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Commissioned by Techniquest and Millennium Commission as part of their Sounds for Science project, Yggdrasil is a dance work for primary school children and chamber ensemble. In addition to the obvious dance element, the work can be used to teach the properties of fire, water and ice as well as the idea of death and re-birth. The work has been designed so that it may be used for various types of classwork - art, creative writing, dance, science and storytelling, in the weeks leading up to the performance.
At first there was only a void of empty blackness. Out of this void there emerged two distinct regions; Niflheim and Muspellsheim. Niflheim was a barren region of ice and mist whilst Muspellshiem was a land of fire.
These two regions were joined by the roots of the great world tree, Yggdrasil, which reached throughout time and space. Under Yggdrasil, where the regions of Niflheim and Muspellsheim were closest, the fire had melted part of the ice and had formed a river, Hvergelmir, which was the source of all wisdom.
This world was watched over by Erde, the Earth-Mother, who is responsible for all Creation. In time, she created two races of dwarves to people both Niflheim and Muspellheim. To rule over these two regions she created her two sons, Nifl and Muspell, who are giant gods of Ice and Fire respectively.
From the depths of Hvergelmir came forth Nidhogg, the evil darkness-dragon who continually attacked Yggdrasil. Seeing this eternal conflict, Erde created the god Odin to be guardian of Yggdrasil and to battle against Nidhogg.
The two regions of Niflheim and Muspellsheim are constantly at war with each other and fight over control of Hvergelmir, for he who has total wisdom will rule the world and will control Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life.
The two gods and their armies battle endlessly with Nifl first freezing the river with his Ice-wand and then Muspell thawing it and turning it to steam with his flaming sword before Nifl turns the vapour back to water.
Whilst Nifl and Muspell are fighting they fail to see that Odin is being overpowered by Nidhogg and before they can stop it Odin is defeated. Nidhogg breathes it's fire over Yggdrasil which burns and turns to ash.
With the destruction of Yggdrasil all life ends and Erde flees. The gods and their armies fall to the ground, lifeless. Darkness once again overcomes everything. After a short period, Erde reappears and sheds her light on the world and Yggdrasil is rejuvenated thus continuing the cycle of creation, death and re-birth.
MUSIC - Prelude:
A slow introduction building from the lowest registers at the lowest dynamic to the higher registers at louder dynamics, ending with a shimmering held chord. (Ensemble only)
During the prelude, the stage (performance area) will be lit by spollights, one blue and one red, shining on the respective areas of Niflheim and Muspellheim. Upon arrival on the shimmering held chord, Yggdrasil will be lit by a golden light with, if possible, a green light shining upwards through the centre of the trunk. The roots of the tree will spread in two opposite directions, each joining the ground at Niflheim and Muspellheim. The space under the tree between these two sets of roots will form an archway through which all the dancers will pass. Also, through this archway flows Hvergelmir.
As the shimmering chord subsides, Erde appears in the archway.
MUSIC - Erde's Dance: A light solo dance (Ensemble only) leading to:
MUSIC: Creation of the Dwarves:
A dance where the dwarves tentatively appear (individually and in groups of two, three and four) at the archway and are led out to their respective lands by Erde.
As the last dwarf (or group of dwarves) reaches Niflheim or Muspellheim, Erde turns upstage and seeing chaos in the two lands where all the dwarves are milling around aimlessly; claps her hands and with a flash (stage flashes here, either side of Yggdrasil, if possible and safe) there appear Nifl and Muspell, gods of ice and fire. (Nifl could be clad in silver and Muspell in red with felt tongues of fire sticking out in all directions.) Nifl holds his Ice-wand (about three-feet in length and transparent?) whilst Muspell holds his flaming sword aloft. Erde approaches each in turn, dances with them each and then in a trio. During this trio, the two gods start to get rougher and rougher with each other and eventually push Erde away. They begin to fight but Erde intervenes and banishes each to their respective regions.
MUSIC: Nitl's Dance: A slow passacaglia (Ensemble only)
MUSIC: Muspell's Dance: A fiely tarantella (Ensemble + children)
MUSIC: Trio: A rondo which gets faster and faster
The music stops abruptly and Erde pushes each of the gods towards their kingdoms. The gods begin to organise their armies.
MUSIC: March and fanfares
When they have each organised the armies and lined them up facing each other across Hvergelmir, Erde turns towards Yggdrasil. Before Erde can return to the archway, there is a flash and Nidhogg appears in the midst of Hvergelmir, breathingfire.
MUSIC: Nidhogg's Dance: A menacing dance-macabre.
During Nidhogg's dance Erde flees back to Yggdrasil and whilst the armies of Niflheim and Muspellheim are so engrossed in their confrontation that they fail to notice Nidhogg, Erde creates (another flash, or is this one too many) Odin, clad in golden armour and carrying a long spear, to protect Yggdrasil.
MUSIC: Entry of Odin: Martial music
Odin stabs at Nidhogg, who turns away breathing fire over Niflheim. Thinking this is an attack from Muspell, Nifl and his army attack Muspellheim.
MUSIC: The Battle for Hvergelmir:
The conflict is long and hard with Nifl pointing his ice wand at Muspell's dwarves and freezing them and Muspell throwing flames at Nifl's army from his great sword. They are alternately freezing and thawing Hvergelmir in their efforts to overcome each other. After a time, when the river is frozen, Nidhogg stands on it to fight Odin, he (Odin) comes onto the frozen river but Muspell aims his flaming sword at it and melts the ice. Odin falls into the water and is drowned. Nidhogg turns to Yggdrasil and breathes fire over it, setting it ablaze. The green light shining up through the trunk turns red and the golden light fades out. At the sight of this the fighting dies off quickly and all stand motionless looking at Yggdrasil in terror.
MUSIC: The Battle for Hvergelmir leads to:
The Burning of Yggdrasil:
Loud, sustained, hymn-like chords, moving downwards and becomingquieter and quieter until they rest on a sustained chord.
During The Burning of Yggdrasil the lights on Niflheim and Muspellheim dim until all is dark except the red light shining through Yggdrasil. As the sustained chord is reached this red light also fades out until the stage is once again blacked out. During the blackout, Nifl, Muspell, Nidhogg and Odin all exit and the dwarves all lie face down in their respective regions.
MUSIC: Rebirth: A return to the opening music.
As the sustained chord gives way to the opening music a golden spotlight illuminates Erde who is gathering the ashes of Yggdrasil. She dances around the stage scattering the ashes and with a wave of her arms the respective spotlights come back on to reveal a regenerated Yggdrasil, Niflheim and Muspellheim (but not Nifl, Muspell, Nidhogg or Odin). She waves here arms over Niflheim and Muspellheim and the dwarves begin to stir and stand up, one by one. When they are all standing, facing away from Yggdrasil, they turn as one and face Yggdrasil. Erde is seen standing in the branches, bathed in it's green light holding a baby (a doll for our purposes). The music ends on a long pause and then........