Odd Johan Fritzøe


AFTENPOSTEN «Brilliant in a winter wasteland»
by Inger-Margrethe Lunde, 2 March 2009

«Odd Johan Fritzøe has taken a massive step forward in his artistic career. Exotic Norwegian dance could be a profitable export commodity. This is exotic, fairytale-like, fascinating, and very well directed. Odd Johan Fritzøe and a company of skilled colleagues have created «Snow», a production that surprises and seduces. Winterland. The choreographer has taken himself off to the kingdom of snow, to fairy tales and legends, stories true and untrue, inspired by Scott, Amundsen, and Nansen, the «Ice Palace» of Terje Vesaas, Ibsen’s «Rosmersholm», H.C. Andersen’s «Snow Queen» and White Jade Dragon Virgin of China’s mysterious mountain valleys. Timeless. The show more than succeeds in balancing the different elements. The monumental modernist scenography of Karl Hans, Espen Tversland’s computer animations, eliciting internal abstractions of ice, mountains, and snow across the panorama of the stage. Bjarne Kvinnsland’s rich musical arrangement with drums and percussion instruments played live, and not least Kathrine Tolo’s teasing costumes – mostly in white – provide the props for this sojourn in the wintery expanse. Snow, one feels, is timeless. Technically, the dance is bound and unbound at the same time. Formalistic in terms of stage design with its straight lines, angles, and often angular gesticulations, it is also utterly riveting and magnanimous. Especially in the sequences where the seven dancers lean toward synchronicity. Fritzøe pays compliments to different genres and idioms without losing his individuality. Although the transitions are gentle, the show is nonetheless divided into clearly defined sections. From the abstract and the blithely playful to the more dramatic tableaux. One of the highlights is Scott’s struggle across the ice. The wearily fluttering white flag and the even more exhausted polar explorers are represented through strong visual images. Some of the quieter, more traditional sequences, danced by Torunn Robstad, contrast nicely with the wilder and feistier sections, represented by Cecilie L. Steen and Hanna Mjåvatn. As in «The Nutcracker», Fritzøe has also hired in snowflakes. Fifteen young dancers from Kirsti Skullerud’s ballet school and three very young acrobats dressed as polar bears do an impressive job. Fritzøe’s use of dream and reality with ice-covered peaks and mountains, make for a heavenly show. Snow is generous, it gives and generates happiness and excitement. Excellent PR for Norway if the Foreign Ministry can only be bothered to take the time and make the investment.»

DAGSAVISEN «Dance in the Premier League»
by Inger-Margrethe Lunde, 20 September 2000 

 «Video graphics come to the dance theater! It’s not often you get to see a such an equally proportioned theatrical project. Choreographer Odd Johan Fritzøe has entered into an extremely rewarding partnership with no fewer than three high-profile artists, each of whom brings their own distinctive idiom to «Zooom», a nimble, surprising, original piece of choreography. The point of departure here is cinematic effects – we’re told as much by the credits that role across the stage curtain. «Zooom» grows into a thrilling theatrical journey through peaks and underwater troughs, large sonic cavities, modernistically carved surfaces and lively spaces full of playful video graphics. It’s much more than a bunch of platitudes in motion. You almost forget it, despite seeing paraphrases of «I love you very much»» and so on, not to mention a delicious parody of the twist, danced by Thomas Gundersen alone. It’s just as nostalgic as it is bereft of nostalgia. A delightful tutu dance ensemble where we mostly see the dancers’ buttocks enveloped in divine splotches of red, orange, green, purple, blue, and yellow. Kenneth Flak performs  here a delightful maneuver with his feet while standing on his head. The other dancers, Camilla Myhre, Irene Rothmund Velten, and André Austvoll. Surprising variations notwithstanding. It’s the formal effects that surprise us most of all. Absolutely nothing is left to chance. The physical scenography is alive in all its being. The body, video graphics that are menacing as knife and saw blades, tracks and shafts, but also almost ridiculously cute flowers on display, and sliding white scenographic elements, circles and ovals cut out in a white space full of electronic music with percussion and, toward the end, a prepared piano, are «superimposed’» with immense confidence. The expanse gives the viewer a monumental experience. Fritzøe’s dancers are unsteady at times, not that it detracts from the work as a whole or from the choreographer’s distinctive dance idiom. They can suddenly clench their fist, let a leg or elbow drop or perform contortions as if that particular part of the body is sliding down of its own accord, drops. It doesn’t, though, because in an instant it can transmute into some agile gesture or other – circular even though there’s always a lurking suspicion of staccatoed abruptness. It’s an idiosyncratic form of interrogation we can link to Fritzøe’s own choreographic identity. «Zooom» is Fritzøe’s first full-length show and it’s impressive. Together with Lise Nordal’s latest show, «Entrance», premiered last weekend, it confirms the accession of new formal idiom of great strength. The premier division of modern Norwegian dance is growing big and strong. It’s all hugely gratifying.»

