The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
an overview
Finnish Dance Today
The unique character and appeal of Finnish dance

[collaboration with lighting creators]
It is the presence of cross-over type activities that transcend conventional category boundaries, like the works of Uotinen that give Finnish dance its contemporary strength. There is also active collaboration with artists from other genre, especially collaborations with media artists and lighting creators. This writer has personally feels that there is a lot of beautifully created light work in Finnish dance, and it seems as if the sensitivity of the lighting art is not unrelated to a dramatic element that originates in the Finnish natural environment with the shining brightness of the midnight sun in summer, the darkness that dominates the winter and the fact that its polar proximity makes the Aurora borealis a common sight.

‹Mikki Kunttu, Finland’s representative lighting designer›
In the work of Saarinen mentioned at the beginning, the natural light effect designed by Mikki Kunttu helped to bring an abstract expression of the religious spirituality achieved through a life of denial of human desires that is the theme of the work.

‹Marita Liulia, the multi-media artist›
The solo Hunt that takes Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring as its motif is an impressive solo that brings the theme to life within the burning energy of the dance. Beginning from silence and having the body spring to life with the music, the piece proceeds to the closing stage to build as images of Marita Liulia projected on the body in a way that created a visual expression of the human body in the information age.

‹Kimmo Koskela, the multi-media artist›
Also, there is the representative work of the edgy choreographer Arja Raatikainen, Opal-D, in which her simple choreography stands in exquisite contrast to the beautiful, lively images of Tokyo by Kimmo Koskela.

[Strong interest in Butoh]
Another notable fact is that there also a strong interest in butoh in the Finnish dance world and there are many choreographers and dancers who have studied butoh or been influenced by it. This can be imagined to be a result of an expansive approach to the natural world and the physical implications of the fact that the distant roots of the Finnish people who make up most of the population lie in Asia. For example, the approach to nudity that has resulted from Finland’s sauna culture that is an integral part of Finnish life is completely different from that of other European countries and even its neighbor Sweden. For the Finnish, nudity is neither implicative of the taboos of sexuality or the diametrically opposed concepts of utopia but simply a natural state that is part of daily life. This fact further deepens the interest in butoh as a form of dance that examines the truths of the body and the darker sides of life and seeks to encompass expressions of ailment and death as a part of dance.
The artistic director of the previously mentioned Kuopio Dance Festival from 1993 to 98, the Asian arts researcher Jukka O. Miettinen, was one of the first to take an interest in butoh and play an active role in introducing butoh artists Carlotta Ikeda and Ko Murobushi, Kazuo Ohno, Sankaijuku and Anzu Furukawa and the festival helped establish an audience for butoh in Finland.
Among the front-line dancers and choreographers in Finland are a number who have journeyed to Japan to study butoh. For example, in the case of Tero Saarinen, who performed as a dancer for the Finland National Ballet Company before forming his own Tero Saarinen & Company, he studied butoh for a year in Tokyo at the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio. And, Arja Raatikainen and Ari Tenhula have also studied under Ohno and Anzu Furukawa.
Other butoh artists who have visited and worked in Finland include Masaki Iwana, but the influence of the late Anzu Furukawa who visited numerous times and gave many workshops was especially strong. After performing with Dairakudakan, Furukawa formed Dance Love Machine with Tetsuro Tamura. Later she moved to Germany and continued her activities based in Europe, forming a multinational dance group called Dance Butter Tokio. The reason for her popularity was probably the wild dance theater type composition of her works that made use of unexpected or comic twists and the exaggerated deformé type body movement that connected in some ways to German expressionist dance.
As a visiting instructor at a Finnish university, Anzu Furukawa concentrated on collaborative productions at the Helsinki City Theatre and staged works like the Rite of Spring in 1994 and the butoh works Bo (Keppi) and Shiroi mizu (Villi Vesi) in 1995 using mostly Finnish dancers. I saw the former in Helsinki and remember it as an appealing work that combined a complex type of eroticism and energetic and dynamic movement unlike that of other Japanese butoh artists. One of Finland’s leading dancers, Ari Tenhula, danced an important role in Furukawa’s Rite of Spring, and Arja Raatikainen and Ari Tenhula danced in her production of Chugoku no Tantei (Detective from China) performed at Tokyo’s Parco Theatre.
Another thing that characterizes Finnish dancers is their extremely long performing careers. In Western Europe, most people believe that a dancer should stop performing at the top level sometime in their 40s. Due perhaps to the attitude of placing importance on the realities of the body mentioned earlier in regard to the interest in butoh, or perhaps the influence of butoh itself, many Finnish dancers continue to perform into their 50s.
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