Door Tessa Overbeek

In December 2012, Tessa Overbeek interviewed the director and artists of the performance Undermän. Their international tour was coming to an end; a good moment to look back on a performance that had quite an impact. Below you will find the written report of the interview, which we will be published in four parts: on August 20 the introduction and a piece about the creation of the performance appeared, on August 27 a piece about the tour and reception of Undermän, on September 3 there were conversations about circus and realness. Today we publish the final piece, about life after Undermän. If you want to react or have questions, just let us know!

Dit interview is ook beschikbaar in het Nederlands.

Part 4 – Life after Undermän

Olle Strandberg

Are you working on a new circus concept right now, or have you made something after Undermän in that area?

Yes, I am working on something right now, but it’s quite long until the premier, so it’s still in an early stage. We are going to start doing some research this spring, and then some research in the fall, have some rehearsals in the spring of 2014, and then we’ll have a premier in the summer or fall of 2014. So it’s quite a long process, due to many things, such as money. That is one of the reasons why it has to be postponed a bit. But it’s great stuff, really really great stuff. Good cast, nice people, I’m looking forward to working with them. That’s going to be good. But I’ve done a small show which I mentioned in the Sideshow interview, Ballroom House.

[Earlier this year, Olle Strandberg discussed Ballroom House again in Sideshow Magazine, selected a piece from the performance to present on video and discussed the way it was created. You can see it here.]

It’s totally different from Undermän. It’s much more conceptual. It’s more in the field of choreography I would say. There is no text in it and I think many people who loved Undermän will find Ballroom House to be boring. Some people wouldn’t. But it’s really important for the street dance scene I think, and I like the concepts a lot. It’s tough material to present, because it’s so mind fucking all the time. It’s been an interesting process, but I would put it under a different label. If I was a music performer, I would probably say: ‘This is my group that I do this with, and this is my project where I do this.’ It’s not so common in circus to use these sublabels and stuff. But I like this kind of research. For me, physical research is super fun, we had a great time creating this. The ideas had been coming for many years, and then we ‘set’ forty minutes of material after a really long time. People have appreciated it when we have performed it. But it’s not going to go on a big world tour or anything. We have fixed dates on small festivals that are interested in something that is not their main attraction, but want something weird or a bit different.

And was that from your own company? Produced by Poetry in Motion?


No Cirkör involvement there?

No. That would be silly for that show. If you have a problem making people understand the label Cirkör through Undermän somehow, and then you want to put Ballroom House there as well, then you take too many steps. We have some comical pieces, and it’s quite a clear show. It’s not the deepest. You don’t have to look at it and be an artist yourself or something. But it’s harder on people than Undermän. It’s dance without words, it’s between juggling and street dance, in a way that street dance is normally not presented, and juggling is not presented so often. It changes expectations for sure.

Ok, and the one that will premier in 2014, will that be more similar to Undermän?

Yes. Of course it will be different, but yes, I really want it to be a straightforward show. I want it to be honest as hell. There will be female people, but it will remind of Undermän, I guess so. But we will have to see what happens in the process and also with time. But I’ve been doing some smaller projects for Cirkör as well, where people go on tour for three or four weeks with small shows. And I can quite often recognize some similarity to how I want it to be. With silence and some weird situations that you don’t really know about. Some straight up sense of humour and some honesty. It’s some kind of recipe but I don’t really know exactly what it’s going to end up being. And this next show is also from a sincere topic, so I think it’s going to be recognizable.

And can you say anything about that topic yet, or is it too early?

Yes I can talk about it. But I am not sure if I can stand up for it in a year. But we are working around the ‘art of the flying’ maybe, but more the unavoidable crash landing I would say. And how we go towards that unavoidable crash landing, whether we want it or not, and how to deal with that fact. Both as a big topic, and within our personal lives. And I take the opportunity to work a lot around my own experience with them. But then we bring out the personal experience of the crash landing and what happened later, how to proceed, basically.

So that’s very much about your own story then?

Yes. But I will not put up my story I think, I will work around it…

[Olle Strandberg’s own experience with a crash landing is also discussed in the interview about Undermän in Sideshow magazine, TO]

No, it doesn’t have to be so literal of course…

But yes, quite a lot.

I could also see it very much in Undermän, when I had already read about the things that happened to you, and then I saw the similar dynamic of something happening that makes your world crash down and then you get healed by doing something else and reaching out to other people and finding new ways of going on, and then eventually sort of going back to where or who you were, but differently…I don’t know, I could really recognize this line in it.

