UUNO KLAMI’S BALLET TAKES ON A NEW LEASE OF LIFE
It’s been a long wait but it’s finally here – the great Finnish ballet! Whirls, composed by Uuno Klami and complemented by Kalevi Aho, finally made it to the stage it was made for in the 1950s.The tension in the Alexander Theatre was electric as the audience waited for the lights to go down and Alpo Aaltokoski’s contemporary choreography to begin – but boy was it worth waiting for!
It is a rare thing indeed to experience a dance piece in three parts, with intervals in between, and one couldn’t avoid the feeling that one had seen three different works. The first part presented the movement theme, based on whirling circles, creating shadows that bring to mind Matisse’s famous painting The Dance. It is characterized above all by fine dance and is comprised of fabulously polished and precisely considered movement.
Klami’s dramatic and evocative music receives a worthy reply from the movement. It swirls and undulates, but the individuals always return to join the collective whirling ring. Individuals like Esete Sutinen, the creator of energy, and Ahto Koskitalo, who shows the way, emerge from the group. Tuovi Rantanen’s furious presence as the Hag of the North is nothing less than terrifying.[..]
Marja Uusitalo’s fantastic costume steals the show in the second scene. The designer has let her imagination roam absolutely free, and it feels like this has inspired the dance. It brings to mind the futuristic stage experiments from the beginning of last century as choreographer Aaltokoski style-consciously tosses together pastiches of dance history. All the classical ballet conventions are there, from the toy soldiers of the Nutcracker Suite to 1970s disco!
[..] The third part is very effective, with its continuous lines and diagonals through faded stained glass and mirrors, and we return once again to the theme of whirls. The work as a whole is an intoxicating audiovisual experience, a total artwork that has been delivered partly from beyond the grave.
Helsingin Sanomat 27.8.2011 – Jussi Tossavainen
CHOREOGRAPHER ALPO AALTOKOSKI’S IMAGINATIVE WHIRLS CAPTIVATES THE AUDIENCE AND SPINS THEM ROUND IN THE HELSINKI’S ALEXANDER THEATRE
This multi-artistic ballet work is a festival of music and dance. Aaltokoski’s 12 dancers interpret the choreographer’s ideas about the forging of the mythological Sampo mill from Finnish folklore and the modern-day search for happiness. The dancers move between the past and the present day in a relentless pursuit of money and material goods: Uuno Klami and Kalevi Aho’s music brings to mind nature and the importance of small things, but people no longer hold these in high regard. The work as a whole is resounding, visual and imaginative.
The whole work is comprised of three parts, which are punctuated by intervals. The scenes carry the same story forwards although they can also stand on their own, and the music and movement constitute a huge party. The cornucopia that Aaltokoski, Klami and Aho have generated also owes a debt from the spectator’s point of view to Alisha Davidow’s scenography and projections and Marja Uusitalo’s outrageous costumes, which have been fashioned from recycled material. The first scene is created by a living organism comprised of 12 dancers, from which individuals are born and define themselves.
The second scene is a wild game, a feast for the eyes as classical ballet clichés are twisted into contemporary dance, and there is great humour in the movement and the colourful costumes and accessories. The junkyard costumes are made from swimming rings, crocs, beach toys, plastic flowers and Barbie dolls: lots of the material is recycled and the playfulness is an important factor – this hasn’t been made by overly serious people. The intention, however, is not to joke with the audience and make them laugh – except when the comedy of the modern world makes it impossible not to.
What will the future bring?
Aaltokoski gives the music free rein, but the movement doesn’t illustrate the composition. The dance works with the music to create something new. Who would have believed that Klami could be translated into disco dance? It is immediately clear when Kalevi Aho’s music begins that we are moving back into the present day: it comes from a tape by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Osmo Vänskä, and has the same elements; the continuum endures. Aho also gets the fairy to fly, but the movement becomes more linear than before. The dancers hurry somewhere in buff-coloured clothes as part of a machine, and if they were wearing suits they would be somewhat reminiscent of EU bureaucrats.[..]
Etelä-Suomen Sanomat 27.8.2011 – Sara Nyberg
WHIRLS CONTAINS AS MANY CONTROLLED AS CARNIVALESQUE TWISTS
Rarely has a dance work in Finland had such a long and convoluted background as Whirls, which has finally been choreographed by Alpo Aaltokoski to music by Uuno Klami and Kalevi Aho. A heady mix of history, expectation and pressure was in the air when it received its first premiere in the Alexandra Theatre, and the performance as a whole was unique because the presentation of a full-evening dance work in three parts was something that had never been attempted before in Finnish contemporary dance.
Klami’s composition was originally known as natural ballet in the 1940s and ’50s because modern or contemporary dance did not exist at that time, especially not in the modern meaning of the terms. Aaltokoski’s work is however a contemporary dance work, specifically in the way that so many dance styles and types of movement language are linked together in the choreography. Aaltokoski also dares to play with ballet vocabulary and traditions. The starting points for the content of Whirls are the myth of the forging of the Sampo (a central part of the Finnish national epic Kalevala) and what it means for people today. The work is mainly abstract, however, and based on movement, so no knowledge of the Kalevala is necessary to appreciate the performance.
Choreographically, Whirls is mainly a group work, with the 12 dancers sharing the lead role. There are only a few times when attention is focused clearly on an individual, and real duet parts are very rare. One part that really sticks in the mind is the end of the first part, which is dominated by Tuovi Rantanen’s black-and-white outfit, a creation of large knitted loops that make her look like a mystically threatening leader in a red helmet, ostensibly the Hag of the North, but it could just as easily be any other dictatorial autarch.
Three different scenes
The three parts of the performance are so different that each could be a work in its own right. The theme of the first scene is the birth of some kind of person – or even community – and finding oneself. In terms of movement, the focus of this restrained and precisely danced scene is, in keeping with the title, whirls, spirals and circling movement, which continues in larger and smaller measures throughout. The dancers’ light skin-coloured costumes also carry the same theme of circles that look like a targets or archaic drawings of an eye.
The second scene really goes for it! It is a carnivalesque explosion with regards to both the dance and the costumes, and as a whole it brings to mind a surreal king and queen in their court. Marja Uusitalo’s costumes are a hysterical and imaginatively colourful recycled mix of a tablemat, inflatable ring and children’s plastic toys. This kitsch use of plastic continues with the way that the ceiling is made of empty plastic bottles. And if the first scene was softly lit and even quite dim, the second scene almost hurts the eyes – the lights are so bright that everything is visible and clearly defined.
Also with regards to the movement nothing is forbidden and anything goes, from disco patterns to court dances from ballet works. Intelligent, fun dance which contains a cutting edge is directed straight at the drive to possess material objects that is symptomatic of the modern world. The third scene sees a return to the simplicity of early modern dance with neutral, beige costumes. The use of mirrored walls can be interpreted symbolically as a person looking at his own reflection, but above all the diagonal movement that moves across the stage in different directions leaves a lasting impression. It is in conscious conflict with the full-on and almost aggressive music that Aho has composed for the scene.
Aaltokoski’s choreography gives space to the music throughout and adapts the phrasing of the movement to the rhythm and dynamics. The movement language breathes at the same rate both figuratively and concretely. Whirls is a multi-layered work which reveals different aspects of itself on different occasions, not only visually but also with regards to the movement and the music. It is also clearly a total artwork in which the parts are intrinsically bound to one another. It is our good fortune that it has finally graced the stage.
Uutispäivä Demari 29.08.2011 – Annikki Alku