Dancing with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

In the beginning of last year Oslo-filharmonien (OFO) invited us to dance in their 2019 New Years Concert with a program entirely dedicated to Argentine Tango. We were honoured by the invitation and thrilled that OFO had decided to devote this special concert to Tango. When we started dancing together only three years ago we would never have imagined being able to dance in one of Oslo's most important venues with a full symphonic orchestra. This was the biggest and most exciting challenge we had faced so far as dance partners. The concert featured some of Astor Piazzolla's most famous works, some classic tangos, one original composition by Per Arne Glorvigen and another by Sverre Indris Joner. We were asked to dance five pieces: Gallo Ciego by Osvaldo Pugliese, La Puñalada by Pintin Castellanos, Vino y Se Fue by Sverre Indris Joner, Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla and La Cumparsita by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez. Of these, Sverre wrote all the orchestral arrangements with the exception of Oblivion. To make the most of this unique opportunity, we started preparing as soon as we recieved the musical arrangements.

The four tangos and the milonga were all quite different in style, so we wanted to create different stories and expressions with each of the choreographies. We really enjoy improvising when we dance socially or perform in milongas, but to perform on a big stage there are certain things to consider – like the distance between the dancers and the audience, and only having the audience on one side. Because of this, the amplitude and direction of each movement and line becomes very important. These are some of the considerations that make choreographies a natural choice for us in this setting. However, we still think it's important to improvise when performing a choreography, to connect with your surroundings and the audience. This makes the choreography different every time it is performed, and allows the performers to express themselves in the moment. More on the relationship between improvisation and choreography to come in a future blog post!

In Tango shows it's common for one couple to dance two solos and a few group numbers. So performing five solos in one show was quite the challenge. Not only did we have to create five new choreographies and rehearse them until we knew them well enough to be able to dance them on stage, in front of 1200 people, nervous, sweaty, tired, in different tempos, while worrying if we would crash into the orchestra or fall off the edge of the stage. We also had to worry about what costumes to wear for each choreography, and having the physical stamina to get through the show. So we got to work. With a strict training regime. More on how we train in a future blog post! (Yes, it's actually coming. We promise.)

After spending months preparing for the show it was finally time to rehearse on stage with the full orchestra. Dancing with a philharmonic orchestra was always one of my dreams as a tango dancer. There is something so magical about listening to so many musicians playing together. It is also quite challenging dancing to live music because the phrasing and the tempo always changes. But you are forced to be in the moment, to listen to the music and to be in unison with the musicians, making the performance feel more alive and exciting. When opening night finally came, we were lucky to have a hair and makeup artist from Den Norske Opera, who helped us create different characters for each of the choreographies. Having someone do your hair and makeup is an absolute luxury. Thank you, Henning!

When the week was over we were exhausted and physically and emotionally drained, but we were also very happy. It was a wonderful experience for us to dance in four sold-out shows in Konserthuset, and we hope to be part of more shows like this in the future.