January 27, 2006
Alexander Theatre and The Rite of Spring
In the past few years I have quite often performed in historical theatres in Italy, Russia, and Austria. They have a magical athmosphere which I never feel in modern institutions. At the end of a cold and sunny January we perform Hunt again in the Italo-Russian style Alexander theatre, which is also the home base for the Tero Saarinen Company. The office of TSC is in the same building. The pink building itself is like a gemstone, built in 1897, just 16 years before Igor Stravinsky composed his stormy Rite of Spring. Over 100 choreographers have wrestled with this fiercy piece of music, and Tero Saarinen is one among them. His version was selected among the five most important by ARTE...
The premiére of Hunt was at the Venice Biennale in 2002, in a building which used to be a church in the Arsenale nieghborhood. It is my favourite part of La Serenissima. During the performance we heard some tiny but hair rising extra sounds from the CD. Later on we realized, that we were very close to the island of Saint Michele, where Igor Stravinsky is buried. We had completely forgotten him, the composer whose music we use in Hunt. What a mistake, such a disgrace! Next day, together with Iiris Autio, the manager of the TSC, we went to Saint Michele with a bottle of champagne. We paid proper hommage to the great composer. Igor seemed to accept our humble apologies. No extra noices during next 60 performances in 20 countries.
It´s always wonderful to perform Hunt. I sit in the front row with my laptop, Tero dances just in front of me, and the audience is like a one solid body behind my back. I can feel how they (as myself) hold their breath during Tero´s last jumps in flashes of deadly light. After 60 performances, I still get tears into my eyes. At that very moment I know art can sometimes reach something unspeakable. Sublime.
This time we perform the triple bill (Westward Ho!, Wavelenght and Hunt)
in order to reherse a new program for our one month tour to the USA and Canada starting in March. We will also have discussions with the public before and after the performances. There seem to be more working hours than 24 hours per day, but I also get some new ideas or sharpen the old ones, especially about the issue of the day: the export of Finnish culture, our daily bread.
January 20, 2006
An island in the sun, -20°C
I start my travelogue from an exotic spot on the map. It´s an island called Katajanokka (Cape Juniper), in the centre of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. The island is separated from the heart of the city by two small bridges and two remarkable buildings which are like symbols of our recent history. One of them is a magnificent Russian orthodox cathedral with recently polished golden onions on top. The other one is a cubic marble block, the headquarters of the paper industy company Enso, one of the (less praised) creations of the great Finnish modern architect, Alvar Aalto.
I like midwinter days when the sun is shining low and hard. White powder snow covers the old trees and elegant jugendstil buildings. One should have proper equipment to fully enjoy that all because it´s –20°C. When I´m in town I often go to greet the massive ice breakers waiting for their turn to open a narrow path through the desert of ice for the boats arriving Helsinki. I feel at home in harbour cities; Helsinki, Amsterdam, Venice, Tokyo, Bangkok, New York...soon you will be there with me!
I agree with the Lonely Planet travel guide guru, John Wheeler, who recently visited Helsinki, and found ice breakers in my neighbourhood as the best tourist attraction in Helsinki. They also are like symbols of this small nation, stubborn and proud, strong in a quiet manner, well designed, equipped with the last high tech and in a humble relationship with mighty nature. The boats carry names like ”Kontio” and ”Otso”, both meaning the bear, a sacred animal in the Finnish mythology, or ”Sisu” (guts), the national attitude.
Last year when I spent the spring in Tokyo I thought a lot about our strong relationship to nature. A japanese friend suggested that Finnish and Japanese are both sort of animists. I remember his words when I stand on the last shore of my home island, observing how the shining desert of ice steams. On the other side of the island, next to main market of Helsinki, people calmly take baths in icy water.