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 Post subject: Contemporary dance in Estonia 2005
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 5:30 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Uustants 7, Tallinn, March 18-20, 2005

Uustants, Estonia’s new dance platform, has proved so successful with both local audiences and overseas bookers that it has shifted up a gear from a biennial to an annual event and this year’s incarnation was eagerly awaited, with a number of premieres and works in progress by leading artists. The organisers, Agency 2.tants, ensured that everything ran like clockwork. After the performances they were always on hand to guide overseas visitors to local watering holes and show people around beautiful Tallinn. Given their proven management skills, perhaps the Agency 2.tants team should be running the United Nations, although I will raise a couple of caveats about the arrangements this year.

With established artists, those making their way and student participation, Uustants can sometimes feel like London’s Resolution! festival, with the good, the bad, the indifferent and including some pleasant surprises. Around thirty companies took part over 54 hours, including an indigestible 6-hour Marathon on Sunday evening. It would have been fairer to audiences and artists if this latter event had been split between the afternoon and evening. It is only possible to report on a selection of the performances over the weekend and the various works in progress deserve more time before they are subject to critical scrutiny - apologies to those who don’t get a mention.

Mart Kangro, Krõõt Juurak and the Rumanian, Manuel Pelmus, opened the festival with “Out of Functions”, based on a new dance making system from the German choreographer, Thomas Lehmen. Lehman’s earlier project, “Schreibstuck”, developed in Tallinn with Kangro, was an international hit, with groups from a number of countries creating 45 minute contributions, based on a set of strict thematic and positional instructions. Each performance includes three companies performing their segments in an overlapping sequence and m viewing reports from others indicate that it all works a treat.

The programme notes describe Lehmen’s new structure as: “…a set of cards which allows one to lay out scores, tasks, systems or just to be inspired.” However, I found this particular implementation much less interesting than “Schriebstuck”. The three strong performers in “Out of Functions” take it in turns to dance or relate episodes and reminiscences from their lives. Individual scenes are arresting: Kangro whirling his arms at increasing speed until his hands are a red blur; Pelmus reviving a variation from his days as a ballet dancer. Nevertheless, the episodic, sequential structure did not generate the chance felicitudes or overall harmony of “Schreibstuck” and I knew little more about the performers at the end of the 30-minute sequence.

Before discussing Nele Suisalu’s performance, I must declare an interest: Nele is CriticalDance’s, kurinuku, a stalwart on our newspaper links service. She is a final year student at Tallinn Pedagogical University’s Department of Choreography, but shows a maturity and clarity of expression that goes well beyond student level. Much of what we see in Estonia can be termed conceptual dance, but Suisalu is one of a group, influenced by the Tallinn-based Fine 5 Theatre, that retains a strong interest in expressive movement.

Her solo, “Hetaira”, oozes sensuality and longing, as you might expect from this Greek word for, “an ancient Greek courtesan or concubine, especially one of a special class of cultivated female companions.” Costumed in a long flowing dress, her character, like Imelda Marcos, is a shoe worshipper and several pairs make an appearance, but one pair is her true love. The performer illustrates this obsession with sinuous and interesting movement - one moment with rapier arm lunges and at others inverted with choreography for her legs pointing to the heavens. An earlier trio by this young choreographer also made a positive impression and Nele Suisalu is clearly one of the most promising young dance artists in Estonia.

“The Last Hairy” is the outcome of a close collaboration between directors Oksana Titova and Taavet Jansen, designer Jaanika Teresmaa, dramaturg Juhan Ulfsak and the dancers Oksana Titova and Päär Pärenson. This 45-minute exploration of beauty and relationships was one of the recent hits in Tallinn and I was pleased to have the chance to see it again. Visual aspects are very strong, with Oksana Titova emerging and retreating to an exquisite, pure white bath with elegant concave surfaces. The unexpected also plays an important part, as the beauty of Titova’s elegant gowns and ballet-trained movement is subverted, first by her sudden baldness after one of the many black-outs and later by a metal arm. The obsessive nature of beauty worship is exemplified by Pärenson’s besuited suitor. In one scene he kisses Titova’s metal arm and then, after another black-out, he is still kissing her arm, but Titova has deserted it and is standing by a wall. Pärenson is a great mover and this work gives him the chance to show off his smooth spins in street shoes and his distinctive floor work. One observer found the narrative obscure, but I was content to pick up general themes and enjoy the piece as a visual feast with strong dance performances.

