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					   Dance in Finland
Aino Kukkonen, Theatre Research

Content 10.12.2010
   My PhD dissertation working title
    Postmodern on the Move – Reflections on
    Finnish Dance in the 1980s
   First a few words about dance research in
   Looking at the main features in Finnish
    dance history -> viewpoint dance as a
    performing art (cf. social dancing)
   Finishing by looking at DVD examples on
    current Finnish dance
Nature of the research ’object’ in
dance research
 ”One of the problems which has preoccupied
  certain dance scholars is the difficulty of
  determining or fixing in place the object of the
  study. For dance practitioners, dance
  completes itself in the moment of its
  disappearance, that is, in performance, and
  yet it is the nonreproducibility, the
  tracelessness, which has been regarded as
  the greatest impediment to its acceptance as
  a credible object of research.”
  (E. Dempster 1994)

Reasons for neglect of dance research
   Ephemeral nature of movement
   Antique (Platon): division of dances to noble and
    accepted and ugly and improper
   Negative opinion of the church (debate in Kuopio
   Western dualism body/mind. Dance is activity of the
    body -> ”dance is not intellectual”
   Women’s art, low status, morally dubious...
   Question of theory and practise – what is dance
    theory, can you study it without dancing yourself?
   Lack of substantial and stable canon troughout
    history. Modern dance: strive for new, personal
   Key source is not traditional written one

General lines in dance research
•   In Europe late comer in academic field
•   USA: dance within physical education at the
    universities, degrees 1920s onwards
•   Started as dance history outside academia
    1930s-50s (USA and UK)
•   Amatory history aspect in Finland: Raoul af
    Hällström, dance critic, writer, director, founder
    of Dancers Union
•   Academic dance research grew and diversified
    during 1980s -> From dance history and
    anthropology to dance studies
•   Theoretical turn - new analytical perspectives to
    dance: semiotics, gender, body
•   1990s – some afraid of ”losing” the dance –
    need for own theory?
Finnish dance research
   Until recently low status of the art form in
    Cf. arts based on language -> Finnish national
    identity and art created especially trough
    literature and theater
   Finnish research starting during the 90s. First
    PhD in 1994, University of Helsinki
   Now about 20 dissertations!
   Dissertations have applied frame work from
    philosophy, aesthetics, cultural history,
    sociology, among others
   Dance research itself is not a subject in Finnish
    universities and it is done under theatre or music
Features of Finnish research
   Artistic research or ”practice-as-research”:
    Theatre Academy the focus on the research done by
    artists themselves on their own work
   Especial emphasis on phenomenological approach (7
   Researcher’s own body and participation is present in
    many dissertations. (Ostrobothnian minuet, Nicaraguan
    dance rituals, old female dancers)
   Dance pedagogy an important field (5 dissertations)
   Many use open interviews, questionnaires, discussions
    as methods to gather information. (subjects: everyday
    life in dance institutions, stereotypes and motivation of
    amateur dancers, for example)
   Finnish dance history is not very hot topic…

Dance events in Finland in the 1800s
•   Touring dance companies and visiting teachers
    from Sweden, Russia, Germany etc.
•   In the 1850s, the Bavaria-born dancer Alina
    Frasa settled in Helsinki. Authors A. Kivi and Z.
    Topelius her admirers. “First Finnish dancer”.
•   Amateurs played in tableau vivants, costume
    balls, charity events.
•   First local dance instructors.
•   1866 stylised folk dance performed on stage.
•   Dance part of the plays, also performed during
    the intermissions. Solos, ”exotic” dances,
    popular dances, short ballet numbers
Alina Frasa (c.1849) in Polish style dress.
Gentlefolk in Swiss dance (Helsinki 1860s)

Dance as independent art begins
   Interesting: ballet & free dance starting out at the
    same time. NB! in Finland no court ballet
    tradition (Sweden, Russia, Denmark...)
   1911 dance pioneers Maggie Gripenberg and
    Toivo Niskanen gave their first dance
    performances in Helsinki.
   Frequent Russian visits from St. Petersburg’s
    Mariinsky Theatre in Finland 1906-1917
    including stars like Anna Pavlova, Mihail Fokin
   Emigrant teachers stayed for a while in Helsinki
    during the Russian revolution.
   The Finnish National Ballet founded 1921.
Theatre and teaching providing living
•   Finnish National Theatre
    occupied dance
    teachers (Frasa,
    Gripenberg, Liiman) ->
    teaching was a ’proper’
    occupation for a woman
•   Dancers taught also
    popular dances:
    Argentinian tango came
    through Paris in Finland
•   On the right: Hilma
    Liiman dancing tango in
    a Finnish movie ”Secret
    inheritance” 1914
              Ballet in a young nation
•   Full length Tchaikovsky
    ballets (Swan Lake,
    Nutcracker etc)
    performed in 1920s.
    Early comparing
    Central Europe!
•   Ballet saving Finnish
    Opera’s economy.
•   First ballet masters and
    choreographers George
    Gé and Alexander
    Saxelin studied in
    Russia -> imperial         The Sleeping Beauty (1928)
    tradition continued here
    until 1960s.
Free dance
   Lack of creative and expressive freedom in ballet.
   Freeing woman’s body – emancipatory aspect. No
    ballet shoes, corsets!
   Idea of natural moderate movements of whole body,
    improvisation, harmony
   Isadora Duncan visited Finland 1908
   Often short solo dances on classical music (Chopin,
    Bach, Sibelius etc.)
   Based on impressions and emotions rather than
    dramatic narratives.
   First called also plastic or rhythmic dance in Finland.

