Jarkko Lehmus Blog: Right here! Right now!

<I>Eyes In the Colours of the Rain</I> by Rootlessroot.<br />© Vojtech Brtnicky. (Click image for larger version)
Eyes In the Colours of the Rain by Rootlessroot.
© Vojtech Brtnicky. (Click image for larger version)

Jarkko is Artistic Director of the JoJo – Oulu Dance Centre based in Northern Finland (map). This month he blogs about himself, trust in the arts, pays homage to Tero Saarinen and talks about his OuDance Festival, which runs from 10-14 September 2014…

Dear reader. It has been such a long time since I’ve had a
proper heart to heart with you that I fear you might have thought that I’d left you altogether. I apologise profusely for my absence. You have been on my mind many times over the past months, but I’ve always supposedly had more important things to do. Like learning to be an artistic director and getting stressed about it. In truth, stopping for a moment, sitting down and contemplating the various situations I’ve found myself in with you might have been of great help. More fool me. Sometimes I just feel that if I’m dealing with very delicate subjects I don’t want to talk about it in public. That leads to bottling up and nothing good comes out of that. Eventually the pressure rises and the cork pops anyway. Should have just taken a bit of time to write, talk and breathe.

So here I am with my broken vows of reaching out to you every month. Are you a friend or an acquaintance? Do we carry on from where we left off or do I need to crack a few jokes, pull a funny face and jump a somersault or two?

I elect to carry on. Always.

Since you are unable to respond at this very moment I am forced to make a decision regardless of what you might think. That decision involves squeezing a few months into a space about the size of a longish paragraph and then moving swiftly on. Like it or not that’s what you’re going to get. If you happen to bump into me you can always complain. I’ll most likely listen to you, feel bad about it for a moment and try to steer the conversation towards how global politics affect the daily lives of artists. The next step would be to crack a couple of really bad jokes in the middle of all the serious talk and either order another one, go from the theatre to the pub and then order another one, feel awkward for a moment and then order another one or part ways and head to our separate pubs to order another one depending on how you reacted to my low-brow humour.Consider yourself forewarned.

Here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about lately: trust. Some could say that I’m a tw*t who’s incapable of participating in a democratic collective art process. That might be true. It is also equally possible that a truly democratic collective art process is a very rare beast. There are so many layers of power built into a creation process of a theatre piece that the person leading the process (yes, there ultimately is one – we might pretend otherwise, but the reality seldom is that rosy,) would have to be very intelligent, open, trusting and well prepared to be able to cope with, and to set up, an actual collaborative process. I have been a part of many processes that pretended to be collaborative, but when push comes to shove the project leaders strike their true colours and tell the performers to shut up and do as they’re told. Sound familiar?

That’s a pattern I’ve seen repeating itself so many times it’s not even funny. But that’s neither here nor there. What I’m really curious about is trust in oneself. A trust that is rooted in an honest yet compassionate look upon oneself. Now that one truly is a beast seldom spotted in the world we live in. One has to trust oneself and love oneself to be able to trust and love others. If I don’t have trust and love for myself I can’t possibly give it to others either. I might even end up trying to prop myself up by stepping on others. Not a good thing to do, that one.

Why have I been thinking about this lately? I have myself to contend with of course. I spend time listening and watching what I do and say, thinking: “Would I trust this man? Is he for real or is it all just a load of hot air?” So often I have tried to change the world around me while overlooking my own flaws. That’s just ignorant and hypocritical. The only things we can affect are our own thoughts and actions. It is very healthy to step into someone else’s shoes and try to see their point of view. It’s a great mental exercise of empathy, but it still doesn’t get us truly inside someone else’s head. It’s just a simulation. Whatever I want to achieve or change in this world has to start from myself. There is no other way. I can only do it myself, but I can’t do it alone.

On the way to Kiilopää fell in Lapland to sing a little birthday song. © Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)
On the way to Kiilopää fell in Lapland to sing a little birthday song. © Jarkko Lehmus. (Click image for larger version)
I have had the great fortune to work and spend a bit of free time with some very lovely, giving, intelligent and challenging people. At this very point I will only pay homage to one particular artist. (For the rest of you glorious people out there: Much love!) That artist is a certain Mr Tero Saarinen. The man just turned 50 and is still going strong. Respect! I look forward to years of learning, sharing, inspiring and aspiring.

Life is an ever evolving, interactive, work-in-progress organism. Art organism. Artmoeba. Err… Right at this very moment this artmoeba is on the cusp of a very interesting step: OuDance Festival 2014. Why is it such an important step? Simply because it is the very first festival (Actually the very first anything.) I’ve ever put together as an artistic director. 11 performances, 1 huge workshop, 24 films, 8 audience discussions and talks, 1 cheeky battle and plenty of good times! Exciting times. A little stressful, but exciting. In the run up to the festival I’ve made many mistakes and wasted a lot of time. I believe that is called learning. Being in possession of a head hewn out of solid bone, it takes me a fair amour of hammering to get anything to sink in properly. I’ll do it better and faster next time. All I can say is that it’s amazing to be right here right now! (At this very airport in the dead of night waiting for Linda and Jozef from Rootlessroot and looking forward to a week of too little sleep and plenty of thinking on my feet.) Yes! Right here! Right now! Keep your eyes peeled for the latest festival updates via JoJo’s Facebook page and my Twitter account. I’ll post another entry here at DanceTabs once the dust settles. Until then: Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World!

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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