PRESS CLIPS & REVIEWS
“The topic is the passage of time and the traces it leaves on the thin surfaces of our faces, but at the same time, the chain of meanings that creates itself in the space takes our focus to the surface layers of the suffocating earth; to touch, fiddle and squeeze the fragile skin of the earth. Have we already lost it all?
Can art influence the future of the earth? People tend to react to inequality, war, migration issues or the climate crisis only when the issue comes close enough.
Epidermis aims to juxtapose the most intimate, private body and the unimaginably vast, collectively experienced earth to share history, present, common future.”
– Emma Vainio, HS
“Skin brings the touch into the focus. The performers touch and explore each other’s bare skin, gently and harshly.
The whole performance is like a surreal poetic exploration to human skin, touching and intimacy.
The dramaturgy of the performance is magnificient.“
– Annikki Alku, Demokraatti
“Kekäläinen has always been a master at how the mundane turns into strangeness. But our contemporary times challenge this skill even further. The world is already strange, paradigms are shifting. How can an artist react to that? In the work Parvi–Flock, Kekäläinen answers this question sovereignly.
Instead of reacting, she builds a whole new world. And above all, a new political world, because the work that observes flocking and singing together focuses, in my opinion, precisely on the change of forces.
How should this Anthropopene era be organized so that a herd of catastrophic news and routine solutions to them wakes up from their sleep and function?”
– Maria Säkö, HS
IF I WOULD LOSE MY VOICE (2020)
“Very few dance artists dare to be as committedly political as Sanna Kekäläinen.”
“Whereas many dance pieces are busy with similar kind of questions, very few dare to be as truly and concretely political in such a committed way as Kekäläinen – and without falling into the trap of daily politics. And above all, in every new piece she dares to go further than before.”
“If I Would Lose My Voice needs to be looked at very carefully, because it doesn’t manifest any change in its movement vocabulary, but rather reveals facts of humanity in the era of Anthropocene, transcending the individual: the need for touch, the longing of connecting, sexuality, the need for meaning, the attempt to perceive facts by grasping them.”
– Maria Säkö, HS
“Kekäläinen’s powerful performance and dance work deals with and illustrates our time, which has come to be known as the Anthropocene – a new geological epoch – where human influence over nature is the main distinguishing factor. If I Would Lose My Voice is not an exaggerated dystopia; it is a study of how we live, it is a picture of the absurd imbalance that prevails on this planet that has been taken over by a species with a big brain and a shrinking heart.”
“The most outrageous and at the same time ingenious image that Kekäläinen has created, and which could serve as an illustration for the Anthropocene, looks like this: A half-naked man holding a large chainsaw in one hand. With a posture of a shy and lost child, he holds the other hand around his own penis.”
“As an artistic whole, the work is impressive.”
“If I Would Lose My Voice turns out to be a masterpiece. Its message is crystal clear, the questions it asks are massive. The context, as said, eerie. What is the next means Mother Earth takes to wake us up? Ultimately, it is about love. To be in contact or not. And consequences of not being that.”
– Sonja Vuori, HBL
”Sanna Kekäläinen brings in radical feminist movement.”
”The inmense hall gives exactly big enough stage to approach xenophobia. And oh how multidimensionally it is used! The nakedness of Kekäläinen in this inmense hall is absolutely something else than exposing the female body in the way female nakedness is exposed nowadays in our capitalistic system and patriarchate.”
”The sound design points out the large form of Kekäläinen’s work”
”Vieras–Främling–Stranger organizes thoughts and movement to endlessly changing angles and positions”
– Maria Säkö, HS
”The work proceeds with the intensive charisma of the performer and is philosophically extremely concentrated, which is typical of Kekäläinen.”
”The way Kekäläinen uses her own naked body challenges the way Western art canonises female corporeality.”
– Tuomas Rantanen, VOIMA
”Sanna Kekäläinen is a truly original artist in the Finnish field of art.”
