This is a conceptual take on ballet for eight dancers and eight guitars, staged by Ragnar Kjartansson and choreographer Margrét Bjarnadóttir with music by Bryce Dessner. Its simplicity and effectiveness make it a reflection on the grace, inner strength and skills of the dancer.
For almost half an hour six dancers clad in the normcore uniform of identical jeans and white T-shirts perform a choreographic composition, accompanying themselves on guitars. No tomorrow is no less a sonic musical experiment then a dance piece.
The title of comes from the French novella Point de Lendemain (“No Tomorrow”) by Dominique Vivant-Denon. Written in the late 18th century, Point de Lendemain is a masterpiece of the secular literature of the time. The verbal landscapes of the story are reminiscent of canvases by the master of “gallant scenes”, Jean-Antoine Watteau. Frozen in graceful poses, often in dance, Watteau’s characters are wistful, lacking in individual features and almost ephemeral in appearance, and the actions of his paintings suggest no development.
Kjartansson and Bjarnadóttir describe No Tomorrow as a homage to Watteau. Indeed, despite the lack of decoration and the emphatically simple costumes, the performance is deeply indebted to the Rococo style, of which Kjartansson is a declared devotee. The remote melancholy of their sung refrain and the repetitive pattern of their steps make No Tomorrow into an almost meditative experience. The music was written by Bryce Dessner, a composer and guitarist of the rock band The National.
Bryce has scored music for contemporary dance throughout his career and wrote No Tomorrow´s music with the idea of complicated counting patterns that only dancers could actualize. This is not music for guitarist, it´s music for dancers. Many of the performers of No Tomorrow did not know how to play the guitar before entering this project. They learnt the chords, picks and strums together with the choreography. The music of the ballet is in keeping with its movement – fragile, vulnerable and barely audible when the dancers retreat to the back of the stage or turn their backs to the audience. The bulky guitar, inseparable from each dancer throughout the performance, at times seems to be an extension of their body. No Tomorrow, like Vivant-Denon’s story, offers no final moral. Endless repetition turns into a manifesto of rhythm, movement and live sound. The ballet was premiered at the SACRIFICE Festival in Reykjavik in 2017.
No Tomorrow has been highly praised by both critics and audience and received the Icelandic Performing Arts Award (Gríman) in 2017 for best choreography and for the best performance, which was the first time ever a dance performance is announced as Performance of the year at Gríman.
Concept and choreography: Ragnar Kjartansson and Margrét Bjarnadóttir
Music: Bryce Dessner
Dancers (original cast): Aðalheiður Halldórsdóttir, Anais Barthe, Elín Signý Weywadt Ragnarsdóttir, Halla Þórðardóttir, Hebar Eir Kjeld, Hjördís Lilja Örnólfsdóttir, Inga Maren Rúnarsdóttir and Lovísa Ósk Gunnarsdóttir
Other dancers: Védís Kjartansdóttir and Þyri Huld Árnadóttir