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Stretch 2019 – expanding professionalism is an international encounter for dance professionals which aims to tackle professional, structural and operational issues in the dance field. The themes are discussed in lectures, panels, working groups and workshops.
The opening key note is given by Dr Kai Lehikoinen, Director of CERADA Center for Educational Research and Academic Development in the Arts at Uniarts Helsinki. He is also Vice-Director of ArtsEqual research project and Team Leader for the research group Arts in Health, Welfare & Care. Lehikoinen’s academic work includes publications on dance analysis, competence analysis and curriculum development in artistic boundary work, and expanding professionalism in the arts.
Lehikoinen says that Stretch is needed because it brings new ways of operating and better communication about dance into discussion.
“In-depth artistic knowledge and versatility are important to people working in the field of dance. But we also need better insight when it comes to other professional skills and communicating about dance,” Lehikoinen states. “Discussing the development of dance professions is necessary within the field, and more generally in relation to changes in the world of work.”
Stretch 2019 brings together the dance community from all Nordic countries and beyond – to discuss, share best practices, give new ideas and network. The program includes performances, morning classes and social gatherings with opportunities for networking and peer support.
Stretch 2019 is held in Turku, Finland, from 17th to 20th of October.
Stretch 2019 is an initiative of Keðja – a meeting platform for the professional Nordic–Baltic dance community since 2008. Stretch Turku 2019 will be the 10th Encounter. Encounters are open to all dance professionals and students of the contemporary dance sector and offer opportunities for the participants to meet and exchange experiences and ideas, expand their networks and take part in debates and workshops.
Meet Riitta at TPAM’s Group Meetings program “Meet Artists from Norway and Organizations from Nordic Countries: Norway, Finland and Iceland” on Wednesday, 13th of February at Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall, Room 9:
9-9:45am PAHN / Performing Arts Hub Norway Breakfast Reception
10-11:20am Norwegian Artist presentations
11-11:40am Gateaway to Finland and Iceland (speakers: Riitta Aittokallio, Project Manager, Dance Info Finland and Ólöf Ingólfsdóttir, Development Director, Dansverkstaedid, Iceland)
With performances, demos and production pitches, the event will showcase the finest work from Finland right now. Performing HEL will encompass the full range of performing arts, including circus, dance and theatre, also delivered in exciting yet difficult-to-define combinations. The showcase happens at the same time with Helsinki Festival – the largest arts festival in Finland.
In 2019 the showcase is organised by Dance Info Finland and CirkusInfo Finland in cooperation with Helsinki Festival, the Finnish National Theatre, Svenska Teatern (the main Swedish-language theatre in Helsinki), Espoo City Theatre and Theatre Info Finland TINFO.
Save the date 29.8.-1.9.2019 – more news coming soon!
For further information, please contact Anni Leino, Producer, firstname.lastname@example.org | +358 (0)40 1823 722
Johanna, you created X-it originally eight years ago – what makes it still a topical work?
“The work draws its inspiration from the theme of being constantly under surveillance. What kind of emotions and feelings does a non-ending – and un-escapable – state of being watched stir in a person? I find that the content is even more current now in 2019 than it was in 2011 when X-it premiered at the Finnish National Ballet.
Aurelien Scanella from the West Australian Ballet saw the premiere of the production in Helsinki. He expressed his interest to bring the work to Perth already back then. Mr Scanella began his tenure as the artistic director of the company in 2013, and in 2017 he contacted and asked my interest to set the work for West Australian Ballet in 2019.
The timeline might sound long but it often is when one works with bigger companies. X-it in particular requires an extensive preliminary work period as I use film as an extension of the universe which I’m creating in a black box space.”
Visual elements are important parts of your works that could be called multidisciplinary. How was it adapting the film to new dancers and a new environment?
“The very detailed film content needs to be rehearsed and shot beforehand.
Perth is a relatively young city and many of the old buildings have been demolished. The team in Perth had to work hard to find spaces with a bit more history and character which was needed for the film.
