First Finnish Writing Movement

The Finnish online dance journal organized its first Writing Movement discussion event in Kokkola Winter Dance Festival on Friday February 15th 2013. The discussion raised questions on whether writings about dance are needed, how one should write about dance and who is allowed to write about dance. Freelance dance critic and writer Hannele Jyrkkä held an introductory speech for the discussion. In addition to Liikekieli’s editor in chief Veera Lamberg and Jyrkkä, the panel included Tiina Ruotsala, the head of the culture section of the local newspaper Keskipohjanmaa, and Raija Ilo local dance critic and dance teacher from Kokkola.

Jyrkkä emphasized that all kinds of documentation is necessary for a fleeting art form, as well as presenting some notions of the good dance review. First and foremost, a good review is an independent act in which specialist’s insights about the art form are combined with the artistic experience. The writer should react to the performance and act in writing about it. At its best a good dance review is also an artwork. Finally, Jyrkkä concluded that in addition to thorough criticism and journalism, the artists’ own writings and research are needed.

Ruotsala, coming from journalistic background, pointed out that dance reviews and other articles about the artists in daily newspaper should be written for the readers, potential audiences, not for the artists themselves. Additionally, local newspaper wants to support local artists and cultural events, inform the readers about what is happening in the region or what artists from the region are doing elsewhere in the country.

As a local dance critic and teacher, Ilo suggested that the writer has to think about the reader while writing and no one should be underestimated. A review that is written for a local newspaper should give something to everyone and open up the art form. On the one hand, Ilo wants to share knowledge about dance through writing. Writing is a part of dance education. On the other, it’s important to give feedback to the artists. While writing Ilo, for this reason, pursues keeping in mind that the work of art on stage is an end result of a long process. Consequently, it is important to bring forward what dance artist has had in mind during the process.

A lively discussion, also involving audience members, was raised around the question of who is allowed to write about dance and what the writer should know about dance art. Jyrkkä stressed that writer should be a specialist in dance Art, in the sense that he or she has some knowledge about the tradition and history of dance art as well as the field of dance artists. The audience members of the discussion agreed with this point of view; the critic should know how a performance is constructed in order to evaluate it.

However, dance artists among the audience pointed out that too often reviews only depict what was happening on the stage and what the critic experienced. Connecting the performance to wider context in terms of dance history and the artist’s previous works is lacking. The dance artists wish that dance reviews would have stronger role in giving general education for readers. Jyrkkä and Ruotsala admitted that it would be nice to write more thorough reviews that would reflect on the history and previous works of the artist. However, considering daily newspapers, the unfortunate truth is that column size for reviews is diminishing.

Generally, art criticism has been in crisis for past 20 years. Readers and artists have high requirements for reviews and the discussion mostly concentrated on this issue. Finally, Jyrkkä reminded the audience that reviews are not the only way to write about dance. Collaboration, where several different points of views on dance can be included, as well as different ways of writing, in addition to public and online forums offer possibilities to defeat the crisis. Plenty is happening already and the Writing Movement –network is a good example of this.

Saara Moisio


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