music, performance&dance, women in art
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Susanna Leinonen’s ‘Disturbed Silence’

There is a silence, which is about noise. There is a silence, which leaves only little possibility to run away from its scrutinizing notice. Could it be like the first silence on the earth, or something that one finds in deserted places and in the wilderness? An almost “absolute silence of the world’s dawning. In such suspension, before every utterance on earth, there is a cloud, an almost immobile air” (Luce Irigaray 2001, 3).

Can one find a place in silence? Aristotle’s Physics (IV) states: The proof of place is in transformation of elements in place. So if the place is found in silence, something must occur, or change. Silence must be disturbed so the existence of a place is proofed.

When I approach someone’s creative work, I ask myself a few questions. First, I think that many times the core elements in creation are similar. Second, there are couple of things that need to be considered:

  • What is the collegial bases
  • What are the experiences, similarities/differences gained
  • How is the knowledge, and the fields of expertise shared

As an art maker, I often end up writing about the art from the perspective of experience, craft and the knowledge. How does the work speak to me as audience member is equally important. This has value not only as a platform where different approaches and experiences can meet, but it offers space to a more in-depth discovery. When I look at a dance work, for example, I pay attention to the following:

  1. How the event is “full” /what are the elements?
  2. How do I experience it?
  3. How are the movements familiar/strange to me?
  4. After seeing a performance, how do I memorize its moments, which parts do I feel as pleasant or repulsive, and with fear or joy?

As each art work also has a distinctive global origin, the aesthetics and movement structures, affects relating to crafting, selecting contents and editing vary. The reflection and interpretation is then a next step. For example, dance works are based on dance, but often music, lighting design, and costume accompany the movement.

In what follows, I reflect Susanna Leinonen’s choreography ‘Disturbed Silence’. The work had its premiere in 2004 at the Stoa Cultural Centre in Helsinki. Susanna Leinonen Company was founded by Finnish choreographer Susanna Leinonen in 2001. Today the company is at the cutting edge of Finnish dance. Besides choreographing for her own dance company, Leinonen collaborates with other companies. Her works have appeared in 18 countries. In 2012-2014, Susanna Leinonen Company is in residence at the Stoa Cultural Center of Eastern Helsinki. The vision is to bring broader audiences closer to contemporary dance and to help it to know the genre better. Stoa will also be a platform for international groups and visiting artists.

Experiencing ‘Disturbed Silence’ in the audience

Lighting designer Mikki Kunttu has created effective blackouts with the use of complete darkness. His strong diagonals descend from high angles. The use of effects like removal of the usual sidelights, so that the dancers have no gaps where to hide or disappear, organizes the palette. Dancers have to stay still,  move, and be still again. Lights turn on breaking in, then they are off again. Suddenly, white lights infuse on the black carpet creating holes in the surface. There is a white tulle suspended in the back together with an extra assembly of lights. This is adding more depth and width on stage building an ambiance of a depth space. Lights are resting on the dancers. Music disturbs their entire being, and electrifies the stage as a stretched screen. Movements are full of little nuances and gestures. The artistic whole is refined and there is no visible chaos or disorder.

Kunttu’s style reminisce archaeology of space creating contrasting images and extensions to the space. The lighting is cutting, framing and penetrating space making the bodies either loom or fade away. The black box stage becomes visually something else. His lighting design shapes a new kind of architecture for dance, pushing back elaborate set designs. Lighting becomes the stage, an environment and a mood, in which the bodies are sculptured as full and ghostlike.

 

As it comes to musical composition by Kasperi Laine, the packed sounds change the mood unexpectedly promising about an intensity of a water pipe, which breaks open. A scene comes to a sudden closing as if being subsequent to freezing water. The brutal sounds disturb an illusion of microscopically significant silences, as each of the five dancers make their decision to move, to curve, to stand, to stare, or optionally being deserted from others with long lasting silences. The dancers re-enter in coalition to breathe together for a short momentum. ‘Disturbed Silence’ almost possess the dancing bodies with stiff tones. The blazer-jacket costumes designed by Erika Turunen look like extensions to movements and angles. When they are pulled out of the waist they erect the dancers’ bodies in contractions.

The music composition feels like it is creating a long corridor in the darkness. The sounds “come-in” unexpectedly behind the doors in the corridor. The sound is pressing the air around the dancers, promising of something, then it disappears again. What I testify visually is that dancers also time to time break away from their essential human figures. This becomes evident when they leave standing or any kind of clean “posture-like-posture” . The movements play with the skeletal of the body. Their bodies twist and tease the sacral into new alternative displacements. The air around movement contractions seems to get packed closer to their veins, making breathing look exhausted.

Susanna Leinonen’s choreography is aesthetically minimalistic. In the undercurrent she is weaving friction with the bodies that twist in odd walks and in the bursting stills. The rhythm of the piece comes with the dancing bodies and with the music that almost mimics the actions.The entire design shows how the process of weaving has become complete. The parts come together to make a whole.

When I reflect ‘Disturbed Silence’, I realize that contemporary dance art portrays its time in a powerful way. Dance can carry embodiments of contemporary experiences, speak about urbanization, chaos, alienation from nature, and about the lack of human caring. Choreography is not only “presenting” ideas but, it can show them in a powerful way through the dancing bodies.  Contemporary dance can be part of global culture. Many local and national companies have become global. As Susanna Leinonen Company is touring, its program approaches global audience that is varying. Contemporary dance becomes global culture creating content like fashion, visual arts, design, theater, film, music, and architecture. All these fields are close to dance. Then, creating content in a global space makes dance become closer with technologies. Dances do not exactly follow the patterns of making contents for mobile phones, but they carry contents, which do not “naturally” grow in our traditional conception of dance; videos and digital technologies, etc., are part of the scene.

{photos: Heikki Tuuli.}

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more information about the company, vistit www.susannaleinonen.com

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During the past year, Susanna Leinonen Company has toured Finland. Additionally, its work ‘Blinded Mind’  was performed at the George Town Festival in Penang, Malaysia on July 4, and at the Indonesian Dance Festival in June 9th, 2012. Its ‘Chinese Objects’ was performed in San Fransisco on May 19th at the Marines Memorial Theater as part of the 2012 San Fransisco International Arts Festival.

Susanna Leinonen’s new work-in progress ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a collaboration with choreographer Jouka Valkama. It will have a premiere in Stoa in September 2012. The idea for collaboration came from a vision to combine two movement languages and to bring new ideas to a classic story. In this case ballet and contemporary dance techniques will create new interpretation.  The idea is to create differentiation between the main characters with different choreographers’ movement languages.

References:

Irigaray, Luce. To Be Two. Routledge: New York, 2001.

Time for Aristotle. Physics IV. 10-14. Oxford Aristotle Studies. Oxford University press, 2005.

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