Back in the bad old days, territorial disputes were settled by having a fight, or sometimes a shouting match at the United Nations. Yet latterly, mankind has been schooled by the bonobo in conflict resolution, recognising that cooperation trumps even the most entertaining ruckus. And so, the so-called Fish Finger War between Scotland and Norway has led to Saeter being handed the keys to Caledonia’s national ballet company’s garage. Zealand Variations is the result of this collaboration, a mash up of post-modern dance and classical technique that quite literally stopped a bigger North European mash up of guns and bodies.
Saeter cleverly avoids making too much direct reference to the grounds of the conflict. Instead, she has a male soloist, carrying a clipboard and constantly smiling, represent the Scottish government, and a series of ethereal women for Norway. Each variation is a pas de deux between the two sides: the male is increasingly exhausted, but the women constantly refreshed. Whether this is a wry comment on the potential nature of any real conflict is moot, since the finale - when the corps des ballets appear in a newsroom and lift the male high above them - is filled with reconciliation and joy.
The alliances here are as thrilling aesthetically as politically. Saeter does not compromise her eclectic movement vocabulary, using the grace of the ballet trained company to elongate and extend their range. By finding the path between elegance and ugliness, Saeter is re-imagining ballet not as a museum piece, but as a tool for contemporary exploration.