KLASSEKAMPEN «Living Installation»
by Inger-Margrethe Lunde, 13 February 1996

«Soooo strange! Look, there they go. Smiles and arched eyebrows meet the four dancers currently in the employ of Henie Onstad Art Center to be/do a dance installation in the center’s different galleries among hundreds of spectators. A few hours every weekend, they compete for attention with Munch/Solberg, Kain Tapper, Sverre Wyller, Harvey Quaytman, Rune Dyrøy, and the building’s façade. Three women and one man are clad in silvery short gowns with black edges, black socks, and shoes. They all sport black, bristly short hair and pale-white greasepaint, red lipstick providing the only splash of color. They hold a cassette player. People scramble to the foyer where the dancers, Henriette Slorer, Terje Tjøme Mossige, Camilla Myhre, and Marit Ødegaard, are positions in their allotted places – or countries as Odd Johan Fritzøe likes to call them. In pulsating staccato movements, rather slowish, they present then repeat the pattern, travel over the floor (an idea borrowed from folk dance). Their lithe progress through the rooms is ingeniously choreographed. Arriving at the second station we find ourselves in the enclosed oblong room housing the Munch/Solberg lithographic printing press. The patterns settle down, the dancers move in relation to the room. Longitudinally and around their own axis. Although the structures are carefully planned, like a space mission – the costumes seem to suggest something of the sort – the cool, dispassionate expression, visual and choreographic, is softened by their small nods aside and not-so-camouflaged smiles to the audience. Here, it has a redeeming function, possibly a necessary one. In the main room, vis-à-vis Munch/Solberg they work in the large format. Slight variations are discernible in the pattern’s general oneness. The cassette player becomes an active participant in the dance, and sonically it works very well. The four players have their own intricate soundspaces. A gorgeous but muted cacophony that showcases the absurdity of the whole episode. The music is by ORB, De Press, The Shangri-La’s and Linguaphone Language Courses: German, Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian have been incorporated. Jonas Digerud and the choreographer himself engineered the sound design electronically. At times, it’s completely baffling, at others, words and phrases can be heard but although we can place them geographically, we can’t necessarily understand what they’re saying. The four dancers are also occasionally brought into the language courses. Both aurally and choreographically there is a fund of witty asides. Indeed, they accentuate the comedic effect in these surroundings which are simultaneously retrospective and absolutely modern. One of the stand-out features was «Kalinka»,  the only song that sounded more or less more or less as it should, to a snazzy parody by the banister down to the lower floor and the art center’s new extension. Another ultimate station/country, the former concert hall but now a bursting repository of Cain Tapper’s wooden sculptures. A captivating monumental consecrated space providing a wonderful, calm conclusion to this journey through many countries and rooms.»