    Baroness Maggie Gripenberg (1881-1976)
•   Painting studies in Paris.
•   Ideals from Duncan
•   Studied dance in
    Stockholm and in Dresden
    with music pedagogue
•   Movement in relation to
    music and rhythm.
•   Performer in dance,
    theatre, opera, also
•   Productive choreographer
•   Dancers in the first Finnish
    opera performances from
    her school.

Close connections: dance and gymnastics
•   Free dance and
    gymnastics similarities in
    Finland and in Germany:
    health education,
    harmony of mind and
    body, movement from
    the center, flow
•   Several Finnish dancers
    studied and worked in
    central Europe.
•   1926 Mary Wigman,
    leading figures of the
    Ausdruckstanz, visited
•   Right: dance evening in
    Swedish Theatre 1924

    Active free dance movement in 1920s
    and 30s
   Many free dance movement
    schools and occasional
   No stable groups in
    theatres, or official support
    like ballet had
   Union of Finnish Dance
    Artists (1937) included
    ballet and free dance
   Right: Students of Marta
    Bröyer School in 1931
Finnish National Ballet 1950s -
   Steady position.
    Popularity of ballet,
    improvement of skills.    Helsinki 1958. Ballet stars from
                              American Ballet Theatre, Kirov,
   Closer relations with     Bolshoi with Finnish colleagues.
    Soviet ballet: visiting
    stars, choreographers,
   Opera director Alfons
    Almi founded
    International Ballet
    Festival (1957-1971).
   Ballet tours 50s-
    70s:USA, South
    America etc
Jazz and modern dance
•   Free dance in decline after the WW II: economical
    reasons, isolation inside Finnish dance and from
    German contacts -> amateurish image.
•   New influences from American modern dance: first
    courses in the end of 1950s
•   Martha Graham's, Merce Cunningham's,
    Donald McKayle's and Alvin Ailey's companies
    performed in Finland in the 1960s.
•   Jazz dance begins – popular hobby.
•   Need for musical dancers – communal city
    theatres and their new houses, also tv employed
Dancer-choreographer Riitta Vainio
                   •   Dynamic performer and
                       a spokeswoman
                   •   Studied in USA
                   •   Systematic training
                   •   School of Modern
                       Dance and own
                       performing group
                   •   Discussion ballet vs.
                       modern dance heated
                       up, like in 1920s
                   •   Left: Kotka (Eagle).
                       Televisioned 1962.

Professionalisation of modern dance field
   1970s: Dance became a full-time profession
    also other than ballet dancers
   The Kuopio Dance Festival (1970), the oldest
    and biggest dance festival in the Nordic
    countries, arranged for the first time.
   Many new professional dance companies:
    Raatikko, Rollo, Mobita...
   1973 The Helsinki City Theatre Dance
    Company (Helsinki Dance Company) hired 6
    dancers and a director. Since 1965 work in
    musicals, plays, own performances, education
    within the theatre.
Dance Theatre Raatikko 1972-
   Founded by
    choreographer Marjo
    Kuusela and dancer            People without power (1974)
    Maria Wolska
   Part of the Theatre
    Centre: tours in Finland,
    dance for children,
    dancers should get paid!
   Leftist political attitude
   Breaking down the elitism
    and isolationism in dance.
    Realist dance theatre -
    “real people”
   Narrative, literal subjects
   Combining different
    dance techniques
1980s: legitimization of dance
                   1980 Finnish Dance
                    Information Centre
                   1981 Tanssi magazine
                   1983 The National Council for
                    Dance: an official status in
                    regards to state art policies
                   1983 Dance Department at
                    the Theatre Academy
                   Helsinki CityTheatre
                    choreographer Jorma
                    Uotinen (1981-91). symbolic,
                    abstract, visual modern
                    dance.(left Ballet Pathetique
’New dance’ movement in 80s

   Similar to movements in Central Europe, UK
   Soft techniques like contact improvisation. Asian martial arts,
    Japanese Butoh
   Zodiak Center for New Dance(1986) collective: Kirsi Monni,
    Sanna Kekäläinen etc. Questioning ballet and traditional
    modern dance. Turning the gaze inwards.

Contemporary dance since 1990s-
   1990s: variety of orientation and techniques
   Return to the elaborate movement: Kenneth
    Kvarnström (no-no 1996, Helsinki City Theatre)
    energetic, aggressive, yet sensual.
    Cf. 90s ”Euro crash”
   Evolving collaboration between choreographers,
    lighting designers, scenographers, digital media
   Finnish National Ballet: changes in repertory.
    French style and contemporary ballet instead of
    Russian Vaganova training.
   New Opera house 1993, Uotinen as a ballet

Dance now
•   Growth of the independent field. Now about 40
    dance companies.
•   Interesting names: Tero Saarinen, Susanna
    Leinonen, Jyrki Karttunen, Eeva Muilu...
•   Recent features: use of speech and text, old people
    and disabled as performers
•   New festivals: New Moon Dance Festival, URB,
    Tampere Flamenco Week, Moving in November etc.
•   2008: in Finland 203 premieres and about 2 400
    dance performances.
•   2008: Finnish dance performed abroad in
    approximately 28 different countries.
Literature on Finnish dance in English

   Laakkonen, Johanna 2009. Canon and Beyond.
    Edvard Fazer and the Imperial Russian Ballet 1908-
   Scholl, Tim 2009. Guns and Roses, or, Dancing
    through the Cold War. Article in Ballettanz Yearbook
   Pakkanen & Sarje 2006. Finnish Dance Research at
    the Crossroads.
   Kukkonen, Aino 2003. Stretch – Tanssiryhmä
    teatterissa. (with English summary and photo texts)
   Räsänen & Hakli 1995. Suomen Kansallisbaletti
    tänään - Finnish National Ballet Today.

    Thank you!

   If you want to make an
    essay in order receive 5
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   On the right Eeva Muilu:
    Vermiculus (2005)


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