– Tove Djupsjöbacka, HBL
HULLUT (Insane) 2018
”Sanna Kekäläinen’s Hullut (Insane) is firmly attached to the history of insanity as well as the very current discussion how mental disorders should be treated. The dancers cling to each another, support each other and strive for an existence where they are connected in a way that can’t be defined from the outside. Kekäläinen commands the stage from within. In one of the most impressive scenes of the work she spreads a set of plates on stage in a grand circle, making it visible that there is a community present on stage all the time. Fidgeting, yet flowing – still, yet ravishingly sensitive — choreography that shakes the juxtapositions.”
– Maria Säkö, HS
“With the over three decades long career and over seventy stage works, Sanna Kekäläinen is exceptional in Finnish contemporary dance. Time after time, Kekäläinen’s performances have provided new insights on topics such as gender, sexuality and power relations in political, social or cultural terms. The focus on innovation, influence and change appear as a red thread throughout her body of work. – – – the thought and the happening on stage is instantaneous and fresh by the unrestrained performers who aren’t holding themselves back.”
– Jan-Peter Kaiku, HBL
HAFED COLLAGE OF DIFFERENCES AND FRAGILITY, Tanz im August -festival, Berlin 2017
” – – the intimate atmosphere and the calm and irresistible attitude of the movements transform into a touching and sensitive choreography.”
” – – in her works, Kekäläinen passionately brings on stage central questions of our existence, and offers a persistent resistance to judgment and polarization.”
-Elisabeth Leopold, Tanznezt.de
”The sound of cicadas turns one meditatively to oneself (and) – – the insect-like movements of Kekäläinen (the insect kingdom as a symbol for a subculture) do the rest. A network of metaphors emerges which brings forth alternative relations and tensions between the individual and the society, and between conformity and otherness.”
”Kekäläinen’s performance is a subtle and a very personal revolt against all brutal and inhumane.”
-Christine Matschke, Tanzraumberlin.de
“Sanna Kekäläinen created an experiential stage in Hafed Collage of Differences and Fragility together with Maija Karhunen. When the performers test their bodies’ possibilities of movement alternately, gently nudging one another or frolicking their toes playfully, a real empathy can be felt – and a deliberately set difference between body and person. What liberating message for a dance festival, one thinks: No one is to reduce his (or her) body.”
– Elena Philipp, Berliner Morgenpost
“Finnish Sanna Kekäläinen breaks viewing habits in her radical performance Hafed Collage of Differences and Fragility. In a duo with Maija Karhunen similarities, differences and approach of the two nude bodies are explored. It starts with a solo of Kekäläinen, where she is exploring with her body. She becomes the Observer when Karhunen comes on stage. As a sign of connectedness she ties Karhunen’s hair into a ponytail like she has. In the end both women are sitting down, the little one nestled against the taller one who embraces her. They look into the auditorium: a touching image of familiarity. The piece delicately asks what the beauty of a body is.”‘
– Karin Coper, O-Ton, Kulturmagazin mit Charakter
“In the end art will not surrender to any explanation nor will it be a servant to anything, but is a continuous excercise, a continuous journey towards integrity.”
Maria Säkö, HS
”— opens up as a political statement on contemporary society, the wasting of natural resources, the pursuit to maximize one’s own satisfaction — Kekäläinen breaks her own movement sequences and sharply electrifies them, as soon as the flow starts to take her she cuts it and changes the tempo —”
Sara Nyberg, Teatteri&Tanssi -lehti
“In her intimate and dominantly white studio presents Kekäläinen with a sure and uncompromising grip her new work. In it the physical action, the text and the music form a dialectic, re- and deconstructing, dynamic whole.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, HBL
HAFED COLLAGE OF DIFFERENCES ANF FRAGILITY (2016)
”Kekäläinen’s unique ability to bring on stage flesh that is free from norms shows in Hafed collage of differences and fragility.”
Maria Säkö, HS
”The collage as a method enables the comparison of ambivalent, disagreeing and controversial elements, which opens up new ways to address the connections and differences between them. — The charismatic performers make their own interpretations on the basis of Kekäläinen’s movement language magnificently.”