You can’t get much more conceptual than Krõõt Juurak’s solo, “Artistic Approach 3.1” - for much of its 40-minute length it features a lecture/demonstration on probablility theory. Apart from a short sequence of awkward hop-skips around the stage, dance movement was rarely overtly on show, but this was one of the most thought-provoking pieces over the weekend, addressing themes of audience expectations and interaction with the artist. Initially, the usual entrance to the auditorium was blocked and we were sent backstage and silently shepherded by Juurak with traffic signals, first onto the stage and then to our seats. The bossiness continued with gestures directing sections of the audience to stand up and sit down and we all dutifully obeyed. Juurak then addressed us: “Hello. Can you see me. I know you’re there, “ and so on, with perfect timing and modulation. This Estonian audience, and I suspect English ones would be similar, had no idea how to react, as we are usually meant to sit quietly and be performed at. Eventually she screeched: “HELLO,” and a few souls responded, much to her and our relief.

We were then introduced to probability theory and a few illustrative experiments developed, including a final coup de theatre, which I won’t give away. We didn’t even get the chance to applaud, as after an assurance that she would carry on, Juurak went off-stage and didn’t reappear. An intriguing experience, highlighting and subverting the conventions underpinning our theatre experiences.

From the final evening Marathon, Tiina Ollesk, of Fine 5 Dance Theatre, danced a compelling duet with an uncredited student and showing that she remains one of the most technically accomplished Estonian dancers. Sandra Zaneva is a graduate of Fine 5 Dance School and her 30-minute “Proto Koll” showed much promise, even if it was a little over-long. Risto Kűbar and Alissa Snaider performed Zaneva’s choreography with great assurance and power. Mari Mägi gave us an extract from “Aortas Partitur”, created by the dancer and Kitt Johnson, in which Mägi used extraordinary physical manipulation to great comedic effect. With her naked back to the audience she flexed her arms and shoulders to our astonishment and I look forward to seeing the full work from this innovative performer.

A number of the works on show over the weekend featured spoken text, some, with an eye on international accessibility, in English, but several had near-continuous Estonian text and the overseas guests were left chasing round after the performances to learn more about what appeared to be interesting productions. For the future, Uustants and the artists would be doing themselves a favour if some English text was provided, so that overseas bookers and critics can give the works full credit.

A seminar on the future development of Estonian dance also took place as part of Uustants and a friend whispered translations to me. There have certainly been changes since a similar meeting two years ago: funding for Agency 2.tants has been tripled and this contemporary dance centre is now treated using the same funding formulas as the national drama theatres. Nevertheless, in this country where a significant part of the Government budget is spent on the Arts, it is clear that contemporary dance remains a poor relation. As this dance style is now the second most frequent Estonian export in the Arts sector and is a success story, newly created in the post-Soviet period, there are strong arguments to support an expansion of Government support. At the end of the meeting, all sides were encouraged to hear Tonu Lensment, the well-respected Theatre Advisor at the Ministry of Culture, talk about his hopes to eventually extend funding for contemporary dance to other organisations, alongside Agency 2.tants.

Can one draw any overall conclusions from this weekend platform? Across Europe, the two strands of the art form, conceptual and “dancey”, both have their devotees among fans and administrators. Thus, in the UK, “dancey” rules the roost, whereas my impression is that in Belgium and Germany it is the conceptual which dominates. Both forms are alive and well in Estonia, but probably the conceptual has attracted more attention in recent years. Looking back over my article, the conceptual strand is under represented compared with the balance of work on show, as the pieces with much Estonian text or works in progress tended to come in this category.

