Since 1997 the festival has been exploring different Asian cultures: from Indonesia to China, to India and –last year– the countries hit by the 2005 tsunami.
Asia in Helsinki is the only Finnish festival devoted to Asia, and the organizers put a great deal of effort into selecting the themes and the performers. “We tend to choose according to first-hand knowledge, groups and performers we have already seen in action,” says the festival's Managing Director Veli Rosenberg.
The festival usually focuses on performing arts, such as ballet, drama and music, but thanks to collaboration with the Museum of Cultures exhibitions relevant to the festival's theme are being organized every year. This year is the turn of ‘Korean home – the way of living’ open till the end of December 2007.
Two are the 2007 festival highlights, according to Rosenberg: Hee Dong, a group of ten Buddhist monks and nuns performing ritual dances, which has been highly praised in Europe and the States. And the NOW dance company, led by young choreographer Sohn In-young, and their merging of traditional dances with contemporaries choreographies.
South Korea has been chosen for having been a cultural bridge between China and Japan for centuries, a place where it is still possible to find dance forms already vanished in the other two countries. The roots of South Korean culture are in shamanism and that will be reflected in the performances of the artists present at the festival.
“The festival’s aim is not so much to attract huge audiences,” Rosenberg states, “it is rather to offer interesting performances and an opportunity to get to know also the background. Before the show, the public can hear an introduction about the art and the artists, so they are given a context, a background in which to set the performance.”
The venue has always been the Aleksanterin Teatteri – the former Helsinki Opera Theatre. “That is the perfect venue for the festival," says Rosenberg, "it has 450 seats, with wonderful acoustics. Performers don’t need to use microphones most of the time. And it’s an intimate and beautiful theatre.”
Asia in Helsinki – Aasia Helsingissä, Helsinki Aleksanterin teatteri, 3rd-5th May 2007
For further details and the program: