Swedish theater & dance
Sweden is often regarded as having the best children’s theater in the world. There are several reasons for this: Swedish education has a long tradition of introducing art and literature of the highest standards to every child, there is great public interest in education and teaching methods, and there’s the possibility to adapt education to meet the demands of the time.
Perhaps the most important factor is the relatively egalitarian view of children. The spirit of respect for the child as an individual — which characterizes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child — has characterized conditions for Swedish children since the Second World War. Generations of Swedes can send a mental note of thanks to the character Pippi Longstocking, created by Astrid Lindgren, who was immediately embraced by both children and adults in Sweden. Pippi encouraged children and parents to question social norms and think independently.
Throughout the 20th century the theater was in close competition with other forms of media, such as film, radio, TV and the digital world. Despite this, theater is very much alive. It’s hard to beat the immediate, direct relationship between an actor and the audience.
In the 21st century, Swedish theater is available in communities of all sizes: early morning children’s theater, lunchtime “soup shows,” the first evening performances in the late afternoon and then other shows late into the night. The ghosts of national icons August Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman hover over the Swedish stage, resulting in a serious repertoire — from sturdy realism to magical plays full of imagination and kaleidoscopic patterns, from burning contemporary issues to eternal themes of life and death, love and power.
Sweden’s summer theaters thrive throughout the country and perform dramas in ruins, palaces, stately homes and parks. Roughly three-quarters of theatrical costs are subsidized, which means theater is enjoyed in rural areas, too.
Dance in Sweden has undergone major changes in the past few decades. In recent years, significant efforts have been made at both the regional and the national level to reinforce the provision and expansion of training, organizers’ networks and touring activities. Independent dance groups and choreographers have more than doubled their audiences and performances. Swedish contemporary dance is now an export product, with more and more choreographers undertaking international tours or doing commissions for companies in other countries. For instance the Cullberg Ballet, based in Stockholm, is a truly international company. The ensemble has performed in more than 40 countries and is an important cultural ambassador for Sweden.
Dance in Sweden, both institutional and independent, is in a constant state of flux. Regional interest in the art form is growing, both among audiences and those responsible for cultural policy. The strength of Swedish dance lies in its combination of powerful individual artists and a wide range of genres. The boundaries between different art forms such as image, design, dance, theatre and music are being erased, and a new generation of artists is busy redrawing the map of art and turning our expectations of dance upside down. Bounce Streetdance Company, formed in 1997, brought street dance to a wider audience with styles such as popping, locking, boogaloo and new school.
In Stockholm, Dansens Hus is the national center for contemporary dance. Founded in 1991, it has two stages and hosts around 35 different performances every year.
Updated December 19, 2008
Swedish Cirkus Cirkör has grown from an underground movement to a big circus ensemble touring the world, and also hosting one of the best circus schools. In their latest show,Inside Out, they explore our insides and outsides down to the tiniest detail, and go on a mind-blowing journey.