Nevertheless, my guess is that the “dancey” material will receive greater attention in Estonia over the next few years and that will have benefits for audience accessibility and the development of technique. Overall, there is no question that a great deal has been achieved and that Estonia is firmly on the European contemporary dance map, both for its artists and as a destination for foreign companies to tour and also research and create work. I look forward to seeing how the current Estonian artists and their successors develop in the years ahead.

<small>[ 11 April 2005, 02:30 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary dance in Estonia 2005
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 8:09 am 
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Location: Maryland USA
Interesting stuff. It is wonderful to hear of the successes of criticaldance contributors. Well done kurinuku.


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary dance in Estonia 2005
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:09 am 
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Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2003 11:01 pm
Posts: 6778
Location: Estonia
:)
Thank you!
It was such a pleasure to come across these posts in the morning of my birthday :D

p.s. But my actual surname is spelled Suisalu ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Contemporary dance in Estonia 2005
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:39 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Happy birthday, Nele. Boy - is my face red! Corrections made above. Will you ever forgive me?

<small>[ 11 April 2005, 02:40 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 3:31 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Kanuti Gildi SAAL resident-choreographer HEINE RØSDAL ASDAL /Oslo>Brussels
work-in-progres showing ’IN_LINE’


on Sunday, June 26 at 10PM (22:00)

Entrance FREE



IN_LINE works with the concept of theatre itself and looks at the perceptual mechanisms in a theatre situation. The performance carries perception over into matter. IN_LINE will premiere 30th of June and 2nd of July 2005, in the Nordic performance festival ”Kyss Frosken” organized by the National Museum for art in Oslo in Norway.

Heine Røsdal Avdal is educated at the Norwegian Statens Balletthøgskole and at P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels. In 1997 he joined Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods, where he was an essential part of the creation process and performances. Since then he lives in Brussels.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:41 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
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A U G U S T D A N C E F E S T I V A L

Tallinn / Estonia

16.-31.08.2005


August DanceFestival is a contemporary performing art festival introducing new generation of performing arts artists from the World to the Baltic region and serves as a meeting point and common ground for artists.

August DanceFestival is artist oriented, focusing on artists work, thought and argumentation with the audience and other artists. Since 2004 every second year the festival is devoted to emerging young artist and their work.

The choice of artists will be done in the faith of presenting the diversity and progressiveness of performing art.

First August DanceFestival was held in 1999 in Tallinn, but it is a continuation of summer festival idea started in 1996 in Pärnu, Estonia.

The festival is taking place mainly at the Kanuti Gildi Saal. The Kanuti Gildi SAAL is Estonian’s first production and event house devoted exclusively to the genre of contemporary dance and art and situated in the centre of Tallinn Old Town.

The 6th edition of the August DanceFestival will be held on August 16.-31, 2005.

Programme

Image
Jo Strømgren Kompani "The Hospital", Photocredit: Knut Bry


16.08 / 21:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
RASMUS ÖLME / REFUG /SWE>BEL/ ‘RASMUS KOSMOS ‘ /pre-premiere/

A huge step for me, but a small step for mankind.
Rasmus Ölme is one of Sweden’s up-and-coming choreographers. Residing in Brussels, he has been producing his own work in Sweden and Belgium since 2001. He is known for highly physical movements and the subtle mix of dance and theater.

17.08 / 21:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
CARLOS PEZ /SPA/ & MARGUS TOOMLA /EST/´Already played tomorrow´

Estonian version of the Carlos Pez performance-project that doesn’t exist, that never existed and will never exist. We don’t see it on stage but in our imaginations through the act of telling which appears as a performance in itself.

NOA DAR DANCE GROUP /ISR/ ’The Sweetest Embrace’

In an exhausting battle arena, which is simultaneously heroic and banal – a man and woman try to find a way to live with one another. Throughout the impossible struggle for „happiness“, the borders of the public and the individual territories are defined and erasing constantly. Israelian choreographer Noa Dar’s first appearance in Estonia is full of desire and fear.