Yes exactly, that topic. That show works around my experience as well, and this show will too, and that’s why I feel that it can be a common ground for the shows. Basically I think if I can use an experience that truly interests me or has had a big impact on my life it will be real. People will relate because they also have true interests and experiences. I will have the street dancer from Ballroom House in this next show as well. And he’s not just a street dancer, he’s an acrobat/street dancer/artist, and it’s going to be good. The rest of the cast you will have to wait and see. It’s going to be amazing.

You can’t give everything away all at once of course…

No. But maybe you will see some familiar faces in it, I don’t know…

Mattias Andersson, Matias Salmenaho, Peter Åberg

Do you think that you are ever going to be lifting women again, or are you completely over that now?

(Peter and Mattias start smiling)

Matias: I haven’t touched a woman since 1995. I hate doing it. Only men now.

Matias Salmenaho

Matias Salmenaho


[After everyone has stopped laughing…] But seriously?

Peter: Maybe I will, but let’s see how serious it gets. I don’t think I want to have it as the primary work. It’s good if it’s not your highest priority and you don’t have the pressure to train as hard and become the best and stuff. You can do it for fun and you can have it as an act that you can do during events and whenever it fits. And then it’s really fun. I love to do hand-to-hand acrobatics, it’s just when it gets too serious, then it starts to be heavy.

Ok. And then you mean mostly psychologically?

Peter: Yes. I like to work physically, that is not a problem.

All right. And the other guys?

Mattias: I think it’s the same. I could probably do it again, for sure. But now I think I would be more careful. I would try to separate things as much as possible. But I have realized now that it’s a good thing as well to work with your partner in love. Because now that we are on tour for instance…it was easier in a way when you had your partner along all the time. But it’s something that we’ve done already I think, so I try to learn the lesson and not make the same mistake again. I could imagine working with a girl, but I think I would try to do it in a different way, like Peter said, I would try to keep it more as a side project or a fun thing. Because I really enjoy it. I really miss it. I mean now we get to throw each other around a little bit, so it helps, it eases the pain. (Peter and Matias look at each other and start smiling) It’s something that you…I was doing hand-to-hand work for fifteen years…(Matias starts singing: ‘It eases the pain, in my HEEEAAAAART!’ while the other guys laugh. He then apologizes to Mattias for interrupting him) Mattias: It’s like a need. And you miss the sensation of doing it.

Well, you must be the Rolls-Royces of undermen now! If you can throw each other around, then you can do that with almost anybody.

(they start laughing)

Mattias: Can you put that quote in your text? That was the best quote I ever heard, we are the Rolls-Royces of undermen…

Ok, I will. So if the partner acrobatics is not going to be your main discipline, then what will be? What do you want to focus on in the future?

Peter: I still do juggling. It did juggling before hand-to-hand also. And I am working on a new juggling number. Let’s see what happens. We don’t know how much we will play Undermän after New Year’s.

Matias: I kind of take it as it comes. I like to do different stuff: juggling, performing, and I always have some new ideas. And there are some secret options. Maybe there’s a new show next year or the year after. But also at the same time as doing Undermän, I have been in another show sometimes when I had time. It is a trio: we are two undermen and one girl. So it’s not really the same, but you get to see a girl sometimes.

Mattias (smiling): You get to see a girl…

Matias: But there are some plans. We try to continue as much as we can and it is possible that we will do something new, also with this group. We already have some crazy material…


Olle Strandberg still works as a director/artistic project leader for Cirkus Cirkör and as artistic director for Poetry in Motion, the company he founded with Erik Linghede. In the first months of 2013 he also directed Surface Tension, a performance with students from DOCH (Academy for Dance and Circus in Stockholm). Peter Åberg is working on a solo piece called Cubix, among other things, Matias Salmenaho and Mattias Andersson will perform together again in an apparently unmissable Finnish Christmas show by Tanssiteatteri Hurjaaruth about the history of the universe.

Olle Strandberg is currently rehearsing with a cast of seven people for the performance he talks about in this interview, which is currently called Present Pastime. It will premier in September of 2014 and will include Andreas Tengblad and Matias Salmenaho from Undermän, which is also still performed occasionally.

This was the final of a series of four parts of the interview Tessa Overbeek had with Olle Strandberg, director of the performance Undermän, and the artists Mattias Andersson, Matias Salmenaho and Peter Åberg. Parts one, two and three can be read here, here, and here.