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Contemporary dance meets social dance – Evening of dance and music inspired by the melancholic Finnish mental landscape
Why are the Finns so melancholic? Take my hand is an interactive and episodic evening in a dance restaurant milieu and inspired by the Finnish popular music and strong social dance culture. Evening starts by social dance lesson taught by the choreographer Alpo Aaltokoski and the company’s dancers and ends to an open invitation to dance.
Inherently melancholic popular music interprets the Finnish spiritual landscape. Lyrics are motivated by the everyday life and tell stories of longing and love, disappointment and bitterness, remorse and happiness. The times change but our longing stays the same.
The costume design for Take my hand is done by one of the leading Finnish eco design brands TAUKO which is known for using recycled hospital textiles in their cloth production. TAUKO’s new collection, designed for Take my hand, is inspired by the 1920’s Finnish folk costumes and the personal body gestures of each dancer in the piece. The designers have enjoyed the privilege of seeing the clothes of their new collection in highly varied movement.
Social and ballroom dance tradition is intrinsic in the Finnish cultural history and its golden age was during the 1950′s. Dancing has always been an integral part of the so-called common people’s leisure activities. This dance culture has created around itself an entire genre of popular music and its special feature being Finnish tango. Finland has even established its own annual tango festival.
Choreography and concept: Alpo Aaltokoski and workgroup
Dance: Johanna Ikola, Ahto Koskitalo, Katja Koukkula, Jouni Majaniemi, Tuovi Rantanen, Esete Sutinen, Jussi Väänänen
Costume design: TAUKO design – Mila Moisio, Kaisa Rissanen
Sound design: Johanna Storm
Light design: Jere Mönkkönen
Photos and graphic design: Marko Mäkinen
Duration of performance: 55 minutes
Premiere: October 22, 2014
Performance is suitable for different unconventional spaces. Technical setup is simple and easily modifiable.
Thanks to: AVEK Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture
Established Finnish choreographer Alpo Aaltokoski knows how to surprise and hit the nerve of time. Take my hand arises from the culture of social dance. This is Dancing with the Stars tailored for Mr. and Mrs. Everybody. Not that the performers would be just anybody – the excellent team is made of great differently talented dancers.
Tuovi Rantanen captures with her mere presence and mature confidence. The ex-professionals of ballroom dance Katja Koukkula and Jussi Väänänen are known parquet angels, whose expression is strong and compelling. The scene is dance restaurant milieu. We sit at the tables and follow the events on the dance floor. Emotions move from one to another. We are movingly witnessing how it feels like to become a wallflower.
We see almost intimate couple chemistry. Esete Sutinen’s solo grinds feelings. In an episodic presentation restrained emotions burst delicately and internally just like in the Finnish culture. The crossover of contemporary and social dance manages to prevent the worst clichés. This is not a silly parody.
The music is familiar for Finns and awakens all kinds of associations. The perfectly compiled musical dramaturgy works by creating surprising clashes of contrasts. We are taken from one ambiance to another, just like in life. The dance floor can be seen as an allegory of life.
Can do -attitude is well reflected in this dance performance. I enjoyed this happening from the bottom of my soul in the premiere.
The audience can also participate in dancing. I thought I had to pass the opportunity due to a backache but then ended up dancing couple waltz and tango. Dance takes with it. I wish I had had good dancing shoes with me.
“Where does this people’s melancholy arise from?” asks Aaltokoski in the presentation leaflet of his new work Take my hand. I wish I knew but at least in the Wednesday’s premiere melancholy was present.
Take my hand consists of three parts. First, we learned to dance together. We repeated basic steps of waltz’s in a circle and a moment later moved to train in couples. We moved from the happier waltz to tango. Without noticing a trickle of sweat had appeared on the forehead and another one in the hollow of the spine.
Soon it was time for the performance itself. The audience was grouped on the tables covered with white tablecloths. The atmosphere was warm because part of the audience was already familiar to each other from the dance floor. It was also nice to have even a brief moment to practice dance steps with the dancers. Spirit of togetherness was born.
Aaltokoski’s and the dancers’ – Johanna Ikola, Ahto Koskitalo, Katja Koukkula, Jouni Majaniemi, Tuovi Rantanen, Esete Sutinen and Jussi Väänänen – share could begin. Now we were in a social dance context where the social codes applied. Men were on one side of the floor, women on the other. Who is going to ask whom to dance? Different personalities and expectations for the evening became clearly visible. I enjoyed particularly Katja Koukkula’s and Jussi Väänänen’s pair dance and physical presence. Esete Sutinen’s soft solos worked well. In the movement, contemporary and social dance really met. Special recognition can be given to music and costumes. Familiar tunes deepened the feeling that we were in a traditional dancing venue. Fortunately, the music wasn’t just popular music but moved also conveniently away from it. Mila Moisio’s and Kaisa Rissanen’s costumes, which are expected to be available also for sale, were a fun combination of retro patterns and design.
The evening ended traditionally with open dance floor, to which the dancers and choreographer attended, as well as the general public, according to their preferences. The well-timed free dance session was just the icing on top a cake. Even though one took a humorous attitude to the situation, it still brought emotions to the surface. Who is asking whom to dance? Melancholy creeps into the soul in the dusky space when the couples swing in the rhythm holding each other tightly.
Aaltokoski’s evening testified that participation is worthwhile and that it gives more than it takes. If I had come to see just a presentation, I would have been many fun experiences poorer.
I heard about this performance on the radio and decided that this I need to experience. I read the review in Helsingin Sanomat and I was quite sure. Now having experienced this I am indescribably rich – again one particularly special presentation richer. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
The presentation was stunning and how seamless was the audience’s brave participation in its own skilled way – and then the little kids in their winter boots. The entire music and sound world was brilliantly carried out in the rough space – and expressive power of dance – WOW!
Both in the music and in the dance there was lot of space for your own interpretation – no given words or clear images. Only thing existing is what I myself feel…
Thank you for the great work and thank you for the marvellous evening, which I happily enjoyed with you as a wallflower! Joy of work and more like this!!!
22.10.2014 Puristamo, Cable Factory, Helsinki, Finland (1)
23./27./28./29.10.2014 Puristamo, Cable Factory (4)
26.9.2015 Tanssin Aika festival, Veturitallit, Kisko club
17.5.2016 Tanssivirtaa Tampereella -festival, Tampere
25.7.2016 Fullmoon Dance Festival, Pyhäjärvi
7.9.2016 Stoa, Helsinki (2)
16.9.2016 Oudance -festival, Oulu
22.9.2017 St. Petersburg, Russia
2.12.2017 Na-Gran Festival, Jekaterinburg, Russia
2.-4.7.2018 Suomenlinna Summer Dance Festival, Tenalj von Fersen, Helsinki (4)
7.-8.9.2018 Culture Center Caisa, Helsinki (3)
8.6.2019 Busan International Dance Festival, Busan, South Korea