18.08 / 21:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
PAZ ROJO (SPA/HOL) ’Basic Dance’

Paz Rojo made a solo, which she offered to the Brazilian dancer Cristian Duarte with her wish to be translated. Duarte’s answer developed in a dialogue: Two solos embodying their relationship by the grace of imagination and play. What is the role of the dancer’s physical history in this process of reproduction? And what appears or disappears? Basic Dance is an invitation to look. An encounter. A negotiation that constructs a space of proximity and change.

20.08 / 21:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
EMMANUELLE HUYNH & NICOLAS FLOC’H /FRA/ ’NUMÉRO’

In Numéro, the two artists, plastic artist Nicolas Floc'h and choreographer Emmanuelle Huynh, wanted to confront directly the way they think space, trajectory and massive shape in a plastic drama in which light is an important protagonist. Numéro is thought as a conjuring trick whose components are: threatening roundabout objects, souvenirs from Japan, a shadowgraph, flying lights, some science fiction.

22.08 / 20:00 & 21:00 & 22:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL studio
EDDIE LADD /Wales/ ‘Sawn-off Scarface’

Sawn-off Scarface is a duet and a (semi) ironic tribute to Scarface, Brian de Palma’s notorious 1983 film classic, starring Al Pacino. Performed to a short, tough synopsis of the plot, and on something close to a sticky, wet nightclub floor, it reduces nearly three hours of film action to twelve minutes. Eddie Ladd was brought up on a farm in west Wales, in a culture that makes its own fun. She began making her own work in 1993.

24.08 / 21:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
MART KANGRO+KRÕÕT JUURAK+RAIDO MÄGI+MERLE SAARVA+URSULA SAAL ’Positions’

Concert-performance project by four top Estonian dance artists and saxophone player Ursula Saal. Starting point was to study the positions of music, dance, musicians and dancers within their mutual dialogue. The goal is not to combine or relatively illustrate music and dance in the traditional sence.

25.08 / 21:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
united dancers of ZUGA ‘are you ZUGA? myth and reality’

From March till April three dance makers worked on her own solos in different locations. All solos were then assembled in a full-evening performance by the united dancers of ZUGA. ZUGA is one of the most known Estonian contemporary dance collectives, who are interested in working process because the result is always relative and depends from the context where it will be placed.

27.08 / 21:00 teater NO99
XAVIER LE ROY (FRA/GER) ’Project’

"Project" is a piece that shows that a piece is more than just a piece. Initiated by Xavier Le Roy, it started as an investigation into the relation between production, process, and product in dance and theatre. Between 1999 and 2002, E.X.T.E.N.S.I.O.N.S. took place as an ongoing series of workshops in different places with different people, as a collaborative experiment with the process of process.
The notion of games and play became a central tool, topic and method. As performative practices, games offer new perspectives on theatrical as well as social practices.

30.08 & 31.08 / 21:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
JO STRØMGREN KOMPANI /NOR/ ’The Hospital’

In a not so remote country. Three nurses are stationed at a provincial clinic, a humanist outpost forgotten by both the sick and the healthy. The have very few patients. None actually. Something must be wrong, but no further instructions have yet arrived.
This is the new performance by well-known Norwegian choreographer-director, Jo Strømgren.


Tickets: Piletilevi and Piletimaailm box-offices, Von Krahl Theatre box-office (Rataskaevu 10, ph. +372 626 90 90) & half an hour before the performance at the door.

August DanceFestival 2005 is supported by Ministry of Culture of Estonia; Tallinn City Council Cultural Heritage Department; Cultural Endowment of Estonia; Goethe Institute Tallinn; French Cultural Centre; AFAA – L'Association francaise d'action artistique; French-German foundation; SAS- Scandinavian Airlines; Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tallinn; Embassy of Sweden in Tallinn; Swedish Institute; Embassy of Israel; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel; Lembitu Hotel; NordScen; Wales Arts International and British Council Tallinn.


