A Writing Movement panel discussion was held September 14th in Oulu in Northern Finland as a part of OuDance festival organised by JoJo – Oulu Dance Centre. A group of young dance teacher students from Oulu University of Applied Sciences with their teacher, dancer-choreographer-dance teacher Petri Kauppinen took part. The two-hour discussion started by a presentation given by journalist, dance critic Hannele Jyrkkä. Other panelists in the discussion, led by Liikekieli.com´s editor in chief Veera Lamberg, were dance pedagogue-novelist-critic Outi Kallas from Rovaniemi and dance artist Liana Potila.
In a good dance text the effort to understand is made visible – by the writer’s courage to be present and transparent in the text
Hannele Jyrkkä’s 20-minute presentation was a vigorous and informative overview both to her own path which led to dance writing as profession and to dance writing widely, especially from a journalistic viewpoint. She writes in Finland’s biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, for the Finnish dance magazine Tanssi-lehti (nowadays Teatteri&Tanssi –lehti) and for Finnish Dance in Focus. She has also written several informative books on Finnish dance art and artists.
Jyrkkä accented the expertise behind writing based on studies and experience and also encouraged the young dance professionals-to-be, to grasp writing about dance with an open mind, bravely and subjectively. She thinks that the reflecting on one’s own position as writer is one of the most important aspects of working in the field, often in many different parallel working roles. She thinks that both culture journalism, reviews written by experts, and different forms and forums giving space to many voices discussing dance are needed, e.g. short facebook comments or blogs, and on the other hand academic research.
Quick-temperedly and eagerly on dance writing
The discussion with the audience was lively, but also the panelists got their moments. Liana Potila swore to the use of plain language in writing and wished for the inclusion of visual and auditive designers’ work in critiques.
Outi Kallas who talked rakishly about her work, works in Rovaniemi in Northern Finland as a contemporary dance and adults’ ballet dance teacher in Lapin Balettiopisto (Lapland Ballet Institute). She writes dance reviews in the newspapers Uusi Rovaniemi and Lapin Kansa.
The challenge is to be critic and at the same time dance artist and professional in the field on the same city.
In the discussion people talked about how to approach writing about a dance piece the writer has experienced a hard one to handle. And how can a critic who solely works with writing reviews freshly experience and deeply digest the performance in question each time, in any possible way, when she or he sees over 300 performances per year? Hannele Jyrkkä commented that she couldn’t even imagine only writing reviews; the point and the longevity of the work is the diversity of it. To the challenges of verbalizing dance Outi Kallas stated with her own style: ”I go to sauna and drink three beers. It (the text that has to be written) will come. Through deep experience and hard life.” The discussion was rich, lively and even startling thanks to the panelists’ very different thoughts about the theme. Dance writing and verbalizing it year 2013 is everything of this – regardless if one wants to see it or not.
New dance voices are growing up in Oulu
The students of Petri Kauppinen spoke naturally of dance writing. They asked sharp-eyed questions: has the work as a critic had an impact on one’s own artistic work and how? They also spoke about their own experiences of how writing, together with dance making, works as a continuum; a workable tool to structure the understanding of one’s own art and as a means of thinking.
In the end we dreamt about the future. Heartful wishes looking to future dance writing include more closely following and verbalizing the various working processes in dance, the use of association and improvisation techniques in producing text, dialogue in even more new ways, other art form professionals verbalizing dance, and also critics writing live – in the actual performance moment.
The writer is Writing Movement coordinator in Liikekieli.com together with Veera Lamberg.