Modern dance is a passion of mine. I don’t understand much of the theory behind modern dance, but I immensely enjoy myself every time I see dance pieces. One of things I enjoy about modern dance is the range of expressive possibilities. Here’s three completely different pieces. Even though the last two pieces share considerable thematic and even methodical territory, they arrive at pieces that have very little to do with each other and that offer completely different experiences to the viewer.
The piece starts with a Mexican day-of-the-dead macabre pantomime-like episode, which put my hopes up, but is soon replaced by circus acts with a modern twist, which, although entertaining to watch, loses most artistic value. The piece is closer to modern circus than to modern dance, but I’m going to review this here in any case, since I saw it as a double bill that also featured Nasty by Susanna Leinonen company, which most certainly is dance.
The opening act evokes raw and primitive imagery that is sprinkled by brutality that seems almost accidental. It is so short, that I couldn’t really catch on to any ideas behind the segment, but I was very intrigued.
Sadly, the promising opening is followed by circus without much artistic value. There are elements meant to be artistic, but they are at best thinly connected to the opening scene and in any case sprinkled so sparsely that following the ideas is near impossible.
The circus acts are impressive. Not Cirque du Soleil impressive, but impressive nevertheless. The costumes and behavior of the performers suggests that these were the guys, who always had juggling balls with them at the park, who were always at the park, and who drank a bit too much and a bit too often and started to slip to drugs. Everything about them seems like they are self taught. Maybe they cut back on the drink and took the juggling seriously and actually put in the (meager) money and (self-guided) effort to get good. They are good. There were some slips, but not too many. They obviously don’t have a big budget, but they are imaginative with the gear they do have.
Not quite what I was expecting to see, but I was entertained and the opening act was even more than that.
- Title: Urbotek
- Producer: Race Horse Company
- 10th Jan 2019
Susanna Leinonen Company is known for beautiful, almost ethereal pieces, where even if themes are light or exclusively related to the movement of the dancers, you are always left with a feeling of having seen something extraordinarily aesthetically moving.
Nasty is not like that. It’s abrasive, brutal, in your face. The movements are jagged, the themes are very readable and socially aware, they are explored through repetition to the point of exhaustion, the dancers are openly out of breath, openly hurt, openly touched by their piece.
The theme, of course, is feminism. Or rather the oppression and objectification experienced by women every day, and rising against that. Giving a big finger to everyone, who came to see beautiful dancers as objects of their desire. The dancers are beautiful and the piece is important, but the FU is so major, that it should go through the thickest skull and make it known, that these are people – extremely talented and professional people, who are not to be oppressed and who are not to be objectified, and that extends to all women.
An important piece and I’m extremely happy about the attention that the piece has gained. An important part of the #metoo movement and it most certainly is doing its part in raising women to be the equals of anyone else.
- Title: Nasty
- Producer: Susanna Leinonen Company
- 10th Jan 2019
Vieras – Främling – Stranger
I wasn’t aware of Sanna Kekäläinen and her dancing company before this piece. I mostly went to see it, because the performance was at an opportune time and the warm up act was stand up comedy by Jamie MacDonald, whom I’ve been meaning to see for a while. Jamie wove his comedy through his experiences in transforming him from female to male, and it was excellent. It was thoughtful and socially aware and heartwarming.
The dance was completely different from anything I’ve seen before. Sanna Kekäläinen herself, is a veteran. She studied dance in the early 80ies, which puts her at late 50something or maybe even 60something of age. The piece was heavily feminist and humanist. The reason I mention the age, is that the dance included themes of feeling estranged from your body due to the body failing you. This is explored through involuntary stuttering, involuntary shakiness of the body, feelings of loneliness due to being discarded as a useful human being due to age.
The piece is aggressive and vulnerable, it takes highly delicate subjects and smashes them into the viewer’s being with power that does not subtract from the subjects. Sanna Kekäläinen is the star of the show. She let’s her age show, she let’s it be known, that this is also about her, that this is personal.
The piece left me thinking for a long while afterwards. The closest relative to the piece thematically, is the film Under the Skin. Both take this feeling of being estranged in your own body. Vieras handles the theme more through your own body failing you. Under the Skin handles it through a setup, where your body is completely alien to you regardless of any external conditions. Both include heavy tones of objectification. Both left me sleepless.
- Title: Vieras – Främling – Stranger
- Producer: Kekäläinen & Company
- 15th Mar 2019