Jarkko Lehmus Blog: I don’t understand – I experience

2.5h and kilometers on end of this at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto. Awesome.<br />© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)
2.5h and kilometers on end of this at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto. Awesome.
© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)


Jarkko is Artistic Director of the JoJo – Oulu Dance Centre based in Northern Finland (map). This month he blogs on being out of his depth and seeing dance for the experience – not to pass judgement. Possibly. Plus more on this years OuDance Festival…

I don’t understand – I experience

The first Northern European dance company to perform at the Saitama Arts Theatre. Good times!<br />© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)
The first Northern European dance company to perform at the Saitama Arts Theatre. Good times!
© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)
Foolishly I almost promised something in the last entry. I don’t quite remember what it was and I trust that neither will you. The most important thing in my mind at this very moment is the fact that right now is the first evening of a long-awaited holiday. I have been officially on summer holiday from Oulu business since Monday 15th of June. Today is Monday 22nd of June and I’m on a shinkansen from Sendai to Kyoto. Right. How did that happen? Tero Saarinen Company, Morphed, Akiko Tachiki and a few years of work is the answer. As in: the Artistic Director Lehmus started his holiday a week ago when the Artist Lehmus started preparing for the Saitama Arts Theatre gig of TSC’s Morphed and, since TSC paid for the Artist’s flights to Japan, the Artistic Director felt it prudent to seize the opportunity by halting his holiday for one day and arranging a big stack of business meetings in Oulu’s (Japanese) sister city, Sendai. 24 hours with all of one hour of sleep went by and plans were hatched. Result! Now it’s truly time for a holiday!

That said I would still like to spend a little moment talking about understanding and experiencing before I let it all hang out in some nice onsen. I will start chronologically backwards. Obviously. Over the past few days I have made more crap jokes, shared more laughs and had more in-depth conversations than I can count (I’ve only got ten fingers) with people I do not share a common verbal language. A lot got lost in translation, but that was never a fly in the ointment. Instead it was a spice. Where there’s a will there is a way: People understand bodies, spaces, directions and intentions surprisingly well. A lot of fun and games can be had if one, instead of giving up, lets go. That’s my cue to skip hop and jump from Japan to the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies where I spent three days wrestling with the super-bright ideas of world-class theorists around the topic of communicating complex content. Over those three days I understood a very few words (such as “and,” “but” and “if”), but despite that, or possibly due to that, I experienced a huge amount. Most of that mound of experience was occupied by the acute feeling of my own intellectual limitations, but a surprisingly large part was also claimed by a complex cocktail of physical experiences of ideas that I partly understood intellectually, but could not have verbally articulated. Nevertheless I experienced those ideas and felt compelled to dance them. It was a rather strange experience for me and also for the people whose main task for their bodies is to carry around their blazing brains. Apparently my very inarticulate speech/lecture/demonstration at the HCAS event sparked some very interesting conversations and feelings among the academic crowd. How curious.

Lost in translation in Kinosaki.© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)
Lost in translation in Kinosaki.
© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)

The experiences of being completely out of my depth in a totally alien intellectual surrounding (or culture) are truly fascinating. Relating back to my work up in Oulu the outcome of these culturally diverse experiences is that I am even more convinced by the direction I have pushed JoJo’s post-performance talks: We should not be bound by the mere idea of liking or not liking, let alone understanding or not understanding, something we experience. Instead we should relish that experience, whatever it might be. I believe that in the domain of art every single experience and point of view is valid and important. Different experiences create a discussion and discussions open minds. Open minds play better together. An open playground is an interesting and progressive playground. An interesting and evolving life is a good life.

That leads me to the 2015 OuDance festival and JoJo’s core programme of 2016. As per last year’s festival and this year’s core programme there are plenty of different influences and nuances. I want to support, challenge and engage the local Oulu movers and shakers even more with future programming, so we’ve got a lot of different fusions going on again. Both the festival and the core programme feature contemporary infusions of theatre, martial arts, social dancing and street dancing. I believe that JoJo has the possibility to become a global hub of challenging, entertaining and skillful contemporary fusion dance art. I’m not aiming low and I am most definitely not aiming to miss.

Yes. The correct way of giving the finger.<br />© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)
Yes. The correct way of giving the finger.
© Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)
The OuDance festival is in many ways a development of the past year’s ideas, but this year we are aiming to take over the city! The festival used to be called Dance Cornucopia and it specialised in local artists dancing in unexpected public spaces. I want to make that side of the festival flourish again and I also want to expand on the international performance profile. Stretching a structure in two distinct directions is not always easy, so let’s see how this year’s festival goes down. OuDown. In any case I’m really looking forward to getting in on making an impact in the city. Bring the art to the masses and engage with the masses! That’s the plan, anyway, to make the festival more visible and engaging. Do check out the programme at JoJo’s website and let me know what you think. Better yet, come to Oulu, experience the festival and let me know in person!

2016 core programming? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit………. Four world premieres from mainly Finnish artists this time around, a stack of international residency exchanges and of course OuDance! I’ll write more about that later. Promises, promises… But there’s the entire autumn of 2015 still to go! The big news for the autumn after OuDance is the new world premiere of RootlessRoot’s Europium in October! If you can’t make it to Oulu for the premiere the piece will be going on a European tour, so keep an eye out for them.

That’s about it for now. Short and sweet. Next stop Lofoten. Rock on!!!

Kiitos, Japan! Thank You, reader.©Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)
Kiitos, Japan! Thank You, reader.
©Jarkko Lehmus (Click image for larger version)

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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