Mia Hannula, Turun Sanomat
”The collage is a beautiful staging of the fragility that unites us and of the physical differences that divide us. The piece arouses questions, and the pious atmosphere lingers on long afterwards. Kekäläinen shakes us up.”
Sonja Mäkelä, Hufvudstadsbladet
“Passion is rigorous and demanding, but also an enchanting journey to desire, pleasure and love. Passion is a political work. And at the same time a very private work. These cannot be separated from eachother in this work. Passion deepens the spectator’s understanding of why there is a need to point out a scapegoat in a society, and who has the right to love and in what way.”
Maria Säkö, HS
“The creative electricity between the bodily, the non-verbal and the conceptual expression is outstanding. The poised, uncanny and naked intensity of these very skilled performers strips the spectator out of his/her conceptions.”
Mia Hannula, TS
DIVA VULVA – Body as a Symbol of Capitalism (2015)
“In those moments where time stops and mind clears, Diva Vulva approaches sacredness.
The roots of Kekäläinen’s movement and thinking are in the gender-theories of the 1980’s. Her being a forerunner is based on the practice she has created on those theories – a refined practice which radiates self-luminous wisdom.
It is again about queer-politics, i.e. the allowance of diverse bodies and gender orientations, which is the prerequisite for all life.”
Maria Säkö, HS
“The impression is at first classical, not unlike Nijinsky’s faun, which then morphs into a sequence of delirium where the changes of childhood and adulthood, strength and weakness, budding and withering are mirrored in dynamic metamorphoses.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, HBL
“— Kekäläinen draws one in with her presence — to look at these “disturbing images”, as she calls them. And she really knows how to create these images: a twitching nymph, a tentatively-wobbly woman with an axe, hitting with a belt, making love to an imaginary partner in leather jacket or to a table leg. Images of pleasure and images of power.”
Aino Kukkonen, Teatteri&Tanssi
PRIVATE – Narcissism remix (2014)
“The acceptance of the multiplicity of human sexuality is central to democracy, which Kekäläinen unapologetically shows.”
“Kekäläinen’s last spring’s work SPEECH & SPECACTLE seemed to anticipate a whole new direction in movement. In Private she goes even further — Kekäläinen’s renewal is born out of a genuine reaction to what’s happening in our time.”
Maria Säkö, Helsingin Sanomat
QUEER ELEGIES at Manifesti-festival, Turku, September 2014
What, who – something that isn’t quite ok
Mia Hannula, Turun Sanomat, 22.9.2014
Choreographer-dancer Sanna Kekäläinen’s solo work Queer Elegies was seen at the Manifesti-festival, in Turku, in the spirit of Turku Pride day. The performance travels in the landscapes of dance, spoken performance, theory and activism creating its own artistic manifest. The narrative of the work opens and reflects its construction, in its core the maker’s 24 years of experience in working with gender as a dance artist, the proposal of representation of gender on stage and the question of what kind of discourse we would like to have about our genitals.
The crystallisations bring to mind Judith Butler’s analysis in her work Gender Trouble, on how specifically the genitals are loaded with cultural meanings the most. Through this, gender has become the most significant definer of personality. The perceptions of gender depend on what kind of meanings the body is given historically and culturally. Kekäläinen has brought on stage her dancer’s instrument, her own body, in all its naked corporality. How it is perceived has been, and is varying. The ways how a naked omnipresent woman is represented are strictly controlled.
With a queer touch the performance throws critical perceptions on identity and ways to perform into movement, thus twisting also its own expression. What is to be taken seriously, ironic, comical, provoking or perverted, is defined in the eye of the spectator. Elegy seems to be far away from this mood, but its meaning is crystallized in the sentence: “it’s about separation and its painfulness, which causes melancholy”. For painful are the divisions of identity, especially in their othering, excluding and discriminating forms. But instead, the work celebrates the possibility of diversity and the odd multiplicity of identity.
