Improvisation performance danced by myself in interaction with Pekka and Teija Isorättyä: it happened at the Galleria Rankka, in Helsinki, on the 23rd of august 2018. Did you miss it?!


The solo dance performance was a question-answer between Pekka and Teija’s art installation and my movement.
It lasted exactly 20 minutes and everybody was welcome to stroll through the performance while I was using the entire space. As a matter of fact, the performance space was a beautiful industrial atelier, big enough to contain quite an impressive crowd.

The essence of the performance relied on its movement improvisation and on my capacity to adapt to the forever changing state of Pekka and Teija’s art installation’s soundscape. Yes, it was pure improvisation, but wait to read some more about it.

The soundscape was originally pre-set to be the same whenever somebody would approach the installation. There was a sensor installed during the daytime exhibition. It was activated whenever somebody walked by, the soundscape then ran for a short time. This sound could be mixed live through a mixing table, which we made use of during the performance, and which Pekka controlled during that occasion.
Now, the dance itself was supposed to follow that soundscape, on top of following the geometrical pattern of the installation, which looked like thousand small mechanical arms, cutting through space, very geometrical, very mathematic. So there was a lot to get visually inspired from. I believe the art installation already looked like a dance itself. I just felt like I was taking it a bit further, by making the movement three dimensional and creating a vortex, directly connected between me, and the installation.

Now I give you some details: Pekka and Tuija Isorättyä’s art installation is the result of a collaboration on the creation of kinetic and electromechanical sculptures, often constructed from organic materials and discarded or outmoded objects.
Therefore, he mixed, I adapted, simple, doesn’t it sound? Well, not that acurate. You see, we had defined a set of rules before, otherwise it would have been for the pure love of movement, and well, in that case, why even bother to invite an audience…

First came the movement frame…

The dance improvisation I performed was inspired by neo-classical and ballet technics. A summary of all I have ever learnt, now part of my body, as a dancer and a creator. Of course, I worked a lot with improvisation in my career, and the fact that I also happen to be a choreographer helped me feel comfortable creating on the spot for people watching right up in my face. I took it as a simple study of cognitive and intuitive movement, adapted in time and space to the visual and aural art happening near by. It was almost like a conference, I was speaking with my movement.

Now the coulisse part: I had recorded some of the possible soundscapes which could come up during the performance about 2 weeks prior to it. I then rehearsed in studio, giving myself some movement tasks to the soundscaped. With that I mean I was exploring all possiblities, always trying to re-invent the movement.
So in a way, the performance was rehearsed, but still, the movement I performed was completely genuine. I had no choreographic structure, nor any kind of short sections I could slip-in real quick in case I would run out of ideas.

And about running out of ideas, wasn’t I scared about hitting the spot? Not at all, because like I said, I have quite some experience, but also because one has to go through a performance like this with confidence. You see, it often happens that dancers freeze when they run out of ideas, which means they go BLANK. It even happens with choreographies that have been rehearsed for months and months. However, dancers are also human beings (apart from being god like creatures with magical powers) and do happen to forget everything in some situations, mostly under a big amount of stress. So that occasion was just perfect fit, stress: yes, forever changing: yes!
Yet, if you are able to just breathe, be aware of the space around you, the people in it, its structure, the thousand sounds that come to your ears… You are just fine. It is all about being in the present, breathing, staying calm and so on.

And it brings me to say that there was no dramatic performance. With this, I mean that I did not try to put on a mask, or act in a specific way. The drama remained within the movement only. The theme, if I may say so, was really scientific, and it would just have looked weird if I had tried to put on a second skin and become an actor.
Hopefully it translated into my movement, which of course was made of momentums, attacks and so on… But overall stayed really floating, out of the muscular approach dancers are often used to choose.

Then came the time frame…

Because it was my first improvised solo performance, I decided that there should be a frame for the timing of it. The first reason is that I did not know what would be the audience’s reaction, so the self-conscious artist that I am was affraid that people would get bored and so on… It was 20 minutes after all.
But mainly, I felt responsible for installing a rythm to the performance. The rythm was so that it was divided in 10 bits of 2 minutes. Now I won’t give you the detail of each section, because magicians never give away their magic tricks, but mostly because I cooked it myself and it is part of how I work (no secrets, just intimacy).

And now I must thank the universe, because the feedback I got was so positive! I think it definitely worked, as people described the performance as an “hypnosis”, or “some kind of trance”. This is exactly where I was aiming at with my rythm. The art installation itself is some kind of machinery that I could have watched for ever, it is a hypnosis itself.
How did I keep track of the timing? Well I honestly did not, but we had a few cues we had agreed on before the performance, with Pekka, for which he was giving me the go. So really, it WAS a conversation, and not only a dance performance.

Was it physically hard? HELL YES! But who does not like a little workout? I really tried to be self-conscious throughout these 20 minutes. It gave me a little insight on staying away from using muscular and heavy power, I tried (and managed maybe) to stay as calm and positive as possible, just like a yoga workout. I also always tried to recycle my movement, and use new creative ways of approaching the experience from within. How did I do that? Well, I am an experienced dancer, and maybe in the future I will talk again about improvising…

Overall, the experience was really inspiring, I truly believe that I learnt a lot from it, as a performer, but also as a creator and as a person. Pekka and Teija are lovely human beings and it was my pleasure to be able to connect with artists working in different disciplines. Go and check out their website: Isorättyä !
I would like to thank Galleria Rankka for welcoming me in their amazing space and time. Thank you Aarno Rankka ja Jyrki Riekki! Thank you also to Jessica Leino, you are all lovely!

More improv’ performance to come in the future, stay tuned.
My next blog will talk about sexual genres and male dance artists.
Love you all, T.