Sexuality, identity and the exciting game between the performer and the public

Cullberg Ballet - HIGHLIGHTS

Trajal Harrell, Eszter Salamon, Cullberg Ballet

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The New Yorker Trajal Harrell and the Hungarian Eszter Salamon are both choreographers who like to play around with the fascinating interplay between the performer and the audience, between the one dancing and the one watching. Harrell, who also appeared in last year’s Holland Festival, mixes voguing, house and contemporary dance and will present a new work for four dancers. Salamon will stage a new version of her choreography Reproduction for eight dancers. Both works refer to the way the body is used in marketing and advertising, challenging our views of sexuality and identity. By commissioning these two works, the Swedish Cullberg Ballet sets out a new course under the artistic direction of Gabriel Smeets.




The Return of the Modern Dance

Trajal Harrel




Reproduction (2015)

Eszter Salamon


In the history of dance there has always been a fascination with the communication between the one who dances and the one who watches. Who is in control: the performer or the viewer? Choreographers have seduced, triggered, directed and manipulated the gaze of the audience with the bodies they presented on stage, allowing the audience to create their own dream of the body: a perfect body that can fly or a very grounded body that takes a strong position.

The American Trajal Harrell and the Hungarian Eszter Salamon are two of the most interesting contemporary choreographers who both explore the gaze of the dancer and the audience in their work, whilst at the same time investigating the performative body. Is what we see really what we get? Is the body a construction of our desires or fears? And what do we expose by exposing our body to the gaze of someone else?

Under the new artistic direction of Gabriel Smeets, the Swedish Cullberg Ballet presents a double bill of works by these two exciting choreographers. 

A choreographer of international renown, Harrell works at the interface between voguing and house. Several of his works have been nominated for best dance works by Time Out New York. For the Cullberg Ballet, he has created an exclusive new work for four dancers.
Eszter Salamon is active both as a dancer and a choreographer. Her works are performed frequently in Europe, the US and Asia. For the Cullberg Ballet, she will recreate her 2004 work for eight dancers Reproduction.

Both Trajal Harrell and Eszter Salamon are questioning the laws of the theatre and how the audience’s gaze directs the way we perceive bodies on stage,’ says new artistic director of the Cullberg Ballet Gabriel Smeets. ‘Employing different dance styles and approaches, both choreographers are interested in how bodies are presented in the entertainment and marketing industries. The two performances will challenge our views on sexuality, transformation and identity.’


New York-based choreographer and dancer Trajal Harrell (b. 1973) attended Yale University and was trained in famous institutions like The Trisha Brown School, Centre National de la Danse in Paris, The City College of San Francisco and The Martha Graham School of Contemporary of Dance. Meanwhile, he became fascinated with the New York ballroom scene of the late eighties. Here, transvestites and gays – often of Latin- or Afro-American backgrounds – presented their own version of glamorous fashion shows, based on extravagant voguing and whacking dance battles. Harrell himself learned those styles from two grandmasters of the genre: Archie Burnett en Lassandra Ninja. Starting in 2009, Harrell has combined elements from this underground culture with early postmodern and contemporary dance for a six part performance cycle, named Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (all performances of varying lengths, ranging from sizes XS to XL). Time Out named his Quartet for the end of time (2008) as one of the best dance productions of the year 2008, and with Antigone Sr. (2012) Harrell won the Bessie Award. As an artist, Harrell is deeply rooted in the world of international dance and performing arts. Moreover, ever since the start of his career, Harrell has also staged his work in prestigious museums, art galleries, and within the framework of visual art institutions. At the 2014 Holland Festival he performed his Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure) / Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M) at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Currently, Harrell is conducting research for a new body of work called Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past, in which he examines butoh dance from the theoretical praxis of voguing.

Hungarian Eszter Salamon (b. 1970) is a Berlin-based choreographer, dancer and producer. She studied both Hungarian folk dance and classical ballet at the National Dance Academy of Budapest. Ever since 2001, she has performed at several venues and festivals across Europe, Asia and the United States. Besides physical movement, her work is also based on music and the uses of the voice, combined with narrative, fictional and documentary elements. Together with Xavier Le Roy she created several solo works, such as What A Body You Have, Honey (2001) and Giszelle (2001). In 2009 she developed the research project Transformers alongside Christine De Smedt. This collective choreography grew out of workshops and residencies in Brussels, Madrid, St. Erme, Mexico-City, Vienna, Tokyo and Stockholm. In 2011, during the Julidans festival, Salamon staged the performance Dance for Nothing at the Stadsschouwburg, Amsterdam. This unruly choreography, based on John Cage’s experimental composition Lecture on Nothing (around 1949-1950), was also shown in 2014 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The same year, her most recent work premiered at the Rurhtriennale: MONUMENT 0 - Haunted by wars (1913—2013), being the first of six performances dealing with the relationship between choreography and history. Using six dancers and more than fifty tribal dances of war and resistance from all five continents, Salamon shows our last century as an unbroken chain of war and conflict.

The Swedish dance company Cullberg Ballet was founded in 1967 by experimental choreographer Birgit Cullberg (1908-1999). It was part of the national traveling theatre company Riksteatern. The company had performed all over the world, collaborates regularly with several national and international choreographers and performing artists, and plays an important role in propagating Swedish art and culture. Cullberg, herself a student of the revolutionary German Expressionist choreographer Kurt Jooss, was awarded an honorary professorship by Stockholm University based on her merits as an dance innovator. She also received the French award Commendeur des Arts et Lettres and the Italian Cavaliere Ufficiale award. Ever since the birth of the company, the Cullberg Ballet had been known for the unique stage personalities and technical prowess of its dancers. Currently, the ensemble consists of sixteen dancers (hailing from almost just as many countries) and it employs seven choreographers. In 1976 Mats Ek (one of the sons of Cullberg) stages his first production with the Cullberg Ballet, The Officer’s Servant. Two years later he has his breakthrough performance as a choreographer, with the immensely successful The House of Bernarda (1978), based on the play La Casa de Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca. Ek subsequently served as the company’s artistic director from 1985 until 1993. In 1997 the Cullberg Ballet performed at the fiftieth edition of the Holland Festival, staging three works choreographed by Ek: Carmen, She Was Black and Sleeping Beauty – wayward, grotesque and surreal adaptations of theatrical and dance classics. Dutchman Gabriël Smeets has been the company’s new artistic director since 2014. Earlier, Smeets was both the artistic director for the School voor Nieuwe Dansontwikkeling, Amsterdam and interim director of Springdance Festival, Utrecht.


Trajal Harrell, Eszter Salamon
performed by
Cullberg Ballet
Cullberg Ballet
dancers Reproduction
Yaniv Lev, Aïd Freshkicks, Jerry Aniviac, Justin Amaro Sheaba, Jonas, Pettersson, Juha Metsä, Miguel Escobar, Ramón Pozo
dancers The Return of The Modern Dance
Anand Bolder, Jac Carlsson, Samuel Draper, Adam Schütt, Daniel Sjökvist, Vincent Van der Plas
Foto breed