The narrative of the solo takes us also to a Freudian dream and to unconscious which expresses the present but repressed strange, scary and unfamiliar side of us (unheimlich). In the dream one is “in the orient, somewhere like Algeria, Yemen or Libya” and one sees a transgender metamorphosis happening in the chain of generations. The political meanings which expand from the artistic metaphors are truly accurate.
Queer Elegies depicts how different notions on identity are attached to the body and movement in different relations of perception, experience and conceptualization. Changing black minimalist pieces of clothing forms differently gendered, division palatalising and a queering, very kekäläinenlike expression.
The fir tree, of the elements on the stage, symbolizes the northern identity. In the dancer’s narrative it is also the metaphor for love. The fir tree becomes a means for masturbation into which “it is hard to penetrate”. As it is also hard to penetrate to the meaning of identity, love, the other person, art or to anything else. The possibility of the other is manifested in the capacity to think and act more openly.
Mia Hannula, Turun Sanomat, 22.9.2014
SPEECH & SPECTACLE (2014)
“Sanna Kekäläinen listens with a sharp ear to the political voices of Finnish society, to which she answers with her feministic-philosophic power in her work Speech & Spectacle.”
“The criticism on spectacle is taken to its culmination. When the performance ends, the bodies have suggested new trajectories, new relations between speech and the body, new roots – also to society.”
Maria Säkö, Helsingin Sanomat
“Speech & Spectacle is a political work on many levels. It is gender politics and politics on society, but first and foremost widely understood art politics. All this is pierced by ethical thinking.”
“As the name of the work says, it is about the freedom to speak, to represent a gender or to make distinctive art. But, it is as much about bravery.”
“When Kekäläinen dances her exquisite, fierce and grotesque movements, one cannot help but to watch in admiration, filled with hope and in awe at the capacity of the endless ways of expression of the human body.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat
“A female body, which is not filtrated through masculine gaze, is performing. This body is not an object to use power on, nor a product for consumption.”
“The private body on stage feels completely revolutionary.”
Isabella Rothberg, Hufvudstadsbladet
“The three dancers move with admirable certainty. The movement trajectories are new – such that very few would dare to make or even invent. Kekäläinen’s counter-reading of gender and the human body is perfect. Her dance escapes definition.”
Anton Vanha-Majamaa, Cult24
“Sexuality is a daring theme, and Kekäläinen has wisely chosen a private and a reflective way to present that. She doesn’t lecture her stuff straight at the audience, but steps gradually deeper and deeper into the body and mind.”
Sara Nyberg, Skenet.fi
QUEER ELEGIES on tour in Mexico (April 2014)
“Queer Elegies captivated its audience not only by the perfection of the movements by the Finnish dancer, but also by the professionalism and dedication of Sanna to her solo on stage, conveying her passion for contemporary dance.” culturasinaloa.gob.mx
“Provocative, unique, risky, creative; these were some of the faces that the Finnish company K&C Kekäläinen & Company reveiled during their participation in the International Festival José Limón with their latest work, Queer Elegies.” noroeste.com
“Queer theory behind this work seeks to reflect on the cultural validity of different ways of living sexuality; it is a theory for the resistance of various social groups, which by their sexual choice have been subject to discrimination. Therefore, standing naked in the scene is a political act, the body stripped of all generic connotation.” Portal Escénico
QUEER ELEGIES (2013)
”In her sovereignty, authority and grotesque humor, Sanna Kekäläinen is a fundamentally groundbreaking performer also in how she handles the multiple representations of gender. In the age when many of her colleagues have to find new ways of expressing, she is as alert and physically capable as she ever was! All this forms a strong, thought and emotion provoking experience of highest quality. ”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet
“In Queer Elegies Sanna Kekäläinen pushes her audience to find again the roles of her life, thus finding unforeseen angles on her themes of gender and power. Kekäläinen represent a ballerina, a male dancer, a confused child. She dives into Freudian dreams. Who is responsible of the gender roles? Who has the power? Kekäläinen comes extremely close without a hint of sentimentality.”
