Iceland Tour Diary: Musings on a Northern Paradise

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DAY 1
After a relatively painless flight (it was only around 7 hours), we arrived in Reykjavik early in the morning. The first thing that struck me about Iceland was the incredibly clean, crisp air. The second thing was the lack of congestion. And on the drive from the airport to the hotel, I marveled at the pristine volcanic landscape.

Once we were situated at our hotel, some of us decided to get a lay of the land by journeying to the top of the Hallgrimskirkja church, which afforded us a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. The multicolored rooftops reminded us of little LEGO buildings all spread out in neat geometric patterns. After that, a group of us decided to book a tour to the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal hot spring known for its healing mineral properties and relaxing atmosphere. The perfect antidote for an overseas plane trip! Not only was the water pristine and blue, but the surrounding scenery was so beautiful that the time got away from us and we ended up staying in the water for 5 hours! It was quite a day!

Dancers at the Blue Lagoon (Photo Courtesy Rebecca Rhodes)

Dancers at the Blue Lagoon (Photo Courtesy Rebecca Rhodes)

DAY 2
After regaining our sea legs (so to speak) with Company class in the morning, we were ready to explore Iceland! I rode an Icelandic horse (one of the purest breeds in the world) through the moss-covered lava fields outside of Reykjavik. After a slight learning curve, I really came to enjoy seeing the unparalleled scenery via horseback. The tour guide even allowed us to urge the horses into a gallop at the end of our ride!

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After that exhilarating experience, it was time to rush back to get ready to meet the president! You read that right, President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson of Iceland invited SF Ballet to his residence at Bessastadir for a reception. I was incredibly honored to shake his hand and hear him speak of Iceland, his appreciation of Helgi and SF Ballet, and his love of the arts. We were free to take pictures with him (some even took selfies! I was too shy) and tour the historic house. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

A selfie with the President of Iceland, Helgi and Marlene Tomasson, Felipe Diaz, and dancers Frances Chung, Esteban Hernandez, and Lauren Strongin

A selfie with the President of Iceland, Helgi and Marlene Tomasson, Felipe Diaz, and Company members Frances Chung, Esteban Hernandez, and Lauren Strongin

 

The Company with the President of Iceland, (Photo © Erik Tomasson)

Company members with the President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson  (© Erik Tomasson)

DAY 3
The work begins! We had class and rehearsals at the Ballet School-Tonskoli Sigursveins in the morning/afternoon and then tech rehearsal at the Harpa Concert Hall at night. The theater is gorgeous! Everything is brand new and created with an impeccable eye for design. The entire exterior is a kaleidoscope of honeycomb glass panels that give the building it’s iconic appearance. Inside, I was impressed by the theater’s state of the art technology.

The midnight sun through the geometric windows at Harpa Concert Hall. (Photo Courtesy Harpa Concert Hall)

The midnight sun through the geometric windows at Harpa Concert Hall. (Photo Courtesy Harpa Concert Hall)

DAY 4
Show time! After our afternoon dress rehearsal, we finally had our first performance! I had heard that Icelandic audiences tend to be very reserved, but when we took our final bow and Helgi came out on stage, the crowd erupted in applause and jumped to their feet. It was incredibly gratifying to be able to share our art form with such an appreciative audience. After our performance, I got my first experience of an Icelandic summer “sunset.” The sun explodes into a rainbow of colors just above the horizon, dips into darkness briefly, and rises again seemingly moments later. The lack of complete darkness coupled with the excitement from the show left me struggling to drift off to sleep.

Backstage before Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Powell)

Backstage before Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Powell)

 

Onstage in Tomasson's Trio. (Photo © Erik Tomasson)

Onstage in Tomasson’s Trio. (© Erik Tomasson)

DAY 5-7
Performances, performances, performances. This is what we came to do! I hope that the audiences in Reykjavik enjoyed seeing us dance as much as we enjoyed dancing for them. It was an honor to perform in Helgi’s homeland and represent one of the highest caliber ballet companies in the world. Every Icelander that I met on this trip was extremely helpful and welcoming. I hope to be back sometime soon!

Takk fyrir! Thank you!

Finals bows with Helgi Tomasson (Photo © Erik Tomasson)

Finals bows with Helgi Tomasson (© Erik Tomasson)

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