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

Other Performances in Caisa:
16.3.2017 at 2pm and 7pm

20.4.2017, Barker-teatteri, Turku
12.8.2017, Humle Festival, Uusikaarlepyy
10.9.2017, Manifesti, Turku
25.10.2017, Syktyvkar, Venäjä
20.11.2017 Kulttuurikeskus Stoa, Helsinki

22.5.2018, Tanssivirtaa festivaali, Tampere
28.7.2018, Täydenkuun tanssit, Pyhäjärvi
24.8.2018, yksityistilaisuus, Mynämäki
24.8.2018, yksityistilaisuus, Mynämäki
31.8.2018, pitching, Düsseldorf
7.9.2018 klo 12:00 ja klo 19.00, Sotku, Kuopio
26.9.2018, Painotalo, Äänekoski
28.9.2018, Joutsan yhtenäiskoulu, Joutsa
29.9.2018, Vitikkalan koulu, Jämsä

19.4.2019, Tendency Dance Festival, Krasnodar
25.4.2019, Horizont Dance Festival, Miskolc
6.8.2019, Summerhall, Old lab, Edinburgh

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