We ended up shooting all the film material in Fremantle Prison. Fremantle Prison was built as a convict barracks in the 19th century and remained in continual use until 1991. As I wanted to stay true to the original scenes, the technical team even built a shower room into the former kitchen area. I’m deeply grateful that the technical crew has faced all the challenges with a brave heart.”
What is it like re-making a choreography for a different company, in a different culture?
“This is the first time I re-make the piece for another company. The content of the scenes and the movement material went through such a strong filter back in 2011 that although years have passed and I’ve grown as an artist, I’m happy to use the original movement compositions.
It also suits this particular company very well. Dancers at West Australian Ballet have a strong classical base but they are eager and capable to stretch that technique towards more versatile movement. The motion itself might not take a classical form, but what happens within the body often draws inspiration from that technique. The energy lines and spirals within the body, limbs gathering and extending themselves from the center, the use of the thoracic spine, awareness of the extremities… Those dimensions of movement are present also in the classical ballet technique when it’s used at its best. As well as in healthy, sustainable and enjoyable movement in general.
In Perth I have four weeks to set the material for the dancers. In the Autumn last year we had two weeks of rehearsals and three days to shoot the 26 minutes of film material. I’m able to work with the dancers for 2 to 2 1/2 hours each day. The time limit and tight schedule also made the decision to stay with the original compositions more practical.”
The body and bold visual worlds are the driving forces in all my works.
How have your works developed since X-it, and are there some elements that remain?
“Since X-it was created I have used film in other works as well and challenged the creative teams with bigger visual worlds.
The physical creation process itself has naturally evolved from those days. Nowadays I use more task based approaches which give more room for the performers to gain ownership of their role in the production. This in addition to investigating the emotions and physicality of the work within my own body and composing structures from that material.
I also give more room to the whole creative team. Although I always like to prepare myself well, instead of going into the first meeting with a ready-made plan of the whole production, I listen first the artists I have invited to collaborate with me and come with a more developed idea maybe to the next gathering.
The themes of my latest independent works have also investigated more tender issues and qualities, wider range of movement dynamics and levels of presence.
However, working with repertoire companies has its own realities which have to be taken into account. When I’m being approached by a company that wants me to present a project proposal I always first want to find out what kind of a choreographic toolbox the dancers are used to working with. It is also very important to know how much time do we have to create or set the piece. These two elements set the boundaries for the creation process.
No matter which type of toolbox I choose to use or from which background the performers come from, the body and bold visual worlds are the driving forces in all my works.”
Dancer-choreographer Johanna Nuutinen graduated from the Finnish National Opera Ballet school in 2002. In 2002 she became a member of the Finnish National Ballet and created a successful career with the company while dancing soloist parts in works by Ohad Naharin, William Forsythe, Johan Inger, Jacobo Godani, Sylvie Guillem, John Neumeier, Jorma Elo and Jorma Uotinen among others, as well as created her own productions to the stage and on film.
In 2017 Johanna received a three year artist grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation and at the moment she works as a freelance artist. Her works Hatched, Iris and Me–Story of a Performance have been presented at several international dance and film festivals. Her latest work ANON–The Act of Waiting had a premiere in November 2018 at Viirus Theatre in Helsinki.
In 2019 Side Step Festival, organised annually by Zodiak Center for New Dance, takes place on 1-9 of February. The festival program’s performances, workshops, discussions and open lectures happen at Zodiak and in the cultural center Stoa.
The 2019 festival programme features a number of works that open from the personal and the private into the general, even universal. The artistic guests of the festival are Mette Ingvartsen, Simone Aughterlony & Hahn Rowe, JULI/JON (Juli Apponen ja Jon R. Skulberg), Samira Elagoz and Sorour Darabi.
“The performances underline the courage of the individuals and their right to construct, deconstruct and offer alternatives to models of thinking and ways of using power that are based on cultural conventions. They show the individual as fragile and bare, yet simultaneously a strong fighter and a survivor. As something very human and very present”, describes Side Step Festival’s artistic team, Artistic Director Harri Kuorelahti and Artistic Advisor Pia Lindy.
