Heart Beats Light in the polar night

Ilze Zirina

In short

From November 5 till 12, 2017 interdisciplinary international project Heart Beats Light was presented at the Dance Festival Barents in Hammerfest, Norway. Dance representatives form Latvia, Inta Balode, Vilnis Birins, Ramona Galkina, Ilze Zirina and Olga Zitluhina, together with dancers of Stellaris DansTeater Ekaterina Nikitina, Eivind Linn, Tonje Aas Molnes from Norway participated in the project together. From Latvia into the polar night they were driven by a noble knight Dainis Silins. By the way, he was the one who led everyone out of it too.

The project Heart Beats Light was started in 1995 by visual artist Peter Terezakis (USA), dance artist Allyson Green (USA) and composer Alan Stones (UK), and it is a poetic installation where light, music and dance meet in different places of the world. These are places where we experience the power of nature in all its colors: Pennsylvania meadows, Death Valley, Coasts of the Ocean and Sea, courtyard of Riga Dome church and now also in harsh north – rocks of Hammerfest, Norway.

More about it

When Solveig Leinan – Hermo, visiting dance festival Time to Dance in Riga in summer 2017, saw Heart Beats Light in the courtyard of Riga Dome church she knew without a doubt that the white fragile statuesque and calmly pulsating lights has to glow in Hammerfest (Norway) in the polar night. As a member of the artistic board of the DanseFestival Barents and artistic director of Stellaris DansTeater, she did not hesitate to invite the poetic installation to participate at the festival. During November of the same year. Heart Beats Light is an interdisciplinary project combining visual art, music and dance, dance artists were invited as well. Due to the coincidence of different circumstances the above mentioned group of people from Latvia, mentioned above, were the travelers to Hammerfest. At the destination we met three dancers from Stellaris DansTeater and in guidance of Allyson Green worked on movement material. While Heart Beats Light travel through the world, the dance structure is always changing. The site where the lights are placed is influencing it. You would agree that lights placed in about 1 km long line, along the sea in a hot summer night invites to something completely different than the lights, placed in two levels in the lobby of glass or on top of a rocky hill, where there is a rough northwest winds, iced stone and nightfall turning into the darkness in few hours.

To understand and experience what is Hammerfest inviting us for there was a long way to go – about 2000 km in a van. As the scenography was left in Riga after the participation at Time to Dance we headed to the North together with the lights. The journey did not seem cumbersome at all. Even if we did not know real situation what’s there in Hammerfest (it was not decided yet if the lights will be set in nature or indoors because it depended on weather but weather changed constantly), we wanted to tune in the being in and around the light already on our way to Hammerfest. And the road invited us for that: it seemed Peter’s lights are with us not only on the floor of the van but also in places we passed by: we noticed different light objects organized in line – in a shape of cones, cylinders, spots.

Created with oQey Gallery

At one of the places in Oulu (Finland), where we spent the night, we found a spotlight pointing at the sand of the beach. It was a big circle of light which consisted of many islands of light. They were separated each from another by borders of shadow. The method of making this light installation was simple – a gobi in front of the lamp and it inspired us to throw ourselves in the sand, playing with the light and shadow and trying out different tools in movement. We put together a video example and sent greeting to Allyson, who was in Hammerfest already, to ourselves and now also to you, dear reader!


To have a support from home we took music of Laima Jansone with us. She participated at the project in Riga with her music improvisation. Her music Snowstorm and our video tryout , which we called Light is Coming! put together coincidently supports each other, don’t they?

In the journey not only the light, provided by people surprised us but also by nature. The closer we got to Hammerfest the shorter the day became, but the light – more and more expressive. As we approached Hammerfest trees disappeared – mostly the landscape was created by rocks, water and sky. The light seemed to be limited in time and space. It showed up in a concentrated way and we tried to catch these amazing moments by capturing them in our picture galleries of our cell phones.

Created with oQey Gallery

The short time of the day effected our ability to stay focused for the work. It was a feeling that we were living in the twilight zone if the sky was clouded. The most light we could enjoy around 11:00 a.m. and then the darkness drowned above the town again around 2:00 p.m. Even if the rehearsals were neither long, nor exhausting, tiredness and heaviness lied in bones constantly. I am curious how native inhabitants of Hammerfest face this darkness of the year.

Anyway, it was decided to represent the lights at the opening of the festival on the top of the rocky hill, which rises over the town. But the performance was planed to be placed indoors.

At the festival opening day, around 12 at noon we went to the hill to help with the preparation of the scenography and to try out the structure we created previous day. I must admit there were not enough responsibilities to share among all of us. So, me and few of my colleagues were useful by searching for flat stones (to be able to align the vertical light in an ideal line on a hilly surface ), searching for lost drill bit (unsuccessfully) or just jogging and moving around. Although Nature was on our side, even without the wind the legs and arms began to freeze. More than two hours we set the scenography. Then we danced through the structure in connection with the lights more for cameras as Peter were about to make a real film on theme Heart Beats Light beyond the Arctic Circle. Darkness came again, and we had to hurry again.

Created with oQey Gallery

We could take out time and get used to the lights later – during the opening of the festival. When the church bell preached 6:00 p.m. at the foot of the hill, we – on the top of the hill switched on “our” lights. It was unusual – we were too far for audience down in the town to see us but we were dressed in the white costumes and the feeling was a bit solemn – I felt as an ambassador of the light over Hammerfest. The fact that we are not visible from the town, gave us the freedom to play with the light individually as we like. Somebody collaborated with Peter and his photo camera, somebody collaborated between two, somebody just stayed alone with the light. Soon cars started to approach the hill. By the way, also emergency car. They said: “We thought aliens are coming, let’s go to meet them!” People were curious, they approached the lights, observed the process and some of us were happy to welcome them. That was a special night, what helped us to dive into the project and to coalesce with the light. Saying “coalesce” I’m exaggerating because of the feelings, but hope that you understand what I mean. To be honest, lights are extremely challenging towards something so inconstant as movement. Imagine – nine vertical light bulbs around 2,5, m long – each one burns in a steady beat of Peter’s pulse, but each one lights up and goes out at one’s own time. The light is indestructible clean and constant, but I am not able to catch its rhythm anyway.

For the performance Peter chose to set the lights on the two floors of the lobby of the Arctic Centre – one above the another. From the audience point of view, it was a wall of glass behind the dancers, city lights were fringed by icy sea waters behind. Audience could observe the performance from the street – through the huge glass wall, or witnessing the real action and they could also enjoy the reflection behind and above us (there was a glass zone also in the ceiling). Alan Stones had created special sound track for Hammerfest. We were inspired by music of Laima Jansone, Sami folklore, sounds of nature and town of Hammerfest and the music score what Alan has created for Heart Beats Light and which is always present during the performance.

The performance itself as well as audience were as important as our jumping through Oulu seaside sand. Our journey together with Heart Beats Light was over just after three more days, when we, tired and happy, finally reached each our own home and own bed. After the performance in the Arctic Culture Centre we were not very curious, how audience perceived it. Instead, we came together and shared the experience, captured moments in cameras and enjoyed our short time together.

Both we and the DanseFestival Barents were just road companions, what Heart Beats Light met at one of stages of its journey through the years. That was exciting stage of the journey and we can thank Peter Terezakis, Allyson Green, Alan Stones, Nordic Culture Point, Stellaris Dansteater, Dans Festival Barents. And they can thank us.