Jarkko Lehmus Blog: It’s a New Day. It’s a New Dawn.

A northern sunrise.<br />© Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)
A northern sunrise.
© Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)

Jarkko has just taken over as Artistic Director of the JoJo – Oulu Dance Centre based in Northern Finland (map). This month he starts to explain what his directorship is about…

It was a tough old autumn. During the last two weeks of work I managed to stub my already a bit inflamed left big toe during the final rehearsal day with Tero Saarinen and slightly dislocate my right knee with only three days to go before the holidays. It’s safe to say that I was more than just a little bit run down. A holiday well earned. A couple of weeks of the holy trinity of sauna, hot tub and a hole in the ice and turning a box full of papers into a scrapbook does wonders for the body and the mind. A holiday well spent. Just as well, since the first working week was pretty hectic: a new city, a new flat, a new job, a new office, floaty scheduling, 13-hour days, hard floors, freezing conditions, 50% fitness, yada-yada-yada… You get the picture. top of all the exciting newness and little teething issues I was getting next to no sleep due to a noisy fridge. I just don’t like the taste of ear plugs in the morning.

Summer of 2000. Back in my shady youth...<br />© Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)
Summer of 2000. Back in my shady youth…
© Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)

After a night of proper sleep things look a whole lot brighter, though. The flat itself is great. The location is lovely, there’s nobody else actually living in the building and it’s only about a 20 minute walk from the office. The window faces south and there’s a working fireplace. Pure quality! Tuomisto’s new piece is pretty interesting and the JoJo office is also great. A nice bunch of people to work with. Plenty of work to be done, but plenty of possibilities to get it done.
Good times! As an artistic director my job is to select the co-productions, residencies and guest performances, curate the annual OuDance festival, develop the visual image of JoJo, audience development and developing the local dance scene. The programming part is self-explanatory curatorial work, but the development stuff is where the magic happens. Of course who I choose to bring to Oulu has a great effect on how the interaction between the guest artists and the local artists will develop the local scene. Also the programming choices will greatly impact on the audience development side. There’s plenty of work to be done on that side. I have a hunch that a wide variety of some good old dancing would be a good start. Intellectual snobbery and cheap populism are the two polars I aim to stay away from. Might sound like I’ll be treading carefully on the golden middle ground. We’ll see about that… First of all I just want some fire! Dancers and choreographers who haven’t totally killed the fire in their bellies with the hip coolness of non-dance. Let’s see what I can find.

Speaking of finding. To find something one needs to be seeking and I sure am. The application deadline for the OuDance 2014 is the 31st of January. I believe that physicality is what sets dance apart as a form of art, so Physicality is the theme of my first three years with JoJo. This year’s OuDance festival’s theme is Physical Imagination. If that resonates with you, fire in an application. The deadline is on the 31st of January. There’s not a huge amount of money. (I’m sure that’s not a surprise to anyone working in the arts field.) Regardless I aim high, so magic is indeed needed. Creating something out of, if not quite nothing, at least very little. Maybe I’ll tear up the balance sheets and divine the future from the shreds or maybe I’ll just stare at them hard until the walls start bending and I see all the possible futures through the endless flow of numbers. On a practical note: funnily enough the costs of bringing over artists from Scandinavia are pretty much the same as bringing people over from the rest of Finland. Comparing international airfares to the prices of train tickets or domestic flights paints a strange picture of the world. I want to strike a balance between local, national and international artists. Time will tell what the possibilities are, especially since I’m also seemingly swimming against the tide by aiming to bring on stage that stuff that some people still seem to think of as dance. Sweaty, skilful, imaginative… Remember that stuff? That stuff that takes actual physical work to explore and cultivate?

Yvonne Rainer had her No Manifesto in 1965. Maybe I’m forming my own Yes Manifesto. I would hazard a guess that it’ll be crystallising during this spring and that this blog will most likely be the platform where the manifesto will get its first outing. I don’t really care if anybody reads that particular outing, or any of the others for that matter, but maybe some of these words will cause someone somewhere to think about their life and their surrounding and maybe some of those thoughts eventually form themselves into, hopefully, positive, actions. Leave behind a better world than you found and all that jazz. What do I know. I’m just an amok monkey with a keyboard. And a production budget.

I like all sorts of dance styles. It’s safe to say that I like dancing in general and that I feel that dance has a part to play in the formation of a healthy society through the development of the sense of physicality of the individual and the sense of physical empathy between people. I have a dream about a world where dance is a part of the daily lives of everyone through being an integral part of the curriculum of schools. Oh, wait. Didn’t Rudolf Steiner dream something like that already and it turned into eurythmy? I might have to read Mr Steiner’s writings to see what’s behind all that hippy stuff. Pop on the latest from Annie and Dave, don the robe and grab my copper stick… Actually I quite liked that one eurythmy class I did at my godson’s school’s open day. Did I say that out loud? That’s neither here nor there, but I do believe that people, young and old, that have a healthy understanding of their bodies and the space they share with other people are more active and capable of clearer physical communication and empathy towards each other. For my little part I want to develop an ongoing outreach and development programme for nurseries, schools and care homes in and around Oulu.

Bust some brain moves, mofo!<br />© Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)
Bust some brain moves, mofo!
© Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)

Multi-disciplinary collaborations, bringing dance to the people through site-specific works, international touring partnerships, community outreach programmes, low-threshold multi-art performance platforms, brain studies on the effects of dancing and watching dance, arts and business partnerships, global residency partnerships… Plenty of ideas that have already been tried and tested by other people elsewhere. I make no bones about actually inventing anything. What I want to do is implement. As Mr Stiller so aptly put it: “Do it. Seriously. C’mon now. Do it.”

About the author

Jarkko Lehmus

Jarkko Lehmus trained at the Finnish National Ballet School and at Millennium Performing Arts in London eventually becoming an award winning soloist at Scottish Ballet. He was also well known for blogging on Balletco.

Now freelance and based in Finland he has worked with Tero Saarinen Company, Susanna Leinonen Company, Finnish National Ballet, David Hughes Dance Company, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Arc Dance Company among others. In his own artistic work Jarkko concentrates on spatial imagination, the physicality of emotions and kinesthetic empathy. He is on Twitter @LehmusWorks and his home on the web is: www.lehmus.works.

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