly what one wants, and especially not what Mrs Gustafsson desired in life. Nevertheless, she returned the same day as a new person. She had finally taken the big step. ”Now everybody!”, she screamed. ”Now everybody….” Mrs Gustafsson wasn’t used to speaking in public. But she didn’t need to say anything. The accordion spoke for her. And an accordion always says the same thing – sometimes you just have to not give a damn about everything. ”Now! Everybody!”, she sounded a third time and then the stiff bodied suburbians reacted.

Autumn 1964. When Mrs Gustafsson started playing. That was the end. No one knows what happened thereafter. Or where they all went. My toys on the steps were gathered and we left. To new houses, new cities, and new countries. ”Don’t stay too long”, my angry mother always said, ”never stay too long.” But I couldn’t help missing the suburb. I don’t remember the dull grey, only colours. Mad, crazy, and wonderful people, surreal incidents and small miracles. If I close my eyes I see small houses with little windows. And they are all still there, inside.


Biblical quotations are deliberately rephrased. Likewise with quotations from the famous Swedish poem below by Karin Boye.

Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking.
Why else would the springtime falter?
Why would all our ardent longing bind itself in frozen, bitter pallor?
After all, the bud was covered all the Winter.
What new thing is it that bursts and wears?
Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking, hurts for that which grows and that which bars.



  • Genre: Dance
  • Season: 2010/2011
  • premiere: 26 Feb 2011
  • Last show: 26 Mar 2011
  • Location:

    Main Stage

  • Length: aprox 2 hours incl pause.

The Outskirts by Jo Strømgren

Choreography, set- and light design   Jo Strømgren
Music by among others   Evert Taube, Giacomo Puccini, och Viljo Vesterinen
Costume design   Bregje Van Balen
The Göteborg Ballet
Magdalena Fredriksson   Angelina Allen
Gustav Gustaf Carlsson   Jérôme Delbey
Gustav Fredrik Carlsson   Toby Kassell
Magdalena Karlsson   Janine Koertge
Carl Gustafsson   Dan Langeborg
Carl Gustav Fredriksson   Patrick Migas
Johanna Fredriksson   Hildur Ottarsdottir
Johanna Gustavsson   Anandi Vinken
Fredrik Fredrik Fredriksson   David Wilde
Johanna Carlsson   Ingeborg Zackariassen

Looming Sky by Stijn Celis

Choreography and set design   Stijn Celis
Dramaturgy   Armin Kerber
Music by   John Abercrombie, Tony Williams och Domenico Scarlatti
Costume design   Katherine Voeffray
Light design   Erik Berglund
The Göteborg Balett
   Delphine Boutet
   Hlín Diego Hjálmarsdóttir
   Mariko Kida
   Ellah Nagli
   Satoko Takahashi
   Danielle de Vries
   Lea Yanai
   Erik Johansson
   Hokuto Kodama
Diego Arconada
   Anthony Lomuljo
   Fernando Melo
   Moritz Ostruschnjak


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