Open discussion and lecture deepen the festival’s themes
Side Step Festival’s additional program is full of interesting discussions and lectures. Filmmaker Hannaleena Hauru and Samira Elagoz talk about “female gaze” in the film and Elagoz’s award winning documentary Graiglist Allstars.
Pia Lindy’s and Pauliina Kettunen’s lecture aims to increase awareness and recognition of diversity of gender in different working situations.
Beniamino Borghi’s NoCore – Reflections is a performance and open discussion between group of men with different age and nationality. With or without any background in dance, the men are challenged to move their body and to express their thoughts about masculinity within migration.
Samira Elagoz and Juli Apponen discuss about performing trauma. Both Elagoz’s Cock, cock… who’s there? and Apponen’s Everything remains based on artists’ personal experiences and trauma. How to bring something so personal to the stage?
Mette Ingvartsen will speak about her recent performance investigations. Departing from her current interest in pornography and the decline of privacy, she will share her thoughts about sexuality, pleasure, performance, economy and their possible inter-relations.
The festival ends with reflection and discussion about things seen and experienced at the Side Step Festival. Participants in the discussion are students from University of Arts/Theatre Academy’s Master’s Degree Programme in Dance Performance and in Choreography.
Contemporary dance in many varieties is in the spotlight of the festival. Tero Saarinen‘s new work to Claudio Monteverdi’s Madrigals brings twelve dancers and musicians, plus tenor Topi Lehtipuu and virtual soprano Núria Rial on stage. Tero Saarinen Company and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra join forces to create a gripping contemporary fusion of dance, live music, opera and design. Read more here ›
Kuopio Festival is also a unique occasion to see Hofesh Shechter‘s identifiable and entirely original choreographic voice in Finland. Actually Hofesh Shechter was first seen in Kuopio as early as in 2003, in a choreographic competition.
Hofesh Shechter Company - Grand Finale - YouTube
Hofesh Shechter’s Grand Finale, designed for his own fantastic company, was chosen the production of the year 2018 by Tanz magazine. “It is war, rage, grief, pains – all in one; it is antique lament, baroque sigh, political manifesto; apocalypse and apotheosis of the human race that will die, either way. Grand Finale is unconscionable. And nothing but the truth,” described the Tanz magazine.
The festival programme highlights also Hungarian contemporary dance. Compagnie Pál Frenák often takes influences from the world of circus, music and fashion. In Lutte (“struggle”), mythologies, martial arts and traditional Icelandic glima wrestling are strongly present.
Other Hungarian guests, Zoltán Grecsó’s and Beatrix Simkó’s duo puts Orpheus’ and Eurydice’s mythos in today’s conditions, giving a special interpretation to this love story.
The abundant festival programme includes also gala performances, Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, and the Sydney Dance Company. See the whole programme here ›
With the 50 years celebrations of Kuopio Dance Festival, the long term Artistic Director Jorma Uotinen, will say goodbye to Kuopio. His successor is the choreographer and dancer Riku Lehtopolku whose artistic choices will be seen in the Festival 2020.
Classically-trained dancer Arja Tiili’s background lies originally in ballet, and she later trained as a choreographer at Uniarts Helsinki’s Theatre Academy. She has been nurturing hip-hop culture in Helsinki’s eastern suburbs since she was a teenager in the 1980s.
“At a basement party once, I showed my childhood friend Petri Kanerva the moonwalk, which I’d learnt from an American teacher at Helsinki Dance Institute. Right away, Pete wanted me to teach him how to do it too!’ Pete would go on to become B-boy Hypnotic, a pioneer of Finnish streetdance, and the rest is Finnish breakdance history.
“Classical ballet requires you to adapt to externally defined forms and predetermined roles. But soon after graduating from the Swedish National Ballet School, I got into contemporary dance, which was very liberating, as I felt like it allowed me to become part of the creative process.”
“I’ve always wanted to do lots of different thing and find my own niche.”
Now, I put on performances that combine contemporary dance, breakdance, rap, beatboxing, everything. Imposing boundaries is pointless – they’re performances, and that’s enough for me. I’m doing my thing.
