Music inspired Carl Knif to explore the contradictions and affiliations within a performance

Ida Henritius, 11.9.2020

Fast, light, precise, crazy, playful. This is how choreographer Carl Knif describes Fugue in two colours, his new choreography created to the piano music of Shostakovich.


Carl Knif: Fugue in two colours © Yoshi Omori

Carl Knif became familiar with Shostakovich’s preludes and fugues ten years ago. He was already drawn to the timeless beauty and rigour of their form when he first heard them.

Fugue in two colours is the first choreography that Knif has created to classical music. He admits that the tendency of classical music to dominate or define scenes has been a challenge to him as a choreographer. It has been important to discover his own relationship to the music and his own way of using it.

“My aim has been to find a fresh way of tackling music, as well as a more playful approach and more convoluted language for the choreography. As a result, it doesn’t have to be so bound by the form or a particular aesthetic,” Knif says.

The form of the music has acted as an inspiration for the theme of the choreography.

“I’ve been thinking of the kind of dualism and dichotomy present in the preludes and fugues; its relationship to contradictions and parallels,” Knif explains.

The choreography utilizes a method based on improvisation. The extent of the dancer’s freedom to interpret and to react varies from scene to scene, as does the extent of the predetermined content.

“In the end, the performances are unlikely to differ a great deal from each other. The action is pretty much controlled because of the length of the scenes,” Knif explains.

The performance involves seven dancers – Knif has worked with four of them for a long time. For the dancers from The Helsinki City Theatre, Knif’s method based on improvisation has been new.

Joint international productions are in the pipeline

Next year Carl Knif Company will produce a physical theatre performance in cooperation with Svenska Teatern based in Helsinki and Riksteatern, a Swedish network of theatres. The work will be premiered in September 2021 and will afterwards tour in Sweden in 2022. Nordic cooperation is frequent in other respects, too, and the company is planning commissioned works for different venues.

Knif is also preparing a new choreography for April 2022, due to have its premier in Asia.

Before the international works, Knif will produce a humorous fantasy, based on Georges Perec’s (1936-1982) book Espèces d’espaces (1974), for the northern Finnish dance group Rimpparemmi.

Fugue in two colours  is a co-production with Helsinki City Theatre. Premiere: October 12, 2020. Other shows on October 26, November 2 and 3.

This article is published in the Finnish Dance in Focus magazine issue 2020.