-----------------------------------------
Kanuti Gildi SAAL
Pikk 20 / 10133 Tallinn
tel. (+372) 64 64 476
tel. (+372) 64 64 704
priit@tants.ee
www.saal.ee


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 3:35 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
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Tallinn's August Dance Festival is well underway with a mix of conceptual and "dancey" works. My favourite to date has been Noa Dar's "The Sweetest Embrace", a 20-minute duet and battle of the sexes:

Image
Noa Dar's "The Sweetest Embrace", by courtesy of Agency.2.tants

Here is the latest version of the remainder of the festival programme:

22.08 mon 20:00, 21:00, 22:00
Eddie Ladd /GBR/
´Sawn-off Scarface



24.08 wed 21:00
Mart Kangro + Krõõt Juurak +Raido Mägi + Merle Saarva + Ursula Saal /EST/
´Positions´



25.08 thur 21:00
united dancers of ZUGA /EST/
´are you ZUGA? myth & reality´



27.08 sat 21:00
NB! takes place in theatre NO99
Xavier Le Roi /FRA-GER/
`Project´


30.08 tue 21:00
Jo Stromgren Company
/NOR/
´Hospital´



31.08 wed 21:00
Jo Stromgren Conpany
/NOR/
´Hospital´


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:31 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
A Tale of Two Cities (and Three Festivals)
August/September 2005

Helsinki and Tallinn are separated by only a 100 minute journey
across the Baltic Sea and I wonder whether any two other capital cities
are closer together. In early autumn this proximity presents a feast for
culture vultures with no less than three arts festivals vying for attention.
Thus, I was able to sample choice morsels from both these Nordic countries, when I was last in Tallinn.

The remains of St Brigitta’s Convent on the edge of Tallinn are sufficiently
beautiful and romantic to make one understand why 19th Century, English
landscape gardeners built ready-made ruins to enhance the vistas for their wealthy patrons. This year, the high walls of the convent played host to a short music festival and one of the highlights was Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the orchestra and soloists from the Estonian Opera House and dancers from Fine Five Dance Theatre. I have seen David Bintley’s successful work using this score and I believe there are other ballet versions. However, this production convinced me that contemporary dance, with its grounded nature, provides a more suitable framework for these earthy ballads of love, despair, carousing and adventure.

Tiina Ollesk and Rene Nõmmik created choreography for most of the songs, set on a simple stage in front of the musicians and with no scenery, except for clever use of fabric in a couple of places to provide a primordial soup with figures emerging and to draw the piece to a close by covering the dancers. Using a mix of folk and contemporary movement and in peasant dress, Fine Five’s performers brought Carl Orff’s score to vibrant life with enough variety from love duets to rowdy drinking larks to retain our attention. One high spot was the deliciously strange “Ballad of the Roasted Swan” with Tiina Ollesk’s contortions matching the dark humour of the text sung in a very high tenor voice by Urmas Põldma, located in a window half-way up one of the walls.

I saw a dress rehearsal as the single performance was sold out and, sadly, the amplified sound was too loud and the excellent soloists, Angelika Mikk and Jassi Zahharov, were unable to overcome the harshness imposed on them by the sound system. Nevertheless the overall effect of the performance was enjoyable and the audience gave the dancers a rapturous reception. If I was Fine Five’s management , I would be contacting orchestras around the Baltic and beyond to see if they were interested to stage a similar concert.

Each year Tallinn’s Augusti Tantsufestival explores the cutting edge of contemporary dance and performance art – my first visit included an improvised presentation from a painter and a cellist, concluding with the musician completing a canvas by smearing on black paint….with his hair. The most challenging performance this year was Xavier Leroy’s “Project” and when the programme notes told us of an “investigation into the relation between production, process, and product in dance and theatre” one feared that the piece may be hard work. In fact this exploration of games and performance was great fun. One standard philosophical question concerns how we differentiate between dance and dance-like practices such as football, with one answer relating to purpose.