Finding your ‘own thing’ is the theme of many Break the Fight! performances and the red thread running through the workshops. Having your own special niche supports self-esteem and encourages young people to believe in their own abilities and opportunities. The key themes at play are meaningfulness, encouraging individuality, and understanding differences – and through all of this, reducing bullying.
Combatting violence through breakdance
Back in 2010, choreographer Arja Tiili launched anti-violence workshops in the lower grades of comprehensive schools in eastern Helsinki.
“The functional, communal element came fairly naturally to my work. Gradually, the idea that this had the potential to become something far bigger started to grow.”
In 2014, the Break the Fight! – Breakdance Against School Bullying workshops were born – a concept Arja Tiili wanted to spread throughout Finland, along with performances on the theme of accepting differences. In autumn of the same year, young people voted it the winner of the Axe Peace One Day charity campaign, and a video made in collaboration with the rapper Uniikki quickly spread online.
“Wow, this is really something special!” Arja remembers thinking at the time, having surprised even herself.
The next step was starting to develop BTF activities further and into a more professional framework. School bullying is not an issue to be taken lightly, so those holding the workshops need to have a broad skillset and support behind them. Arja set about looking for youthwork experts with whom she could explore how to develop the project. First, they needed to take a good look at and establish what works in the BTF project and what the project has to offer.
How can dance have an impact – a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation study
It was at this point that the Finnish Youth Research Society got involved, taking on the task of monitoring and evaluating the different elements of the project throughout 2017–2018, with the project also being awarded support from the Finnish Cultural Foundation. BTF activities were extended to four areas, with the aim of creating a national anti-bullying operating model. In recent years, Break the Fight! has reached well over 5,000 pupils throughout Finland.
The evaluation work is something Arja Tiili considers invaluable: “This means that our further development isn’t just based on assumptions and ideas without any real grounding, but rather on long-term research, real evidence and proven research results.”
Break the Fight! activities comprise four elements: breakdance workshops, watching the dance piece Break the Fight – I was here! performed by professionals, participatory workshops, and discussions with decision-makers and young people held as a result of them.
Break the Fight- I was here! Trailer - YouTube
A key basis for development work has been expanding the reach of the workshops equally to all pupils, regardless of any prior skill. In the workshops, the focus is not on the breakdancing itself, instead it is used as a tool to help young people accept differences and as a global language familiar to young people, with which to strengthen participation.
Teaching young people to dance could also be seen as a way to help the pupils explore new stances, new ways of being, and attitudes towards the world, ponders Susanna Jurvanen, who observed the breakdance workshops as part of the research project through the medium of drawing.
A street-smart adult can quickly form a connection with young people and earn their respect – says Doctor of Social Science Sofia Laine
In its the early days, in The Bronx in New York, breakdancing was an alternative to violence.
“In its original form, breakdance served as a symbolic expression of young people’s creativity, frustrations, hopes and fears, which were brought into the public eye thanks to the physicality of dance,” explains Doctor of Social Science Sofia Laine, who took on the role of senior researcher in the research project. The communal aspect of the activities is also significant, as a way of expressing things important and specific to each individual.
The research report states that amongst the alternatives to traditional forms of exercise available, the new forms favoured by young people place emphasis on equality and opposing discrimination. Multiculturalism is present in BTF activities in a number of ways, including in the themes of the performances.
The workshops and discussions are led by breakdancers, who also use the sessions to tell participants more about their own personal experiences.
“A street-smart adult can quickly form a connection with young people and earn their respect in a completely different way to the other adults they might come into contact with at school,” Sofia Laine noted at the study’s publication event.
One of the outcomes of the evaluation of the BTF activities is the finding that it would be beneficial to bring young adult into schools, to break down and traverse the boundaries between children and adults. Such measures could help to create a space where pupils can learn to accept differences and understand one another, and through this reduce bullying.
“The research highlighted that there is a need for multiform, art-based education in our schools.”
Workshops encourage participants to be themselves
When pupils were asked what they liked about the workshops, a large percentage responded that it was the movement, breakdancing itself or instructors they liked in particular. The discussion elements and hearing instructors’ own stories also proved popular. Elements that made the workshops successful included their fun nature, the good atmosphere and formation of groups, as the workshops were felt to have increased the sense of team spirit amongst participants.
