Review: Keeps her promises
3 November 2008

Malin Hellkvist Sellén lives up to and even exceeds all expectations as her new dance work, inspired by dance bands, is premiered at Kilen in Stockholm. “Pink promises” honestly keeps all the promises of its title.

It’s like when you stare at a strong source of light for a moment and its contours then remain in your vision, whether you look away or even close your eyes. “Pink promises” leaves that kind of impression.

It not only burns its way into your retina with its pink-glitter bubble-gum-soft aesthetic – with her lightly draped pale pink T-shirt, wobbling pink chino-clad bottom, spray glittered curls and blonde moustache, solo dancing Marianne Kjaersund ought to be able to ask anyone she likes to dance. No, its music too gets on the brain – a light jive accompanying a nasal vibrato about longing, heartache, pain and beautiful eyes makes quite an impact even with those who don’t follow Swedish television’s prime time dance band contest. And its movements get my own body buzzing too, its emotion wants to break my heart.

Blood fired by lemonade, a salty tear in the corner of an eye and head creaking at the seams with ideas, I find that actually not all Swedish modern dance is so clearly political and philosophical in this sensually physical and emotional manner. And without making a big deal out of being “both one and the other” or “encompassing opposites”. What sort of opposites? Malin Hellkvist Sellén has merely found her perfect artistic form of expression to discuss gender issues and body politics. She journeys through different cultural spheres with her choreographical body language – what is queer in this context? And the journey leaves traces behind it. In the straddle-legged gait, widely outstretched arms and open seeking palms of “Pink promises” we glimpse one of the middle school disco lads from “They give thought body”, which matured in “Better people” and has now gained an air of the ecstatically fulfilled in “A christian evening”.

The dance band flirtation is not ironic. It is not a temporary game played by higher culture with a lower form of culture, or a pat-on-the-head upward re-evaluation of a mainstream form of expression. In this time setting her investigation amid Swedish dance band culture, “deconstructing foxtrot and jive” and picking out gender identity, blackness and loneliness, longing and shimmering pink dreams, Hellkvist Sellén creates with genuine interest, serious humour and true love a completely new work that cares nothing for cultural hierarchies. Sometimes it feels as though the world has stopped.

“Pink promises” does everything it promises. And more.