Salsanor, by Fredrik Drevon, November 2008

«I had the pleasure of seeing a CODA production in the Kjelsås tram depot that was both entertaining and instructive at a deeper level. «Balls» by Odd Johan Fritzøe was an engaging encounter of breakdance and contemporary dance. The show opened with one of the dancers emerging from an ovoid ball. It evolved from an organic story of creation to an exploration of a mechanical universe in the spirit of Charlie Chaplin’s «Modern Times». Occasionally the balls were planets, at others they symbolized existential problems. The dancers’ immersion in the unpredictable and humorous choreography fused into an energetic tussle with issues such as conflict, conformity, and sexuality, not to mention PE classes at school. Nicely placed references to humans as puppets and geniuses, along with inventive «breaks» in the choreography, gave the piece an associative potential as plentiful as a novel or feature film. On the deeper plane, the show shed light on the political symbolic power inherent in everyday gestures, especially with regard to how people strive to break out of, and escape into, conformist patterns. Break dancer Chenno Tim played the role of outsider or renegade; his character struggling throughout to establish its identity in opposition that of the other three.»

KLASSEKAMPEN «Identity and belonging»
by Inger-Margrethe Lunde, 8 September 1993

«Negro in the yard» by Odd Johan Fritzøe, on the other hand, gave us a nice surprise with his interpretation of the theme of «identity and belonging». He takes hold of a multicultural reality. But travels south, linking Norwegian folk culture to African culture, he grew up in Liberia and later studied in different countries in Africa. «There’s a negro in the yard – mother dear» is what he calls the show and it turns out to be a good-humored, intelligent expression of the abundant opportunities in traditional dance. Fritzøe has even performed Norwegian folk dances. His transformation of a familiar language into a modern, fluid balletic idiom in which constellations of dancers, ring dances, and movements weaving in and out of formations are compelling and inspiring. Personally, I’ve got a taste for folk dancing after seeing in this demonstration its potential for change, so infected with laughter, joy and a tiny sliver of irony. The scenography emphasizes in its own particular way the purpose of the choreography. Three futuristic trees form depths and surfaces as required. Visual artist Karl Hansen has undoubtedly contributed to the humorous theatrics created by the tug of the performance and lively scenography. An elk and a camel appear at the end. An encounter across borders, literally; a single image, but it works brilliantly, not least choreographically, in the tempo dance, a kind of hieroglyphic flick. In the field of music, Fritzøe is hugely talented. He opens with a Norwegian folk tune, venturing later to Australia and a powerfully hypnotic soundscape before resorting to an African lullaby from Zaire to accompany the conclusion. The combination of known and unknown, both musically and balletically, creates a convincing whole. The dancers do themselves proud in stick dancing and a merry ring dance, and strangely enough they dance so quietly to the suggestive sequences. The costumes, inspired by the traditional Setesdal style but with hints of Africa, only serve to highlight the success of all aspects of the show.»

KLASSEKAMPEN «Like a Jack-in-a-box»
by Inger-Margrethe Lunde, 27 June 1992

«Odd Johan Fritzøe has taken a giant step forward in the Norwegian world of dance with «A Dog Day’s Night». From something that looks like animals, three dancers emerge out of the night. The transformations proceed in playful, silent steps. From animal to human, from recognizable entity to irony and astonishing moving patterns. Softness and lightness, strength that needed no visual translation, clear thinking in a thoughtful and unitary language, they moved forward, in circles, to an Iberian beat and the chirping of grasshoppers. Drop-dead gorgeous and deeply poetic.»

KLASSEKAMPEN «Light Variations»
by Inger-Margrethe Lunde, 28 March 1992

«Odd Johan Fritzøe’s J.O.D.A.M, danced by Mona Walderhaug and the choreographer himself, was a breath of fresh air, a choreography that speaks to head and heart. The dancers enter carrying two functionalist steel lamps; they’re switched on and off like scenes on and off. Two chairs are also included in the dance. Music and script (Finnegan’s Wake) by John Cage and Pommes Fritz (music mix). Almost minimalistic, a fine performance is created by gestures, symbols, acted out in parallel and individually. Walderhaug in particular exhibited such balletic ease, she even got the quadratic gestures to flow. Variations in tempo and idiom slipped playfully in and out of each other.»