In "BIRGET; ways to deal, ways to heal", choreographer Elle Sofe Sara and Norwegian national company Carte Blanche invite you to an evening that is both uplifting and upsetting.



60 minutes

10 Feb


11 Feb


Carte Blanche, Norway's national company for contemporary dance, visits Dansens Hus with BIRGET; Ways to deal, ways to heal - a collaboration between choreographer Elle Sofe Sara and artist Joar Nango. 

"Birget" is a Sami expression that describes the state of mastering or surviving in a changing environment. Fuelled by "birget", Sara, Nango and Carte Blanche invite the audience to overcome the fear of touching a heavy and difficult subject through a performance that questions social and political boundaries, limitations and the current climate of reconciliation.

The process for the performance began in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino where the Carte Blanche dancers experienced Sami culture, darkness and the Nordic cold in their bodies. In their encounters with Sami culture and people, the dancers learnt personal stories of state oppression and discrimination. Experiences that the dancers bring to the stage. The materials and objects for the scenography were also collected from the tundra of northern Norway and its people: Tarpaulins, snow sticks, a sledge, a debarked tree trunk, a knife...   

In recent decades, several Western countries have set up commissions to investigate the history of minority groups that have been victims of systematic state abuse. BIRGET; Ways to deal, ways to heal is a reaction to the Norwegian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which on 1 June 2023 presented a proposal to reconcile Sami and Norwegians. 

2023 water "BIRGET; Ways to deal, ways to heal " the Norwegian The Dance Critic Award with the justification: "A performance that is both uplifting and disturbing, welcoming and clear at the same time."

Elle Sofe Sara

Elle Sofe Sara (born 1984) is a choreographer and director who lives and works in Guovdageaidnu in Finnmark. She hasand annn created the dance-joy performance Vastadus eana - The answer is land which was shown on Dansens Hus spring 2023. She has also created numerous other dance performances and several award-winning short films. Elle Sofas artistic works often reveal a space where the past and present converge, a collage of Sami physicality and spirituality and simple means. Elle. Sofe has a master's degree in choreography from Khio, she was a festival profile at North Norway Festival (2020, 2021) and is currently making his first feature film, which will be the world's first joik musical feature film. 

Joar Nango

Joar Nango (born 1979) is an architect and artist living in Tromsø. He works in the borderland between art and architecture and often integrates the public into his installations. He studied architecture at NTNU between 2002 and 2008, and has also had exchanges at BAS and Art school Berlin-Weißensee. Nango co-founded the idealistic architecture collective. The Community project å Fortette The city (FFB) and was a festival artiste during the Bergen International Festival 2020.

Interview with Elle Sofe Sara and Joar Nango
2024 01 24 Carte Blanche Nango and Sara5u5a5078 Scaled

Interview with Elle Sofe Sara and Joar Nango

Interview originally published on Carte Blanche. 


Tell us about yourself!

I am a mother, wife, director and choreographer. I come from and live in Guovdageaidnu* in Finnmark, Norway. I chose to move home after finishing my education and many years in the big city. It is on the plains that I belong and create best - it is the best place for me as a person and an artist.

*Kautokeino in Northern Sami.

What can you tell us about your artistic vision for BIRGET; Ways to deal, ways to heal?

This project is one of the most challenging I have done. The themes are very complex. You never feel completely finished, there are always new sides and perspectives emerging. So I guess the vision is to dare to let the work be a process for as long as possible; to show myself in this process and to accept that you will never reach a balance or a final conclusion. It is an ongoing journey.

The title BIRGET - what does it mean to you?

Birget is a common word in my everyday life. Directly translated, it means to be saved. As a freelance artist, I use the word actively when planning ahead. So does my husband, who is a reindeer herder. You plan a bit ahead and take it as it comes. There are a lot of things you can't control, both as a freelance artist and a reindeer herder.

The process started with the dancers in Kautokeino, what would you like the dancers and the team to take away from their stay there?

The desire was for the dancers to have a physical experience and memory of learning more about Sami culture. To feel it in their bodies, the encounter with the land, the people, the cold and the snow. It was important for me that they could see me and where I belong. It was extra special when they came driving with the tour bus to our cabin at the summer pasture in Skáidi. We went up the mountain and afterwards we all crowded into the little cabin and ate biđus. It was exciting for me to hear their reflections and perspectives on what is so mundane to me. I was reminded that there are great distances and differences between Bergen and Sápmi.

What is it like collaborating with artist Joar Nango who comes from the field of architecture - as opposed to the field of dance, how do you meet in your work?

The co-operation with Joar feels very good. We think very well together, we kind of have the same understanding of the process. I feel that we have both added something new to our artistry through this project. I don't think about him being an architect and an artist, but that we meet in this collaboration with our whole selves and find the way together.

What is it like to work with Carte Blanche from other projects?

This is my first time creating something for a company and it is different from things I have done before. It has taken some time for me to feel safe and get used to the everyday life of the institution. The dancers are fantastic, they are open, curious and generous. It's a group I've grown up with and become fond of.


