The upside of globalization is that it’s supposed to eliminate the distances between countries. The irony of the current economic state means that even the most budget-conscious of aspiring travelers will have a hard time venturing beyond their own cities, much less outside the country.
Marjorie Neset wants Albuquerque to see the world through contemporary dance. Neset is the artistic director for Global DanceFest 2009. The annual festival, co-presented by VSA arts of New Mexico and NewArt New Mexico, brings international contemporary dance companies to the North Fourth Art Center through March 28.
"I’ve laughingly said to people that I’m a dance geographer," Neset says. "There are many ways to explore the world--it could be through theater or sheer political study--but I particularly love contemporary dance. So it’s the idea of exploring the world through the eyes and movement and art of dancers."
This year's five-week run is themed "Latitudes North." All six groups of artists are based in Europe’s Nordic countries.
"Scandinavia in general doesn’t have a long history of contemporary dance," says Neset. "Their work is not so influenced by Europe or the U.S.; it comes more out of the experience of being in the north and being somewhat isolated. Just now in the last few years the countries are getting the ethnic diversity of immigrants coming in and impacting the culture. All of these realities influence their work."
Global DanceFest 2009 reflects this expanding cultural diversity. For instance, Berg and Graf are artists from Israel based in Denmark; choreographer Hooman Sharifi is a Norwegian born in Iran who was smuggled into Beirut at age 14 before he ended up in Norway, where he founded the dance troupe Impure Company.
"The pieces reflect Scandinavia—I’ll say because I’m Scandinavian; we’re not particularly bubbly, demonstrative people," Neset says. "Our humor is a little dark. Scandinavians are, from the time they’re born, told to not be too full of themselves, so we’re a little reserved and the work reflects that. The work is politically liberal, technically sophisticated, a little cool, a little reserved, and the humor in it kind of dark. It’s not pretty or bouncy or perky.”
The festival also includes the photography exhibit Norway: Through a Southwestern Lens. Albuquerque native Joseph Lujan lived just outside of Oslo, Norway, for three years. Neset asked Lujan to put together an exhibit (his first) that reflected his impressions of the Norwegian landscape for the festival.
"It contextualizes Scandinavia," says Neset. "Just like the dance companies. I love the fact this New Mexican guy added so much color to his photographs of the Norwegian landscape."
Neset says that an audience for contemporary dance pieces will be rewarded for their "curiosity and a sense of adventure."
"If you can’t go to Scandinavia, you can come and see these artists and see this work," Neset says. "You’ll have been on a journey, like a little visit to Scandinavia. People still think of Scandinavia as blond-haired, blue-eyed people in felt skirts doing little folk dances. Scandinavia is not like that anymore. It's very contemporary."