Maria Säkö, Helsingin Sanomat
THE BEAST – A Book in an Orange Tent, Il Giardino delle Esperidi Festival, 2013
Rosanna Ratti , hubculture.it, 2013
“Small exploratory gestures, testing, feeling, experimenting. Nudity is both gentle and strong. There are echoes of storm and cold.”
“To return inside. A ritual. Sanna Kekäläinen is the beast, Sanna Kekäläinen is dance itself.”
In Italian here
THE BEAST – A Book in an Orange Tent, Il Giardino delle Esperidi Festival, 2013
Damiano Pignedoli, dramma.it, 2013
“An orange tent in the middle of the stage. Inside and outside of it, the solist of THE BEAST – A BOOK IN AN ORANGE TENT, Sanna Kekäläinen – (Ella Tommila’s photo), distils in the microphone her rarefied words about Existence and Being showing through moving corporeal images the substantial difference that only her imaginative action can connect to a reintegrated sphere, beyond every categorical and segmented isolation. After leaving the interior of the tent and gradually taking all clothes off, she goes on – lost gaze, like watching ‘to somewhere else’ – to give movements and forms of style to her white nordic body which goes through the surrounding space while exploring it.
On the stage a large disposition of fading lights, the naked (or otherwise half-undressed) Kekälainen rubs and touches herself, drags and pulls the invisible with her hands, cuddling up and often opening her legs and arms as if she were a spider or a “bird of beauty”, as if she wanted to enter and go deep “inside her airplane of fantasy”, where she can draw at forms and expressions opened to the enriching metamorphoses of life. For this reason the changing of aspects, postures and movements of the animal life nourishes her choreography, in which she also articulates sounds and breaks movements in pieces, she touches the floor and melts in her gestures, after finding a temporary balance in the grace of balletlike exercizes originating in the artistical memory of the woman artist.
The search of a extraordinary beautiful “tremble of joy” goes to the conclusion with pouring rhythms from far away, with joyous sounds from Africa or from Arabian Nights, which actually open to the dance other spheres to be explored and lived: like on the waves of the dreaming wind of a recomposed reality where Existence and Being twirl undivided, without hiding each other and playing together.”
In Italian here
THE BEAST – A Book in an Orange Tent, 2011
”Sanna Kekäläinen’s newest solo THE BEAST – A Book in an Orange Tent is communication between human-beings that escapes labels, which is really needed in these times. Kekäläinen approaches understanding the world from microscopically small observations to large scale political questions. She deepens her handwriting known form her earlier works, in which movement, written word and thought unite.”
“Kekäläinen is the performer, protagonista, of the drama, ‘the beast’, who observes the world through exaggeration, opposites and destruction. She is again completely, indisputably dedicated performer; movement, emotions and words flow through her.”
“She remembers with her entire nude body, with her every cell. Thinking isn’t separated or alienated from the human body.”
“More straight-forwardly than Kekäläinen’s works before, this work is questioning western thinking which is constructed on opposites. Can a person be simultaneously inside and outside? East and west? A man and a woman?”
Maria Säkö, HS, 30.11.2011
”By deconstructing familiar constructions Sanna Kekäläinen’s new soloproject THE BEAST simultaneously conceptualizes and gives physical forms to different cultural and political meanings.”
“The tent becomes a symbol for many things. It is a tent of memories, a tent of beauty and a cradle for poetry, which hides the beast inside. From the tent Kekäläinen performs her poetic monologue in English with her pleasantly caressing voice. In the multidimensional speech the focus is drawn especially to the manner the speech problematizes the relation between inside and outside. Through Kekäläinen’s speech the audience gains access inside the tent.”
“Kekäläinen’s works never function on a superficial level nor do they offer easy solutions; the relation between the body and the mind is made visible through colliding the structure and the contents in ways out of the ordinary.”
“Kekäläinen is dancing out the human-beast within her.”
