Dance, dance, dance

Since the late-eighties an association of artists have worked for the production of modern dance performances and activities. In 1997 that association was established in a permanent place at Kaapeli (Cable Factory) with the aim of supporting the production of contemporary dance. Now Zodiak is doing better than ever. The second annual Z-In-Motion festival takes places in May and about 15-20 productions are presented every year. How is this done? Let's take a small tour behind the scenes.

Are you a dancer? Do you want to produce a piece? Send your application! Dancer-choreographer Vera Nevanlinna is part of the board of the Zodiak Presents Association. Every year the board decides the performances to be produce from all the received applications. “It is a really hard selection process because every year there is 70 or 80 applicants and we only produce 15 or 20 of them.” Don't give up if your application is not approved, “Production will be harder then and to rent a performance space will be more expensive,” Vera acknowledges, “but I think people should try to do it.”

Vera has danced since she was three. “Someone told my mother that I wasn't walking, but that I was dancing,” she tells. Since 1998 she has been involved with Zodiak and currently she is premiering the solo piece News, a 20-minute piece that she learned from the Deborah Hay performance commissioning project in Scotland last September. I agreed to practice the piece at least for three months before the first public performance,” Vera explains, “and that means that I do the piece in its entirety five times a week during those three months.”

 

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As in any production, someone needs to take care of managing the money. This spring, choreographer Hanna Pajala-Assefa is taking care of that part of the productions. “I don't get the money but I just coordinate the budget. It's quite nice to be able to help the production because as a choreographer I know that when the premiere is getting closer your mind is getting more and more focused with the artist work, so it's hard to get involved with the practical problems.”

Those practical problems can be very diverse, “I was working in a production some weeks ago and in the performance they were using lots of toilet paper,” Hanna explains. “When I saw the rehearsal and I saw that they were using 15 or 20 rolls per show, it was obvious that they should get them free from someone. It that sense, it's nice to help. Fortunately, it didn't happen during the paper workers strike.”

An important aspect of the show is the technical requirements of every performance. Tuukka Törneblom has worked for one year at Zodiak as technical director. “My task here is to make the light and sound design possible. Sometimes people want to have something fancy and I have to say that it's not possible,” he clarifies. “There are lots of tricks to learn here because it's not the typical stage. We miss a backstage, there are windows. Many of those are still new for me.”

 

Education and workshops

Apart of the performances and the productions, Zodiak is devoted to spread the knowledge about contemporary dance. The center organizes different workshops and lectures. Choreographer Anu Rajala has been in charge of the workshop Dance as an Experience in Body and Mind this spring. This workshop was “open to anyone interested in learning and experiencing more about their own movement” and it was “focus on encountering, sensing and bodily communication within the group”. The workshop results in a public performance.

Katja Kirsi is in charge of Education and Outreach at Zodiak. She plans different ways for artists and audience to communicate. Pre and after performance talks are organized which allow audiences to learn about the artists' work. Zodiak is trying to reach the widest audiences possible, so even if Finnish is not your best language, every now and then workshops in other languages, such as English, French and German, are organized.

In addition, big efforts are done to integrate dance into schools and get the young into modern dance apart from the hip hop artists' MTV choreographies. “Feedback youngsters usually give is that modern dance is odd, but at the same time they say they enjoy it,” Katja points out. “One thing I try to say is that it can be good to challenge your mind. I try to give them hints and tips to understand the performance: Why are they feeling like this? Why are they reacting like that? They have new questions for themselves.”

Don't be afraid if you haven't seen contemporary dance. The dozens of performances during the Z-In-Motion festival are a good opportunity to discover this art, “Come and see many pieces. There are so many variations of modern dance that you need to see several performances to see the whole picture,” suggest Vera Nevanlinna suggests, but the best advice she gives is, “Don't trust what you saw on TV!”