“Project” opens with movements without a ball, which seem clearly to be a dance. When a football is introduced, we see more random movement and goals being scored, and scores read out at the end of the short game. Then a version of handball is introduced, with complications relating to a four-sided pitch and when these two games are mixed together and the team members play for different sides in the different games, I decided that these were choreographed and therefore not true games, but dance. However it turns out that even the most arcane of these manoeuvrings was still a game with rules worked out and a proper scoring system. So, was it dance or a game? Later, we saw repeated moves, clearly choreographed but then with a random element….aahhh! Finally a single performer repeats some of the moves without a ball and I was happy to call that “dance”. Much fun was had by all, including the nineteen performers from across Europe.

Another performance, “Hospital”, by Jo Stromgren Company, intrigued me for different reasons. I saw this pathological study of hospital workers, in a large theatre in Vilnius earlier in the year and it failed to hold my attention. However, in the intimate atmosphere of the 130-seater Kanuti Gildi Saal, and with various cuts and tightening, the show was transformed into a piece of riveting theatre. The performers improvise text in an imaginary language that some say sounds a little like Icelandic, as, without any patients, they harm and treat each other to provide a purpose to their lives. The tension between the nurses rises as the hierarchy is reversed and they yearn for release from their frustrations and the pointlessness of their existence.

Also in the Augusti Tantsufestival, Eddie Ladd from Wales gave us “Sawn-off Scarface”, her 12-minute homage to the Brian de Palma movie. With sharp gestures and knock-about movement on a wet carpet, this is a hugely entertaining cameo and the Tallinnites lapped it up. Noa Dar Dance Group, named after the choreographer and Artistic Director, celebrated the simple virtues of strong technique applied to evoke a troubled relationship. I savoured some subtle touches, including conciliatory gestures by the man, becoming more emphatic and controlling when the woman actually wanted space. Oded Graf and Noa Rosenthal impressed as the couple struggling for balance and harmony and never quite achieving it.

Image
“BORROWED LIGHT”
choreography: Tero Saarinen
photo: Dee Conway

And so to a brief visit to the Helsinki Festival, which featured everything from Circus to Jazz and from Bach to Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s thrilling aerial images of our planet. In the dance section, Tero Saarinen of Finland, one of the hottest choreographers in Europe, brought “Borrowed Light”, another example of his belief in Gesamtkunstwerk or total art. His latest work is set to exquisite Shaker songs, arranged after extensive research by Joel Cohen and performed with simple sincerity by his group, Boston Camerata. With spare sets and lighting, often from the side (the borrowed light of the title) by long-time collaborator, Mikki Kunttu and long, black costumes for the men and the women by Erika Turenen, all these aspects combine to make a harmonious and glorious whole.

While Saarinen researched the Shakers extensively and the dances feature clapping and stamping, as described in records, he makes it clear that “Borrowed Light” is concerned with communities in general, rather than the Shakers specifically. Indeed, some Scandinavian-based Americans felt that they saw more Nordic angst than the harmony and loving spirit of the Shakers. Certainly, the mix of scenes of religious exaltation alongside the frustrations of an isolated existence and expressed through grounded, swinging motion made for compelling viewing.

Finland, with its more developed economy, can afford to book companies that are beyond the scope of Estonia, which although progressing rapidly after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, still lags a long way behind Scandinavia. So, Helsinki hosted Tanztheater Wuppertal and several people from the dance and theatre communities of Tallinn made the pilgrimage to see Pina Bausch’s famous troupe. Expecting the large-scale work typical of her recent years, I opted for a seat half-way back in the Balcony of a large theatre. However, “Nefes”, her latest cityscape, features many solos and I have to say that I felt remote from the action, fascinating though it was. I gained the impression that the performers played an active part in creating these solos and one, by a fine Bharata Natyam trained performer introduced Indian motifs. Many audience members were impressed by the expressive quality of these solos and it was good to see movement rather than text to the fore again in Bausch’s work. I’ll look forward to seeing “Nefes” again under better viewing conditions.

There’s no question that the knowledgeable populations of both Finland and Estonia take culture very seriously. These three festivals showed the variety and richness of the cultural experiences to be gained there, made possible by state and city grants - long may it continue.


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