Protagonist – Free from the Past, Living in the Present



The Cullberg Ballet is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and their work Protagonist is the grand finale of Tampere Theatre Festival. The piece by the most famous Swedish dance company tells a story about humanity, importance of belongingness and how an individual interacts with its community and surroundings. 

Director-choreographer Jefta van Dinther’s own multicultural background has had a major influence to the themes in Protagonist. Growing up he had to move around a lot, even between countries. He has lived at least in Holland, Sweden and Germany over the years. When he started to work on Protagonist van Dinther went back in his own history and tried rewrite it in a way. He has described the piece as an autobiography. 

”The autobiographical dimension in Protagonist is a way to tell my own history, but everyone can relate to the piece and its themes” van Dinther says. 

Van Dinther has worked as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. Doing all this at the same time has however been challenging and wearing, so at the moment van Dinther doesn’t teach. He is also dancing less, although it is very important for a choreographer, as they need a dancers perspective on things.  

”Dancing is a full-time job. But it is also hard to be just a choreographer”, van Dinther points out. 

Protagonist is first and foremost a dance piece, but van Dinther has also written poems to it in English. The texts are read by a talented Swedish artist Elias, whose tone and voice texture are a way to describe the text to somebody, according to van Dinther. It is not clear whose perspective is portrayed in the poems. Who exactly is the ”protagonist” and to whom does the text belong? 

”I wrote the poems when I was in crisis with myself, but they weren’t written to me. They were rather a way of reaching out. They tell about a moment of crisis and about an individual as a collective piece in crisis. One poem especially is about a moment of relief”, van Dinther says. 

Also a song called Revolution by Elias plays an important part in Protagonist. Van Dinther describes the relationship between these two as very strong. The song is a kind of a turning point in the performance. 

”In the first part of the performance people are stuck in history and are trying to figure out the past. With Revolution people start trying to work together and let go of the past. In the end there is a choice to be made: whether to stay in the past or be together in the present. Revolution works here as a bridge, that people are together – here and now”, van Dinther describes. 


Protagonist in Tampere Halls Main Auditorium on Sunday 13th of August at 17.00


Tickets & more information


Jefta van Dinther's homepage

Elias' homepage

Here you can listen Revolution


- Text Iida Uuppo

- Translated by Iida Uuppo

- Photo Nina Andersson

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