Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Isle of Sheep 09

The annual end-of-summer thing in Helsinki region is the "lavatanssit" in Lammassaari. The event arranged by this group of activists as a communal effort is called "Isle of Sheep" and it attracts lots of different kinds of people.

"Lavatanssit" is a term which I had hard time finding adequate translation for, so instead, I try to explain it. Places called "lava" can loosely be translated to stage, platform or perhaps a pavilion or a barn. They are traditionally places, where likeminded people gather once or twice a week to listen and dance to live bands playing. In the older times these events were very popular among all generations of people, but nowadays it attracts mostly the enthusiasts. - Enthusiasts meaning people who absolutely love to dance couple-dances like waltz, tango, jenkka, humppa and so on. Summer is logically and naturally the high-season, and there is something happening more or less every evening on the "dance-barns" throughout Finland. They even broadcast some of this in tv, so if you cannot attend personally, you can do it virtually in your livingroom =).

This is how it looks like at "lavatanssit" (photo by valmu.com)

Okay, perhaps I got the topic cleared out somehow, although I do apologize to the enthusiasts if I didn't get the terms 100% correct. So, in Lammassaari, little island on the Vanhankaupunginlahti, they organize every year this dance-event to celebrate the season finale. Many of my friends have attended already for many years, but I never managed before to get all the way there. This year I invited my dear friend Favela to go with me.

Although the weather wasn't so promising, we headed out to eastern Helsinki in early evening. Hopping out of the tram in Arabia, we went southward and finally reached the long and winding duckboards that lead you through reed and willows to the island itself.

Favela halfway there

It wasn't all dark yet, but the innovative little quiding led-lights on the bushes made already nice effects in the twilight. On the front yard of the building was a large gathering of relaxed people. Many of them had really dressed up in proper dance-pavilion outfits: girls in high heels and wide hems, lace gloves and flowers in the hair, guys in straight dress-pants and shiny patent leather shoes. And everybody really seemed to want to dance. I guess this was exactly the reason why I ended up choosing not to, the dance floor was ways too crowded for my liking. But I had great time nonetheless.

Little guiding lights

I had planned to go there with Favela and hoping to bumb into some other friends too, but there was ways more of them than I could ever have imagined. So many old dear friends from Väs and Teak, whom I hadn't seen in ions!! So cool! I was brilliant to have a chance to catch up on everybody and just chill out for a while.

And it was great to experience this kind of event after a long time. I like the kind of family-event feeling about it.For me it's been something like fifteen years since the last time I went to a barn-dance. And, anyway, I did sort of grow up in thesekind of surroundings, my mom being a part-time singer in a "humppa"-band =O.

I'll definately do the Isle of Sheep again, if only I'm in the region at the time!!

On the top of the craggy hill is quite large wooden building.

Variety of participants in front of the entrance.

Band of the evening "Vallilan Tango".

Monday, September 28, 2009

Creatures in Tikkurila?

I spent most of the August in Finland to do yet another production for Dance theater Raatikko. This was something I had really been looking forward, since Raatikko had decided to invite a guest choreographer to create a performance for high school audiences. - Neither of these phenomena has occurred during the years I've been working in Tikkurila. So, something new and fascinating was hanging in the horizon for me =)

The performance called "Olenko olento / Am I a creature" was to be designed for touring in various gym-halls and auditoriums in finnish schools with three dancers and one technician. A fact, which has it's own restrictions and demands. It eventually meant keeping it moderate in amounts of equipment and big in action, since one can never be sure, how easy it will be to set up or how dark it's going to be on the venue. Solution: let's rock'n roll!!! - Flashing lights and smoke effects will be visible even in broad daylight!

The performance which opened on 4th of September scratches the surface of being a teenager, growing up and trying to find one's identity and place in the world. Sometimes personality strikes out very loud and confident, other times one just would like to curl up into the inside world shutting everybody else out.

"Olenko olento" feels with a teenager and also tucks and pulls the invisible strings of expectations set by the surrounding world. It doesn't try to lecture or give answers, it's more like a rollercoaster of action (which leaves you hopefully breathless), just like teenage life itself. For me it was s-o-o-o-o-o-o easy and fun to ride along on this ride! It's been a long time since I had as much fun with a production as I did with these guys. It seemed that the team hitched really well together from very beginning and everybody's ideas just seemed to take the thing higher by breeding yet more associations. So, rock'n rolling was extremely easy and pleasant with this ensemble.

Me and the choreographer, Satu Tuomisto were somehow on a same wavelength starting already from the very first pre-designing discussions. She seemed to completely trust my vision and gave me lots of space to move in. I felt really good working together with her and hopefully there will be other possibilities to continue this also in the future.

The beats and music the sound designer Roger d'Olivere Mapp (who also happens to be a absolutely brilliant photographer, see for your selves: all the photos on this post by him, for which I thank him most humbly) created just simply made my fingers itch for chasers and stuff. The improvisational skill of the dancers (Esko Hakala, Roosa Ijäs and Elena Ruuskanen) and their plain amount of talent and physical energy also gave me so many ideas that it was hard to believe. It also made me want to design such lights for this performance that the operator can feel the energy and play along as one of the performers and not just be the guy who's gotta push the button.

I only hope that some of this good times we had comes through in the performance. It's hard to tell, since you grow so easily blingd to what you're doing. But I do believe so.

I would still like to thank all the participants of the production for the fun I had. I hope to C U all real soon again!

To the end a short technical word about the production. As said, it had to be touring-friendly. This much was clear from day one. So I set out looking for a solution that would be independent in any space. Satu was interested in idea to make the stage to be sort of an arena surrounded by the audience on all four sides. -360 degrees of action, sort of speaking.

My final set up was actually quite simple. To all four corners of the grey-carpeted dance area (app 6m x 6m) I set one 3-meter vertical pole with one six-channel dimmer box. On the top of the pole I have three Par 56's (white L201, red L106 and blue L079). On the bottom, a vertical blacklight tube. On the floor at the corner one yellow "policelight", which can be moved all the way to the next corner. Audiencelight to two directions 2 x 500W Floodlight on two diagonally facing corners. And finally, on the floor outlining the carpet, clear rubberlight in metallic track.

Everything is standing on it's own feet and base, so nothing except an adequate power supply is required from the venue.

Keep on rockin'!