Jarkko Lehmus Blog: Worlds and oysters and all that jazz

Shots from an impromptu photo shoot intended for common good. Oh well...© Antti and Antti. (Click image for larger version)
Shots from an impromptu photo shoot intended for common good. Oh well…
© Antti and Antti. (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 a big change in what he does…

Worlds and oysters and all that jazz

A blurred future.© Antti and Antti. (Click image for larger version)
A blurred future.
© Antti and Antti. (Click image for larger version)
The last blog was all about love. Love for life and love for art, since without love trying to make a living in the arts world is sheer madness. Let’s see what this instalment turns out to be about…

I’ve been putting off writing another blog until I’ve got a firm grasp of what’s happening with my contract with JoJo – Oulu Dance Centre. Well… To put it bluntly: three years is way too short a time to get anything meaningful done, but three years is my lot. Over the first two years there’s been a lot of work done that would slowly start to bear fruit, but it’s all going down the pan. At least I am happy to say that last year’s programme brought in some of the best total audience figures for the past ten years and that the feedback from, and rapport with, the artists and the audience has been great. This sort of work really needs long-term vision and commitment and a person that is present and accessible for both the audience and the artists. I was willing and I still am able, but my days are numbered. As I write this on the 29th of February the number is 303.

I don’t want to do a full public post-mortem of the past events up here. All I can say is that I am saddened for all the wasted time, effort and possibilities for the sake of Oulu, Finland and to a certain degree also the international dance scene. Saddened, but not entirely surprised. I’ve had a jolly good run and will go out with a bang with a great 2016 OuDance festival and an excellent programme for 2017. I would like to cordially invite all of you crazies to Oulu to make my last OuDance the best one. The dates are 14-18 September 2016. Bring your bad selves and let’s raise the roof and burn the floor!

But don’t fret if you can’t make it to Oulu. Once I know where I’ll end up next I can always invite you all around again to celebrate new beginnings! There’s always an excuse… Nay! There’s always a reason for a party!

These couple of years of cutting my teeth as an artistic director have given me a very interesting perspective on the inner workings of the international dance scene and widened my professional network even more. These are invaluable assets that I will take with me anywhere I go from here. I am really looking forward to developing my skill set as a facilitator and creator of art. This is a very good foundation to build new experiences on. Fantastic! Worlds and oysters and all that jazz!

I am not kidding myself about anything, though. Most likely there will be some hard and confusing times up ahead. I don’t think I’ll stoop quite as low as selling hot dogs from a trolley in the middle of the winter or eating cold beans out of a tin because I couldn’t afford anything else. I’ve been there already, so I’m entirely comfortable for the world to friggin’ show me what it’s got!!! I can always fall back on teaching Zumba again anyway…

Now about this writing thing. First it was a challenge to figure out why I am writing for a UK-based publication {with an international outlook and writing team! Ed) when I moved back to Finland. Then the challenge was to figure out what can I write about while being an artistic director without creating a massive shit storm. Now I feel that I’d like to zip up my boots and go back to my roots: stop giving a shit about what other people think and start writing about what I feel needs to be talked about. … To be honest I very seldom wrote about what needed to be talked about. Most of my scribblings were either full of fun or bile. Or occasionally both. A little like life. And believe you me there’s certainly plenty of life ahead! I’ve still got my Dancers’ Career Development grant waiting to be used up and a few other tricks up my sleeve. Plenty of things to write about in the future, me thinks. Which is good, since I have truly missed the writing. Little precious moments of introspection and perspective. And fun. And bile.

Reach for the light, baby!.© Antti and Antti. (Click image for larger version)
Reach for the light, baby!
© Antti and Antti. (Click image for larger version)
What I’ve realised over the past two years is that it just isn’t healthy for a person to put themselves down or to be put down by others. That said there’s no excuse for being an arse. It’s just as important not to put other people down. Being back in Finland has reminded me of the importance of how and what we communicate to each other especially physically. Regardless of whether we are aware of it or not we send powerful signals to each other and to ourselves through our physicality. I firmly believe that developing kinaesthetic empathy and physical communication are some of the strong points of dancing and watching dance. That’s a topic for another blog. Reel ‘em back in again! … Right. What I’ve known for a long time is that me being myself can also be challenging for other people to deal with. I’m more of a bespoke piece of kit rather than an off-the-peg item. I need to know what I am playing with and so do other people. Fair play all round… Playing with fire… Trying to put the fire down… Hiding the candle… Err… I was once working at an event where a couple of lovely ladies were hiding burning candles. Shady youth. Anyhow… I was the kind of kid who used to take things apart to see how they worked, so it’s no surprise that I’ve grown up (or at least aged) into a guy who sticks his nose into everything and asks “Why?” I know what I am good at and what I can offer. I also know pretty well what I need to work on, so although I have no idea what is going to happen next I am happy to be able to breathe again. And I want to keep on breathing. To keep on burning. So the challenge is to find places and people to work, grow, breathe and burn bright with. I guess the real moral (Moral? Me? I guess I am growing up.) of this rather fragmented and ever-so-slightly nonsensical story is that thou shalt always be thyself! That doesn’t mean total anarchy and debauchery (I must be suffering from a severe case of growing upinitis.), but instead about finding ways to fly high and shine bright in your own personal way while enabling other people to do so as well.

Looks like in the end I have in some way ended up writing about love again. Yes indeed. Shine bright you crazy diamonds!

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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