by Eleanor Bauer

Winner! Yung Lean, Eleanor Bauer and Cullberg wins Nöjesguiden’s Stockholmspris 2018 for best stage show.
Motivation: “The concept dance concert was warmly received when Yung Lean teamed up with choreographer Eleanor Bauer in the creation of NEAR. The iconic and sad music, together with the dancers of Cullberg invites to a surrealistic and irresistible dream world.”

Dagens Nyheter
“While the contemporary dance, with choreographers like Boris Charmatz and Xavier Le Roy, has been institutionalized in museums over the last decade, and therefore brought the dance back to where it once began, with sculptures – smaller dance companies have almost only shown less costly solos. Which is why the bigger companies, who are fewer and fewer these days, have become even more important than before. This is something that Sweden’s largest, and artistically most interesting company, Cullberg has shown. In particular, since Gabriel Smeets took over as artistic director in 2014 and subsequently has raised the artistic bar year by year.”

“…very beautiful.”

“Bauer creates epic monumental images that the dancers move towards, seductively, slowly and noticeably. These pictures with shifting looks and gestures and with Yung Lean’s sad songs speak in their silence about the contemporary inability to move . Yet, sometimes, when all bodies become one body, they move together, showing us pockets of light and hope. Yet more proof that Cullberg’s amazing dancers are at their best in bold collaborations. ”

“The rapper, now artist, Yung Lean creates things with a finger on the contemporary pulse. With his crew Sad boys, he breaks new ground in every musical initiative. Today is no exception. ”
“NEAR is an art project that makes Azalea into a different place than it is.”
“They embody contemporary, typical feelings of ambivalence, wanting what you cannot have.”
“When you come to peace with the form, the dance concert Near is at times elusively beautiful. When everyone dances to the complete and melancholy Yung Lean songs, everything else – hangovers, windy hairstyles, this mornings cancelled gigs – ends up in the periphery. ”

In NEAR, twelve dancers meet in a swamp house, hovering in a no-man’s land between nature and civilization. Together they bring a monstrous dream to life, blending genres of music concert and surrealist story ballet in a cinematic theaterscape. Amplifying the persistent strangeness within and out there, NEAR is full-disclosure and 100% sincere but never familiar, intimate but never comfortable.

Choreographer Eleanor Bauer works for the first time with Jonatan Leandoer Håstad/Yung Lean and Cullberg creating together a dance concert, a common fantasy world. Both artists have a strong relationship to writing at the center of their respective artistic practices, and poetry has become a common ground in the collaboration.

Originally from the US, Bauer is a PhD candidate in Choreography at Stockholm University of the Arts. The music for NEAR is created by Jonatan Leandoer Håstad /Yung Lean in collaboration with ambient music multi-instrumentalist and video artist Frederik Valentin. The dancers in Cullberg co-create a temporary autonomous zone in which they navigate improvisational practices and scores to continually generate spontaneous interpretations of a musically and poetically structured universe. Fragile forms and strong magic drive the collaboration in a touching and honest excavation of what it takes to be awake in the world, in a body, with others.

Two questions to Eleanor Bauer

What is this project’s starting point?
“This project is a fantastic opportunity to continue working in several lines of interest that I hold dear: experimentation with performance genres, the collaborative structuring of authorship in dance and music, and artistic practice as a way of questioning, undoing, and destabilizing conventions of identity formation. Jonatan Leandoer Håstad/Yung Lean is moving in new directions with his music for this project, with multi-instrumentalist and video artist Frederik Valentin, he is moving away from hip-hop and into a territory less-known to the public from him as a singer/songwriter. He and I share an interest in poetry, so the poetics of his lyrics and the poetics of my choreographic process are a big part of the meeting and the sense we make together. The collaboration with the design team – Josefin Hinders, Jonatan Winbo, and Pontus Pettersson – has been crucial to the project from the start as we all create a world together from the shared poetics and images. The dancers of Cullberg are brilliant to work with in this context: intelligent, individually inquisitive, experienced, and open-minded – they each offer a unique voice and tone to the work. There is a real alchemy between all of these elements unfolding”.

What are your thoughts on making a commissioned work for Cullberg?
“It’s wonderful to be able to work with so many excellent dancers. It’s almost impossible to coordinate work of this scale in a self-produced freelance situation. So it’s just a really exciting opportunity to work in ways that I don’t often get the chance to. Large groups make some things easier – when one person out of three is having a bad day, there is a lot of drag on the process. When one person out of 17 is having a bad day, 16 people are there to carry their weight. Like with activism, more people you have, the more momentum you have. But that also means that it’s slower to make changes, to steer a large ship, so to speak. You have inherently a bit less spontaneity with a large group, because there is so much more organization needed, on a practical level but also in terms of communicating an idea and getting on the same page with each other. I am thinking about the large group as an opportunity to underline the differences in interpretation, rather than the necessity of agreement, so really working with everyone’s unique understanding of a score or instruction to maintain those individual comprehensions. And the dancers really are quite different from each other, even with all the hours of movement they share, their different histories and training are still evident. I like commissions because it means I am not the one who chooses who is in the room, so I can’t project expectations of people based on desire for something I think I know of them. I get to know the people through the piece and get to know the piece through the people. I think that is beautiful. Is has been precious getting to know Jonatan/Yung Lean and each of the dancers through this process. Pluralism is something I care a lot about in general, ethically, politically, culturally, and aesthetically, and you can really deal with pluralism when you work like that. I also appreciate that the company consults the dancers before hiring a choreographer. Before any project was planned, they first invited me to do a workshop with the dancers just to meet each other and see how we might work together. I know it sounds like auditioning the choreographer instead of auditioning the dancers, but I think that’s great, to disturb or level that traditional hierarchy. In the end, it’s just about meeting people and finding out how to share interests. When art is so often motivated by and valued in terms of affinities, interests, and tastes, then the affinities, interests, and tastes of the people working together have make sense to each other.”

NEAR – a dance concert by Eleanor Bauer and Jonatan Leandoer Håstad/Yung Lean
Concept: Eleanor Bauer and Jonatan Leandoer Håstad/Yung Lean
Direction: Eleanor Bauer
Choreography: Eleanor Bauer with the dancers Adam Schütt, Camille Prieux, Daniel Sjökvist, Eleanor Campbell, Eliott Marmouset, Gesine Moog, Georges Hann, Giacomo Citton, Katie Jacobson, Mohamed Y. Shika, Suelem de Oliveira da Silva, Sylvie Gehin Karlsson, with contribution by Anand Bolder, Núria Guiu Sagarra, Unn Faleide, Vincent Van der Plas, and the apprentices Heather Birley and Yulia Kalinchenko
Music: Jonatan Leandoer Håstad/Yung Lean in collaboration with Frederik Valentin
Set design: Josefin Hinders
Lighting design: Jonatan Winbo
Costume design: Pontus Pettersson
Rehearsal director: Lisa Drake
Assistant to the set designer: Linnea Birkelund
Graffiti sand box: Jenny Palén and David Danell
Photo: Urban Jörén
Art direction, design: Martin Falck
The set is made by Riksteaterns Teknik och Ateljéer.
Co-production: Cullberg, Luger, Way Out West Festival Gothenburg and Southbank Centre, London
World premiere: Way Out West, Gothenburg, 10th of August 2018



By: Eleanor Bauer

Music: Jonatan Leandoer Håstad/Yung Lean

Set design: Josefin Hinders

Lighting design: Jonatan Winbo

Costume design: Pontus Pettersson

…very beautiful.

Dagens Nyheter

Previous performances