Tell us about yourself!

I am an architect, but also an artist. I have been convinced that I am an artist since I was a teenager. I applied to the Academy of Fine Arts but never got in, so I chose to study architecture in Trondheim instead and liked it immediately. Since then I have been working with architecture and the relationship between people and space. I work between both disciplines. Sometimes it's art. Other times it's architecture. I am 43 years old and have a five-year-old daughter and a partner from Canada. We live in Tromsø. My father is from Masi in Kautokeino, and I often visit family and friends. I am complex in my artistic expression. Sami issues in architecture are a major theme for me, and I have been working with them for almost 20 years. I like collaboration and processes where I can develop and learn something new.

What can you tell us about your artistic vision for this project?

Elle Sofe is an artist I admire, and I have long been interested in creating something scenic with her. I don't know much about dance, but I find it exciting to think about the relationships between architecture and dance. Body, space and material set in motion. I have worked a lot with a kind of pragmatic material aesthetic that is taken directly from the rural environments in inner Finnmark, where human creation is small and transient in relation to the large open landscape. Scenographically and aesthetically, the Birget project is based on just that: the cheap plastic materials used in a nomadic life on the plains.

The conceptual development of the project that Elle and I have been working on, I have always thought of it as a process, a journey we share with the dancers and the complex stories in the project. the pre-normalisation and around which we have chosen to build the story. In that context, I think it is wrong to talk about a vision. It is more of a journey that we share.

The title BIRGET - what does it mean to you?

Birget is one of many Sami expressions that are particularly important in the Sami language. It is often used, and it is perhaps a little too simple to simply translate it as "to get by". I always find it interesting to build art projects and expressions based on some specific Sami concepts or values. On the one hand, we have used the concept in a slightly sociological and psychological way where we investigate how these people - from whom we have collected stories - have coped as Sami when they have been exposed to such a large and structural pressure that existed in the pre-normalisation. How have they coped as Sami in such a childhood environment? At the same time, we have worked on a scenography that in a more material and aesthetic way plays with the practical "utility aesthetic" that the people on the plains dress through on a daily basis. The aesthetics of self-sufficiency.

How have you worked on this project, for example, based on your stay in Kautokeino?

It was exciting to introduce Carte Blanche to the landscape at that time of year. Skábma (darkness) had just started, the sun was almost gone and the colours of the frozen landscape take your breath away. Even for those of us who come from there and live there daily, it's like that. For me it was also an opportunity to practically build the scenography based on this environment. Everything from the set design is taken from the weeks we spent up there. I have a big red sprinter that is my most important working tool. Collecting simple things and materials from the environment is the starting point for the room we have built. I have focused on creating a simple and direct expression that becomes a natural extension of the environment we are wrapped up in; An old worn sled from one of Kauto's many sled builders, a tarpaulin from Elle Sofes garage, a tree cut in the Avzi forest, an old ventiflex cloth I found outside the LKAB mine entrance.

You have a background in architecture; what is it like to develop a dance performance in collaboration with choreographer Elle Sofe?

The two arts are very similar. They are both basic forms of expression; language before language. Movement and space are the most basic elements of human life. At the same time, these disciplines are two areas that are relatively undeveloped in the Sami context. Therefore, there is also an exciting potential in shaping new expressions. I think the most challenging difference is the fiction and the closed time frame of the theatre format. It starts when you arrive and ends when you leave. I am used to working a lot with blurring these boundaries. Here I have tried to let it lie a bit, but it is also something I have been interested in approaching. It has been exciting and instructive.

What is it like to work in Bergen and with Carte Blanche? Are you inspired by the places you work and in this case specifically Bergen and Carte Blanche?

It's great to work with such incredibly talented artists. It has been inspiring, especially to hear and learn from the articulate dancers and the way they express themselves. They are so rooted in their sociality. I have some introverted sides that are also important dimensions of my creativity. It has been inspiring for me to be challenged in this production. And Bergen is Norway's most beautiful city (after Tromsø), and a place where I've spent some time and had time to meet friends.


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10/2 and 11/2 Film screening

Display of BIRGET; a portrait of a process. Carte Blanche Artistic Director Annabelle Bonnéry gives an introduction and answers questions from the audience after the film.

The film will be shown at 17.30 on 10/2 and 13.30 on 11/2. The screening takes place in the foyer of Elverket and is included with the purchase of a ticket for the performance. 

11/2 Debriefing

Meet Annabelle Bonnéry, Artistic Director of Carte Blanche, and dancers from the ensemble. Moderator: Johannes Öhman, Director of Dansens Hus Theatre.

- A true national treasure! ... A triumph for Carte Blanche, Elle Sofe Sara and Joar Nango.

-The daily newspaper

- With the dance performance Birget, Elle Sofe Sara consolidates her position as one of the country's strongest choreographers.


A fascinating, colourful show about reconciliation


a vital and important performance

-The daily newspaper