“The development of emotional skills and movement support one another – and this is particularly important during puberty,” explains researcher Sofia Laine, who is herself a keen dancer. “What’s more, the discussions held after the dance and movement sessions led to those involved opening up in a completely different way.”
For many of the young participants, this was the first time they’d seen a professional dance performance, and it awakened powerful feelings, the young people explained. The anti-violence message of the dance piece (‘No to bullying!’ as a number of pupils wrote in their feedback) reached young people in every age bracket.
When the pupils were asked whether they thought street dance workshops could be a force for preventing school bullying, 72 per cent of the respondents replied yes or maybe.
Result: Break the Fight! to continue and grow in eastern Helsinki
The in-depth research into and evaluation of Break the Fight! led to the development of the project from one-off workshops into longer-term activities, bringing together street art and artists, schools, and youth work taking place outside of schools.
The City of Helsinki is providing three years of funding for three-month workshop periods held in schools in eastern Helsinki, which are linked to the Break the Fight! hobby activities organised at youth centres. Furthermore, a space dedicated to young people, for hobbies and hanging out, has been established at a local shopping centre.
“This development wouldn’t have happened without the comprehensive monitoring and evaluation work carried out by the Finnish Youth Research Society. The research gave us some pretty conclusive results and ideas for development: longer workshop periods are needed, as are multiple chances to engage with the young people,” summarises Arja Tiili.
The systematic and scientific evaluation of art-based activities is valuable not only for the artists themselves, but also for decision-makers and funding bodies. Now it’s time to show off these results and exactly why these kinds of activities are both necessary and beneficial.
Research report: Väkivallattomuuden sanomaa yläkouluihin hiphop-kulttuurin keinoin. Break the Fight! -hankkeen seuranta ja arviointitutkimus [An anti-violence message for secondary schools through hip-hop culture. A study monitoring and evaluating the Break the Fight! project.] Ed. Sofia Laine. Finnish Youth Research Society/Finnish Youth Research Network. Online publications 134. 2018. Download @ www.nuorisotutkimusseura.fi › (in Finnish, abstract in English p. 195)
Kykkänen has over seven years of experience in marketing and communications on a strategic as well as practical level. Her previous positions include Head of Communications at Kaiku Health, a company developing digital solutions for patient monitoring, and Senior Consultant at communications office Hill+Knowlton. Dance is Kykkänen’s passion: she has studied dance pedagogy and teaches the Brazilian Zouk partner dance in Finland and abroad.
– I’ve had the opportunity to work on amazing things as a professional in communications. With the Kaiku Health team, we were the first in Europe to create artificial intelligence and machine learning models for cancer treatment. I have also lived and breathed dance throughout my entire life. At Dance House Helsinki, I will get to use my professional skills in a setting that is close to my heart, Kykkänen says.
Kykkänen feels most at home when she is creating something entirely new. However, she reminds us that you can’t create something out of nothing. Dance House Helsinki is built on a close connection with its communities and the surrounding cultural field:
– We are laying down the foundations for original ways of producing and experiencing dance. The most important thing is to listen to what the surrounding community wants from us, as well as the cultural zeitgeist. We can also use this understanding creatively in our communications.
Working towards a nationally and internationally recognized Dance House Helsinki
According to Dance House Director Matti Numminen, open-minded and distinct marketing and communications are important at this early stage of operations.
– Over the following years, we’re going to build and reinforce the identity of Dance House—particularly in the eyes of the public. We will also strive to revamp and develop marketing and communications practices in the field of performing arts.
Kykkänen believes in the uniting power of dance:
– My goal is for the experiences and concrete actions offered by Dance House Helsinki to be recognized in Finland as well as abroad. We are strengthening the cultural and social status of dance so that more people may find themselves—and each other—through dance.
Kykkänen starts in her new position on 14 January 2019.
Further information: Director Matti Numminen, 050 467 0276, matti.numminen(at)tanssintalo.fi Requests for interviews: Communications Officer Inka Asikanus, 040 716 7487, press(at)tanssintalo.fi