Ali & Alpo

Production info

Arabic traditional music and Finnish contemporary dance meet in an escaping dialogue

“There is a man, dance and music. That’s all it takes, they are enough to say a great deal, and straight from the heart. It brings a lump to your throat. […] It is hard to hold back the tears, at the very latest, when both dancer and musician come on stage for the final bows.”

Helsingin Sanomat 17.3.2017

The original aim of Ali & Alpo – a joint work by Iraqi oud lute virtuoso Ali Alawad and choreographer and dance artist Alpo Aaltokoski – was to expand the dialogue between music and dance into a co-existence, and ultimately a dialogue, between two mutually alien cultures; to contemplate the similarities and differences between Arabic and Western art and culture. But things turned out differently. The rejection of Alawad’s asylum applications dramatically affected the genesis of the work, and its final form. In order to avoid forced repatriation, Alawad fled Finland in March 2017 – two weeks before the premiere. Nevertheless, Ali & Alpo was staged according to Alawad’s wishes, since he still took part in the performance via a video projection. The piece touchingly brings out the human experience of and a human viewpoint on the consequences of an increasingly restrictive asylum policy.

Alawad and Aaltokoski began collaborating in spring 2016, when Alawad took part in the celebration of Aaltokoski’s 30 years as an artist at the Alexander Theatre in Helsinki. Ali Alawad had arrived in Finland as an asylum seeker in September 2015. In the past few years, he had been forced to keep his profession secret in his home country of Iraq. “Working as a musician in Iraq can be risky, since some extremist groups see being a professional musician as contrary to Islam,” Alawad says.


Choreography and dance: Alpo Aaltokoski
Music: Ali Alawad
Light design: Kari Gratseff / Kalle Paasonen
Sound design: Johanna Storm
Costume design: Marja Uusitalo
Video shooting: Thomas Freundlich
Video script: Alpo Aaltokoski
Video editing: Joe Davidow
Photography: Alejandro Lorenzo, Tanja Ahola
Production: Alpo Aaltokoski Company and Culture Centre Caisa

Duration: 35 minutes

2019 Summerhall Lustrum Award for best festival moments

Premiere: 15.3.2017 Kulttuurikeskus Caisa, Helsinki

Press reviews

Edinburgh Festival Magazine

“Ali’s beautiful, tragic singing takes the audience to another world, as Alpo contorts and twist. The effect is both meditative and cathartic, creating an emotional wave that is almost pre-language in its immediacy and intensity…A rare and beautiful experience not to be missed.”


“His (Alpo’s) style has the energy and intent of a younger dancer, the emotional maturity of an older performer, and it’s quite the combination.”


“Moving and beautiful.”

The List

”An exquisite duet…two exceptional artists… pours out like poetry.”

Fest Magazine

“Visually the performance is handsome: Alawad is sharply filmed, while Aaltokoski is bathed in low-key, lambent light.”

Performance history

Premiere: 15.3.2017 Kulttuurikeskus Caisa, Helsinki, Finland

Other Performances:
16.3., 11.-12.4.2017 Cultural Centre Caisa, Helsinki, Finland
20.4.2017 Barker theatre, Turku, Finland
12.8.2017 Humle Festival, Uusikaarlepyy, Finland
10.9.2017 Manifesti festival, Turku, Finland
25.10.2017 Syktyvkar, Russia
20., 22., 25.11.2017 Cultural Centre Stoa, Helsinki, Finland
22.5.2018 Tanssivirtaa festivaali, Tampere, Finland
28., 29.7.2018 Full Moon Dance Festival, Pyhäjärvi, Finland
24.8.2018 private, Mynämäki, Finland (2 shows)
31.8.2018 pitching, Düsseldorf, Germany
7.9.2018 Sotku, Kuopio, Finland
26.9.2018 Painotalo, Äänekoski, Finland
28.9.2018 school show, Joutsa, Finland
29.9.2018 school show, Jämsä, Finland

19.4.2019 Tendency Dance Festival, Krasnodar, Russia
25.4.2019 Horizont Dance Festival, Miskolc, Hungary
6.-25.8.2019 Summerhall, Old lab, Edinburgh, Scotland (18 shows)
26.3.2022 Cultural Centre Wiljami, Rovaniemi, Finland
16.9.2022 OuDance festival, Oulu, Finland
1.3.2023 Kanneltalo, Helsinki, Finland (2)
14.4.2023 Teatro El Rinoceronte Enamorado, San Luis Potosí, Mexico
16.4.2023 Teatro Manuel José Othón, Matehuala, Mexico
21.4.2023 Centro Cultural de la Huasteca Potosina, Ciudad Valles, Mexico
11.–12.5.2023 Malmitalo, Helsinki, Finland (2)
19.–20.5.2023 Vuotalo, Helsinki, Finland (3)

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