An old yellow railway crane lived two nights of glory as the main scene in a contemporary circus performance in Odense, Denmark’s third largest city. Situated not far from the city centre, yet hidden well enough to require detailed indications, the crane stood among gravel, weed plants, and rusty train tracks. It was exactly what the Dynamo Workspace new circus artists needed to tell a story about the city during the Odense Architecture Festival. It took them two months to find it. Not the crane itself, but a place in town that would allow them to fly, jump, balance at great heights, use the city creatively and engage its inhabitants.
The crane was the stage, but also the inspiration to create an exclusive show around it and for it, using props sourced from the same old industrial space: tractor tires, pipes, an old car and motorbikes. A performance of acrobatics and music, a small circus tent, and a caravan bar brought around the crane an audience that, most probably, it will never see again until the demolition team will come to take it down.
Cities change constantly, which usually means that the old is being replaced with the new, the functional, the practical and profitable “something.” But does this always have to be the case? The new and old can live together in harmony, bringing new perspectives on spaces, making people see, experience and (re)discover their city. This is just one story that these circus artists told through a challenging performance on the old crane.
In 2017, Gry Lambertsen and Rune Vadstrøm Andersen opened Dynamo Workspace for Circus and Performance Arts in Odense, turning an old 1300sqm warehouse at the harbour into a story factory. Welcoming performers and ideas from all over the world, Dynamo is home for new artists, master classes, open training sessions, residencies and workshops for children. Through contemporary circus, lights, music, acrobatics, artists reveal creative areas that bring people together for exploration and collaboration. The mix of the old and the new, of performers and the general public, and the post-apocalyptic punk amusement park atmosphere at their events make Dynamo Workspace quite a character in the city's cultural life.
The feeling one gets at the end of any of their performances is that these guys can go anywhere, anytime, and put on a show out of nothing but their heads, bodies, and surrounding space. You never quite know what to expect from them when, for example, they announce their next production: Circus from the Nordic Sea. The 60-minutes circus show is a co-production with Spinning Compass Performance and it will take place on the wooden sailboat Johanne, which has sailed thousands of nautical miles from the North Sea through the busy Skagerrak, to the open Baltic Sea.
Although this type of performance seems volatile, depending on many uncontrollable factors, it does maintain a strong grip on the space and time of the city it “borrows.” For an hour at a time, the artists manage to successfully interrupt the flow of urban space and enthral the audience away from their usual routes, setting up these smaller worlds-within-the-world. These are sensory and embodied interventions that underline the capacity of creative “disorder” to produce urban experiences in a playful and enchanting way. The shows are not directly participatory for the public, yet there is a vivid sense of being part of it all, as aesthetic and affective experiences blend to create a feeling of community.
Circus from the Nordic Sea will premiere on the 24th of May at DYNAMO Workspace in Odense, Denmark. And it will then go on tour in Denmark during the summer of 2019.
Words - Joe Popov
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu
Photography - Cosmin Cirstea