The Finnish choreographer Jarkko Mandelin joined forces with the dancers from the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance (SEAD) and created a piece called Beneath the Falling Sky. The choreography features Mandelin's original and challenging movement language and takes inspiration from Aki Kaurismäki's film art. Ostrava has a rare opportunity to see the piece at the beginning of February, in the Cooltour cultural centre. We asked Jarkko Mandelin a few questions concerning his choreographic work, leading his dance company, and discovering new ways in dance and movement.
The choreography Beneath the Falling Sky that you are going to show in Ostrava is based on 'physical dialogues', while a whole range of feelings is disclosed during the piece. What came first -was it the physical that helped you create the emotional message or vice-versa? (emotions generating moves?)
I hadn´t worked with people from Sead before, so the first idea was to scout what kind of movement material and qualities would be possible but still challenging enough for them. So, we created (with my colleague Anni Koskinen) quite a lot of partnering stuff and a few solo routines. I had the idea of keep looking for "Aki Kaurismäki" stylish waiting with small gestures. And to counter this required creating situations where we could use that explosiveness and volume typical of our partnering.
Your choreographic language is characteristic by combining various movement disciplines. Where do your strongest inspirations come from?
Martial arts, breakdance and physics. But it´s just an inspiration. Ideas that open new ways to use our tool box.
How would you characterize your company, the Kinetic Orchestra? What do you expect from your dancers in terms of movement and performance skills?
First, they all have arts university education. They have strong sense of what happened in the history in general and culturally and they also follow art and dance scene intensively. So, I always have a second and third opinion when building new things. I trust their judgement very much. Sometimes it´s frustrating to lead people who are so equal. But that´s the base for everything we do. What skill they have... All my dancers have some extra skills that make them special. We have pro´s on Classical Ballet, Chinese Pole, Floor Acrobatics, Breakdance, Hip hop. I try to know a bit of everything but what we do most is probably partnering. And that is something my dancers know very well. And it´s mostly practiced in our workshops and works. They don´t teach partnering at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki. (meaning: There is no such subject as partnering at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki?)
Concerning the support of contemporary dance or theatre projects, what is the situation like in Finland?
Finland is full of music halls and city theaters. Those places are government-funded and doing very well. Contemporary dance is neglected big time. We did have one dance company in Helsinki City Theatre that was well funded. But it has turned into a group of dancers who do musicals for theatre. There are free groups (what is meant by a "free" group) and about ten dance organizations that are under the theater law (funding based on how many people are working and how many shows per year) but they perform mostly for kids and none of them travels, for example. For me they don´t show any attitude to developing their "art".
Have the company's tours ever brought you to some remote areas of Finland? How do people accept your art there?
Our "style" is not that controversial. We usually get good feedback for combining movement art and skills. We've just had a gig in Kuhmo a week ago (it's 700 kilometers from Helsinki) next to the Russian border. They had a very nice music hall there and a lot of kids that had dance as a hobby.
In general, are the reactions/feedbacks to your work different in Finland and abroad?
People in general are the same, but I see more difference in dance education and dance "field" (please clarify) (like we call it) between Finland and southern Europe style and trends. In Finland there has been a long history of ballet and dance theater, but now there has been a big change in trends here and most of contemporary dance is what is called post postmodern. Dancers are more performers than "dancers" here. Maybe that trend is already passing in Europe but here it is not.
Along with performances, you often give workshops, too. Who can attend your workshops and what can they learn?
We have a lot of knowledge in floorwork, acrobatics and especially in partnering. I teach mainly actors, circus people and dancers. But I also teach kids and people who have dance only as a hobby. It totally depends on what kind of group I have in the studio.
What was your early formation in dance? Are you a classically trained dancer, or you started with some other kind of movement?
I started in the theatre first but quickly went also on to ballet and other dance classes. I graduated as a ballet dancer from the National Opera Ballet School and at same time worked as a breakdance teacher. I have done quite a lot of different stuff as a teenager and it still can be seen in my work.
What are your plans for the future – any places you want to tour with your company or ideas you would like to bring to life in your pieces? Any movement disciplines you would like to research?
I have a company that is well known in Finland but not abroad. So that´s the first thing to concentrate on now.
I´m interested in doing a research on martial arts. It´s something that is quite close to partnering and some of the training methods I already use.