Everyone understands the ‘lost in translation’ concept when people of two different languages communicate. However, another dimension of this concept is Chinese-whispers. For convenience, a translator appears in the middle (usually your other half) who relays shorter, faster information for everyone’s convenience. This is the literal side of lost in translation. In Norway, the ‘provider’ of the information always says too little and the translator provides even less, so you are left with ‘too little too late’ information. (Conversations between the provider and translator always happen when you’re never around so you can’t ask for more details or have a say, for example: when the dentist calls and needs to cancel but your translator (or other half) forgets to tell how seriously you need to get a tooth fixed.)
Another concept, especially Norwegian, is the ‘improvised’ non-information. A lot of the time I find information isn’t available because even the provider doesn’t know the details. They are usually waiting on someone who is waiting to have a board meeting to discuss things before anything is set. In the arts industry (at least) in Norway it seems nothing is allowed to be decided without ‘the board’. This slows down things dramatically. But no matter how small an arts entity is, even if it is made up of a production team of four, you have to have a board of six members to be recognised in Norway. This happens for all entities – festivals, drama clubs, dancing clubs, youth clubs etc. So events are arranged sporadically. With this ‘improvised’ way of working, together with Chinese-whispers, you have a deadly Norwegian concoction of intermittent communication.
Recently Moose and I have been very busy. From an events manager of the Tromsø International Film Festival (TIFF) through Moose to me, I was asked to get together a dance performance to help create atmosphere for the Russian musical film Hipsters. Before Christmas I was told: ‘Swing’, ‘atmosphere’, ‘costumes’, the cinema (foyer?) and the date. So I got to choreographing and rehearsing performers (and myself) for this little event, desperately wanting to know more so I could understand exactly what was needed. But there was no more.
After Christmas I was told: Big event, After-Party 9pm- with 20 free tickets for dance club members, and some local celebrities.
After New Years I was told: Big Band at After-Party, Food and about 1000 people.
This week, only a couple of days before the performance, I was sporadically told a little more: the performance is at the grand opening of the festival – the 20 year anniversary of TIFF, Norway’s Culture Minister, the city Mayor, a star from the film and TV and press will be at the opening in the cinema along with 1000 people, the dance performance will be <em>in</em> the cinema and we are part of the opening ceremony – not just dancing but guiding speakers to the podium and acting like ‘Hipsters’ etc – and lastly, dancing on carpet, in a very small space, with little lighting, having a full day of rehearsal, hair and make-up, including being after-party ‘dance-starters’.
Wow – all this info would have been handy at the start. With a little detective work I discovered that both Moose’s sparse translations and the event manager’s fly-off-the-seat-of-her-pants organising were the culprits. Luckily I’ve had enough experience to know that you have to expect the unexpected in this business (Norwegian communicating business, I mean) and so, whether in the corner of a little foyer or at a grand opening of a festival, the dance performance will ROCK!
Wish us luck – we perform tonight!