Sunday, May 5, 2013

Going local through local culture

I´ve just come back from a breathtaking performance that was shown in our local cultural house in Dalvík and thought of all of you hungry for exploring small Icelandic places inside out and decided to post some useful advice.

Dalvík is, among other things, famous for the fact that the tallest man of the world (at his time of living) was born and raised in a nearby valley. If he was still alive he´d be celebrating his 100th birthday anniversary this year. No wonder that a group of locals including the local museum, that is partially dedicated to the life of this unique man, decided to prepare a rich programme to bring back memories and discuss different parts of life, of so called Jóhann Svarfdælingur, as well as opening up the topic of 'being different'.

The programme was built up as a sort of 'forum' with presentations in Icelandic, not so inviting for a foreign tourist who does not speak Icelandic. But! its last line-up was an absolute must for somebody interested in getting to know local culture (no matter what language you speak) through a story of the tallest man of the world.

Imagine a circus like atmosphere with its typical music and costumes - this was a grand opening of the performance, when roughly 30 locals, who all belong to a local choir, were rushing to the stage.
Then we were lead through the life of this unique man from the day he was born, through his ups and downs in growing up and trying to find his place in a society all the way until he died. All done very authentically with different voices reading bits and pieces of his own diary, while scenes would be performed or pictures or video scenes projected on the screen. This all very well spiced up by powerful singing of the local choir colorfully dressed up with songs fittingly chosen to underline the atmosphere of the parts performed.

I must say that I was impressed and truly astonished by the way the director combined all the little details to create this powerful experience for a viewer. I felt as I was living the life of that man throughout the whole performance.

Last but not least, I kept on thinking about the power of these local communities like Dalvík with its surroundings is. A bunch of locals who love singing, besides having their jobs and most likely lots of other activities they do or volunteer for, are still able to put their strengths together and show up for practice so that they can share this beautiful piece with their fellow locals. The age range of the performers was all the way from roughly 6 years old up to 85 or so, is my humble guess and the professions of performance are just as diverse as employees of local fish factory, teachers, pensioners, municipality reps, artists, you name it.

And now, dear reader, the precious advice. The fact is that most of these local cultural events are very poorly advertised in English (if at all). Us locals, we know about them because we get leaflets directly to our post box. And since all these little communities have loads of cultural stuff going on in the summer time, I highly recommend the following:
Once you know the dates of your visit to a certain place in Iceland, do check official town web-pages and write to some municipality representative asking for a list of events for the period you´re there. If you were not getting the answer on time, then feel free to drop me a line and I´ll gladly assist with phoning around and getting you the details you might need.

All the best in your off the beaten track exploring through power of local cultures.

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