| considering the interactive dynamics of place and human movement in designed environments
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Skogskyrkogården-Studio-Experience (2017)

Skogskyrkogården-Studio-Experience brings the design themes that support mourning at Woodland Cemetery in Sweden to the dance studio at OSU, Columbus, Ohio.

In Columbus, the choreographic process took us to Glen Echo Ravine and Union Cemetery in Columbus to help the dancers understand the landscape themes and moods of Skogskyrkogården. Woodland Cemetery (the English translation of Skogskyrkogården) was the first cemetery built that aimed to help mourners process their grief through a choreographed experience with the landscape. This idea was central to the piece.

One of the most intimate and pivotal moments within the process asked the dancers to invite someone they had lost into the piece. This made the piece more real for the dancers and the movements and intentions behind those movements more centered.

At the end of the process, the five dancers welcomed singers and audience members into the dance space. The work was performed at three times of day (Daylight, Dusk, and Dark). Performance transformed the work and helped the dancers to immerse themselves in the mood of the piece, which was at times mournful, other times hopeful, but always solemn. They progressed through the dance and interacted with the audience and fellow cast members. For some audience members, the piece helped them process grief that they had been holding within. The space that we created was one of reflection, mourning and recovery.  

(The above description was paraphrased from Marissa Ajamian’s response as a dancer in Skogskyrkogården-Studio-Experience)

Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery) design by Sigurd Lewerentz and Erik Gunnar Asplund

Audience members’ responses:

“This space that we created was something unlike I have ever experienced.”

“This piece was a beautiful way of evolving a ritual of transition, farewell, release.”

“Skogskyrkogården Studio-Experience made me think about how exciting it would be to commission custom rituals for various events.”

“Skogs was about ritual, place, guided meditation, and engagement of all senses.”

“Thank you for this beautiful, unique experience.”

“When dancers touched me I felt activated, included, and taken care of. “

“Skogs made me think about mourning as meditation in community.”

“I thought that the choice of song was a very nice touch and an effective soundtrack.”

“I felt as though I was being guided through the cemetery without moving, like the cemetery moved around me.”

“The most important thing was the shifting sense of space/place/architecture and the atmosphere the singers and dancers created.”

“Skogs made me forget about time.”

“I was struck by the combination of sound, aesthetics, and audience freedom.”

“Skogs connected us to one another and to the space. The piece helped me realize that our time here is limited and space and time are sacred.”

“Skogs was a sequence that engaged each element of my surroundings.”

“All of Skogs became a whole--each part seemed equally important and I wanted to watch each person, dancer, and guest.”

A Skogs dancer’s thoughts after she visited the real life Skogkyrkogården in Sweden about 6 months after our piece: “I kept telling my family that it felt like I had been there before! It was so familiar. It was insane! I really felt so comfortable there!”