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Hege Haagenrud – Use My Body While It’s Still Young – Review

Use My Body While It's Still Young
Use My Body While It’s Still Young Photo: Siren Lauvdal

Haunting and moving this is a beautiful dance show created by Norwegian Choreographer Hege Haagenrud, who explores with truth and sensitivity life from the perspective of age.

We meet four dancers as two older women, one man, and an empty chair. We hear conversational Norwegian spoken by a gentle old man, translated into projected English text. We are made to understood that life changes when you grow old.

It is then we meet the fourth dancer. He’s a projection, bigger than life size, on the screen that is the back wall of the stage. He’s wearing the tidy, pressed clothes of the respectable old, which he removes until he’s naked. We see the rear of his aged body which invites us to feel we know him. It is at this point however, we share his look back to his ‘juicy youth”, to remarkable, crackling film footage of when he was a naked leaping dancer of extraordinary virality and ability. A young man impossible to imagine ever being old but there remain similarities between the two bodies and we know they are the same. We respect the old man. Understand the change time has wrought will happen to us too. We are being shown our own future.

It’s powerful this section. Worth seeing the show for, even if there was nothing else. But there is.

A pas de deux is performed as a projection on the screen between this extraordinary man and his wife, as she also dances alone on the stage. This is more memory being revealed. We see the pair being tender and protective of each other as they experience age together. It’s the perfect combination of feeling and beauty, an expression through dance of the love we hope will accompany us into our own old age. But then he’s gone. Her wedding ring is off and she’s alone. Turning into a stripped down ghost of sinew and muscle who invites her audience to understand that sensuality and sexuality remain as we age despite society’s denials.

The voice of the gentle Norwegian man continues to be heard, as a soundtrack. He talks of discrimination, making connections. He says the least important thing about getting old is a changing appearance. He tells much in words of lasting wisdom.

The music throughout is powerful and affecting, sung and played live by its composer, Rebekka Karijord. The only possible problem with this fantastic show is it ends too soon. Like life itself.

4 stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

In an age obsessed with the worship of youth, and beauty defined through youth, where does that leave those who are no longer young? It is this issue that award-winning Norwegian choreographer Hege Haagenrud explores in her extraordinarily insightful Use My Body While It’s Still Young.

Danced by four performers aged 65 to 79, all of whom have had long and successful careers as dancers, it confronts our pre-conceptions with the reality and sensuality of ageing. The music, played live by composer Rebekka Karijord, accompanies video footage and recordings of personal stories. Haagenrud makes a welcome return to Dance Umbrella following performances at the Unicorn 2014 with this memorable work for adults.

Part of Dance Umbrella 2016
19 & 20 October 2016
£18, £12 concessions
Running time 50 minutes


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