Kaisa Kurikka, TS, 29.11.2011
“The Beast is the newest work in Kekäläinen’s long and exceptional series. Those who have followed Kekäläinen’s productions for long, like me, find familiarities in the grip, material and scenic presentation — I am once again fascinated by the unique power and intensity of Kekäläinen’s unrestrained progress.”
“The scenic language switches freely between humorous, grotesque and alertly physical.”
“Sanna Kekäläinen really masters integrating conceptualism and bodily expression in her art. When the emphasis is in the bodily expression, the endless source for research, she is more the generator than a filter for the presented themes. She is all the time the subject, the protagonista, in her scenic world which is formed through text, props and interpretation.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, HBL, 4.12.2011
“The last two years Sanna Kekäläinen has been engaged in exploring basic emotions in connection to today’s world. The perspective has varied between personal, cultural and social aspects that invite to reflection as well as to empathizing.”
“Last season the theme of happiness was throroughly examined in Onni-Bonheur-Happiness. Shame became the leading theme for the work Häpeä-Shame. As a dialectic continuum Kekäläinen puts now shamelessness in focus. The theme becomes concrete through the voyerism and publicity-game we day to day have to take part of. The representation is powerful, appealing and extremely intimate in K&C’s small, white studio. We see tableaus and thematical pair and group scenes that alternate between acticity and observing, as well as unity and friction. Often the sublime is set against the grotesque – for example in Kekäläinen’s striking joint-dance to Alban Berg’s piano sonata.”
“The scenical expression is conceptually structured and combines different art forms. New and recycled materials reveal variety and strength throughout the work. The dancers have a lot resting on their shoulders. That creates, both individually and collectively, a distinctively nuanced interpretation.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, 1.12.2010, HBL
“Through shamelessness One achieves power. One recognizes a loser by the fact that a loser feels ashamed.”
“The second part of Sanna Kekäläinen’s Shame-project is progressing dynamically through dense scenes and details.”
Maria Säkö, 29.11.2010, Helsingin Sanomat
ONNI-BONHEUR-HAPPINESS 2, April 2010
“Kekäläinen combines conseptuality with her physical presence in a way typical for her. She processes happiness as a meaning and as an abstraction and approaches it from different angles: the pure pleasure of existence, geography, childhood memories, orgasm. Simultaneously, as their opposite, are present anger, the eternal tragedy of the family, pornography that flattens humanity and human being’s desire to make consumption into a religion.”
“Kekäläinen dramatizes herself, but at the same time she disappears in a way. At the end it is not about her, but about painful – or pleasurable – things, that are rammed through her like Santa Teresa of Avila was pierced by God’s iron spear. Although few people believe in the possibility of a catharsis on stage anymore, Onni-Bonheur-Happiness is a very good try to deliver that kind of a purifying simultaneity of pleasure and pain. Happiness is a stage, a place, through which people are connected with something larger than themselves, together with others.”
Maria Säkö, Helsingin Sanomat, 9.4.2012
“Sanna Kekäläinen’s new work Häpeä – Shame is an intensive work with substance and it is equally as strong as it is touching.”
“The action on stage is symbolically charged and strongly communicative – – it takes turns with Kekäläinen’s own monologues that put flesh on the theme in question with different personal, existential and cultural points of views.”
“The conceptual and concrete form a seamless whole in the characteristic and unique style of Kekäläinen.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, 22.1.2010, HBL
“Shame entrenches the mind”
“Sanna Kekäläinen’s work shows a human oppressed by shame.”
”Kekäläinen is again using a lot of text, crossing over art-boundaries and is getting her every gesture filled with the weight of her thinking.”
“Kekäläinen’s existence on stage isn’t aiming for the seduction or entertainment of the audience despite all her humoristic characteristics. “
“Shame gets repeatedly new and inventive forms – – Kekäläinen’s work is searching for the boundaries of portraying a human being.”
