[February 21, 2013]
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(AP) -- For the next month, the Kennedy Center will glow each night
with blue light and shimmers of green, depicting the northern lights
and signaling what has taken over its theaters and galleries inside.
The cultural center has become an international museum and showplace
for Northern European cultures with "Nordic Cool," a festival that
runs through March 17. It features music, theater and dance, as well
as exhibitions, film, literature and cuisine.
Light designer Jesper Kongshaug of Denmark created the "Northern
Lights" installation on the building's exterior, evoking the aurora
borealis for the center's white marble walls.
The Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and
Sweden, as well as Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Aland
Islands. Kennedy Center officials said this is a part of the world
that Americans know surprisingly little about.
Nordic cultures share a common heritage in the Vikings and waterways
that fueled trade and discovery, said Alicia Adams, the Kennedy
Center's vice president for international programming. Yet the
elements of "what is Nordic" have been difficult to define.
"They've been very insular in some ways," Adams said. "They haven't
reached, I don't think, beyond their borders in ways that other
countries in Europe have."
Adams spent four years researching Nordic arts and culture to plan
the $8 million festival.
Outside the center, four wooden elk sculptures greet visitors. They
were created by an artist in the sparsely populated Aland Islands.
Inside, visitors find a towering boat made of 1,200 mostly blue and
white shirts by one of Finland's leading artists, Kaarina Kaikkonen.
The boat, she said, is a "symbol of life" and represents Finland's
waters and its blue and white flag.
The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the official orchestra
for the Nobel Prize ceremonies, opened the festival Tuesday night
with compositions from across the region. A gala followed with an
increasingly popular Nordic export _ its food.
Norwegian chef Morten Sohlberg, who now runs his Smorgas Chef
restaurant group from New York, cooked for the crowd of 600
diplomats and VIPs with an entree of "lamb three ways," created from
22 lambs. New Nordic cuisine is based on the farm-to-fork concept,
foraging for food and using all parts of an animal, Sohlberg said.
With the popularity of Danish restaurant Noma, ranked for three
consecutive years now as the world's best by Restaurant magazine,
interest in Nordic food culture has soared.
"We have always done food this way," Sohlberg said. "But it's only
recently when it's become sort of a worldwide phenomenon that you
should go back to your roots; you should look at how food is
For the festival, Swedish chef Malin Soderstrom helped create menus
for the Kennedy Center's restaurants. Dishes will include Slow
Smoked Arctic Char, Leek Ash Roasted Venison Loin and Lingonberry
Free exhibits fill the center's galleries and walkways, offering a
sense of Nordic fashion, the history of the Nobel Prize and as well
as art and architecture.
Icelandic artist Ruri brought an installation featuring 52 images of
waterfalls paired with recordings of each waterfall's sound. Each
has its own voice, she said. Ruri began photographing the waterfalls
in 2001, but already half have disappeared because of hydroelectric
dams and changes in river flows. The problem, she said, will only
get worse with climate change.
"It's a local example of a global situation," she said.
Nordic Cool follows major festivals in the past decade that have
focused on India, China, Japan and 22 Arab nations.
The Nordic theater, dance and music schedule includes both
traditional and cutting edge performers from leading theaters in the
region. It also includes a jazz club, which will feature Norwegian
musician Tereje Insungset who carves instruments from ice.
Nordic Cool 2013:
By BRETT ZONGKER
Follow Brett Zongker at
AP photos by Jacquelyn Martin
This photo shows the
installation "Are We Still Afloat," by artist Kaarina Kaikkonen, of
Finland. The photo was taken from below, in the Hall of States, during a media preview
"Nordic Cool," an international festival taking place at the Kennedy
Center in Washington, D.C. More than 700 artists from Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as Greenland, the Faroe Islands
and the Aland Islands will present their work in theater, dance,
music, visual arts, design, film, architecture and cuisine.
This photo shows stained-glass birds making up the installation
"Migration," by artist Trondur Patursson, part of "Nordic Cool," an
international festival taking place at the Kennedy Center in