design, interviews, performance&dance
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Alpo Aaltokoski: Faux, Sahara, and kinesthetic communication

Choreographer and dance pedagogue Alpo Aaltokoski is one of the pioneers of Finnish contemporary dance. He remembers how it all started. In the 1980s, for example, it was the trend in Finnish choreography to use army style landing-boots as a choreographic device. Then, using strong visual effects and technology in contemporary dance performances was established fast. Aside from creating visually appealing multidimensional dance works, Aaltokoski has been a key educational voice in the Finnish dance culture. He believes that dance belongs to everyone, including the children and the young people, and it should be part of  their primary education. According to him, dance art and dancing body create affects and tell stories that are different from our ordinary conversations.

Outside Europe, Aaltokoski’s own dance company has appeared in The US, Canada, Central America, South America, Asia and Africa. For many years (until 2012), choreographer Aaltokoski was the artistic director of the Full Moon Dance Festival (Täydenkuun Tanssit), which is a well-known Finnish contemporary dance festival in the world. Between 2003-08, he held a position of the Artist Professor in choreography at the Theater Academy in Helsinki. On April 11, Aaltokoskis new work Faux will have its premiere at Media Centre Lume in Helsinki. After that in May, Alpo Aaltokoski Company will travel to San Francisco to perform, and in June the company performs in Mexico.

The new premiere Faux asks, how can our virtual reality and the electronics become forms of social interaction in the future alongside non-verbal and kinesthetic communication? Alpo Aaltokoski Company produces the work in cooperation with Aalto University’s Media Factory, and with the medical rehabilitation company: Finland’s Ortotiikka & Protetiikka. Making the dance piece in cooperation with different instances makes it possible to experiment with the costume design, and take enough time to research and rehearse with designs.

The applied design and costume in Faux is intended to move away from the everyday realism, to approach surrealism, and playfully look for new dimensions to be a human. This is the first time that choreographer Aaltokoski will also dance in his own group choreography.

Aaltokoski is known for his studies about humans, and his works dig into our social and cultural interaction.  In his work Sahara, Aaltokoski studied the interaction between man and nature, asking how man shapes the landscape, and what kinds of marks he leaves on it. The work was a combination of video and live dance performance. Sahara had its premiere at JoJo Oulu Dance Centre in 2002. Later in that year, the work was produced in Media Centre Lume in Helsinki. The whole creative process took two years of constructing, including a two-month rehearsal period with the dancers before the premiere. Aaltokoski has developed audience dialogue throughout his career. He applied participatory and educational components to Sahara’s production. In Helsinki, the company collaborated with one of the local elementary schools taking the pupils along the experience of choreographing. Students were able to discover how choreography gets its form onto the stage. They also learned about the geography and the diverse cultures of the Sahara region in Africa. Aaltokoski showed the students videos about the place. They learned how a distant geographical place becomes alive in a choreographic work. Students were able to try dance movements, observe rehearsals with the company dancers, get to explore the theater and the stage, see the performances, share conversations, and write an essay based on their experiences. Finally, they were also painting their own visions of the Sahara.

Aaltokoski has convinced that his artistry is based on a dialogue. I asked him about what dialogue means to him. In his mind, it is not only the built material from the performance experience, but the dialogue continues, and performance works come closer to their real audience members.

Alpo Aaltokoski: Dialogue means that I aim to build an empathetic way to kinesthetically relate to diverse audiences. Choreography can break the stereotypical image of Finns, or any group who prefers silence over speaking out. As dance promotes a culture, which acknowledges that there are other forms of communication than that of only speaking. For the kinesthetic communication there is the body, which feels and senses, and that of which is utilized, opened and conversed in the dance art. Breaking into silences of  bodies implies that we are evidently making our audiences feel other and foreign feelings, which can be confusing and even scary.

(The material for the Sahara’s video was filmed in the Tunisian desert. The multidimensional work discovered passage of time in the landscape.

The Sahara: What if the wandering ends into this yellow day?
Time flows from a fading picture.
Or if it does not end.
The same mirage now and afar.
Marks of us are at times visible in the earth.

And the landscape in us. Poem translation Hannele Jyrkkä)

artist website:

more information about Faux premiere here

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