“In a time, when artists are marketing their works as branded products, we need artistic acts that connect with the way people today see and analyze this world. For this reason, orientating on a specific topic where conceptuality and reality collide is very much up to date. In best examples, as in Häpeä-Shame, the artist succeeds to dig deep into the complex mind of a human being. “
Maria Säkö, 18.1.2010, HS
ONNI-BONHEUR-HAPPINESS , Turku, Manifesti-festival, September 2009
“ Dealing with the concept of Happiness, Kekäläinen moves sovereignly from critic towards capitalism to personal history, from psychoanalytical to sacred, even to deity. “
“ Kekäläinen has analyzed her subjects throroughly until the very heart of them, and doesn’t toss out anything unnecessary.”
“ Kekäläinen’s dancing and the whole range of expression, is very broad, fascinating and her physical existance is always authentically holistic. She doesn’t have to artificially maintain boundaries between abstract and material, philosophical and poetical, physical and mental but she indicates their incontrovertible connection.”
“It’s never about pleasing the audience in Kekäläinen’s work. It bothers and touches. It might be sentimental to write this, but in any case: the way Kekäläinen makes art is sheer Happiness.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat, 14.9.2009
Afternoon of a Faun, 2006 & Onni-Bonheur-Happiness, 2009,
in Tanz ist-festival, Austria
“The Excellently Interpreted Faun”
“Kekäläinen brings on the stage her enormously concentrated body- and movement-language.”
“She is perfect as interpreter and performer in every smallest move and in every smallest statement. She has the wits to incorporate small humorous insertions without disturbing the wholeness of her message.”
“Kekäläinen will make every spectator, who is searching for innovation and perfection – also calm ingenuity – in the field of dance, truly satisfied.”
Christa Dietrich, Voralberger Nachrichten, 11.6.2009.
“Direct, outright and uncompromised“
”The artist states uncompromised arguments on different aspects of existence, specially from the angle of femininity.”
“Tenderly she goes through personal refences and perspectives on consumption binge, and thus she little by little reveals how consumption destroys emotions, individuality and existing. She searches for more and more intensive perceptions and radical verbal ways to question consumer-society.”
Martin Juen, Voralberger Tageszeichnung, 13.6. 2009.
“With a massive soloperformance Sanna Kekäläinen presents the theme Happiness from societal, philosophical, art- and culture-historical and also personal aspects. She gets in and out off different costumes and beings when she changes aspects. She reasons in monologue-form and gives a corporeal display.”
“She is the primus motor on stage and the sovereign protagonist with a firm grip of both matter, audience and game – like the genius and versatile renaissance-artists! The changes of perspective are very quick and the handling very intensive.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to follow Kekäläinen’s artistry for over 20 years. Conceptual features have been seen in her work from the very beginning as well as an interest for existential, societal, historical and philosophical topics.“
“Now we see the richness and the wide views in the exceptionally strong solo-performances of recent years. That the intellectual and the emotional exist on the same level in her performances have I always liked the best.“
“One gets so strongly impressed every time by Kekäläinen’s performing. She gives her all every time. That is the thing that makes her artistry last through time and what speaks to all audiences.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, 24.2.2009
“In her work, Kekäläinen is again in the very heart, in which the whole art of dance as an art dwells, is born, breathes and also dies, if it looses this heart. When one has reached this heart, and has that uncompromised insight based on very deep bodily understanding and level of professionalism which Kekäläinen has, one doesn’t need to invent any post-it-meanings or -narratives for ones works.”
Olli Ahlroos, www.liikekieli.com, 4.3.2008
“Pää-Head brings back to the spectator some of those forms of bodily existing, which have disappeared from the ready-chewed bodily images that are produced by the present western mediasociety. The work both deconstructs and reconstructs the conceptions of self and its consistency.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat -newspaper, 27.2. 2008
“Sanna Kekäläinen’s latest work, the Puna-Red-Rouge solo for herself, is awesome. It keeps you in its grip every moment because Kekäläinen fills the time and space by constantly transforming and changing into something new. . No one can move like Sanna Kekäläinen. Her moving never cease to surprise and amaze, to fascinate the viewer. In Red, Kekäläinen electrifies with her voice and talent as a singer. . The controlled and the uncontrolled, the general and the personal, are simultaneously written in Kekäläinen’s movement and voice, her body.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat -newspaper
“Very few of our dance artists can create a solo like Sanna Kekäläinen, one that opens out at myriad levels, including the political, cultural, philosophical and personal. . In her hands the solo form grows into something entirely different from a personal manifestation. Dance and the corporality become a form of expression for thoughts and reflection. And vice versa. . There is nothing in the whole that could be classified as detached or unmotivated. Kekäläinen has the ability to create a thrilling impression that anything could happen at the next instant. . Her unrestrained metamorphoses are purely phenomenal in terms of both concept and physical expression. The work as a whole gives us great freedom to construct our own understanding and, through that, to partake in the creative process.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet -newspaper
“Sanna Kekäläinen has one of the most unforgettably peculiar stage presences of anyone working today. A limbre, living avant-garde cartoon, she fusses, fidgets, folds and unfolds her elongated flesh like origami . Puna-Red-Rouge was surprising … intermittently fascinating.”
Donald Hutera, Dance Europe, October 07
Puna-Red-Rouge in Stockholm in Dansens Hus
“Sometimes, but only rarely, one experiences a performance that is so saturated with contents, both from an existentialistic and artistic aspect, that it takes your breath away. Puna-Red-Rouge (Lilla Scenen, Dance House 26/9) by the frontline representative of Finnish dance, choreographer and dancer Sanna Kekäläinen, is such a performance. —- It is not common to find skilled dancers among performance artists, but Kekäläinen is a very skilled dancer and it is through the danced sections the performance is gaining its prominence and they are also the highlights of the performance.”
Lena Andrén, dansportalen.se, 2008
“Ibland, men bara ytterst sällan, får man uppleva en föreställning som är så mättad på innehåll såväl ur en existentialistisk som konstnärlig aspekt att man hisnar. Puna-Red-Rouge (Lilla Scenen, Dansens Hus 26/9) av den finska dansens främsta företrädare, koreografen och dansaren Sanna Kekäläinen, är en sådan föreställning. Verket inleds av att Kekäläinen ger publiken vad man skulle kunna kalla en verbal introduktion, en berättelse om livets väsentligheter. Men det finns inte ett enkelt förhållande mellan berättelsen och det som därefter följer, en mix mellan dans och performance. Man kan till och med fråga sig om delarna verkligen har ett samband, eller om Kekäläinen lägger ut villospår. Hur det än är upplever jag att Kekäläinen genom berättelsen ger publiken något att binda upp sin tolkning av föreställningen på men att man om man vill kan välja att bortse från det vilket ger publiken både trygghet och frihet.
Det är inte vanligt att finna skickliga dansare bland performanceartister men Kekäläinen är en mycket skicklig dansare och det är genom de dansade avsnitten som föreställningen får tyngd och de är också föreställningens höjdpunkter.”
Lena Andrén, dansportalen.se, 2008
“A body, a soul, razor-sharp brains and a great big heart: Sanna Kekäläinen speaks truly with her entire power of self , assertively but at the same time absolutely disarmingly.”
”Kekäläinen’s vast integrity and belief on a spectator as thinking and feeling individual make Puna-Red-Rouge essentially strong a statement.“ Olsson also praises the fully undisputed uncompromised quality, the originality and always astonishing and polemic character of the performance, as well as Kekäläinen’s quality as performer and dancer.
Cecilia Olsson, Dagens Nyheter, 28.9.2008
”Kekäläinen is a clown who refuses to conform.”
Anna Ångström, Svenska Dagbladet, 28.9.2008
The Afternoon of a Faun and La Petrushka, 2006
“This performance, The Afternoon of a Faun reflects perfectly the style of Sanna Kekalainen presented at previous editions of Lublin Festival: after performances exploring the human’s body and the social circumstances influencing its existence, this time the Finnish choreographer and dancer has reached for the myth and created again a fascinating performance.”
Andrzej Z. Kowalczyk, Extra16 November 2006
“The half an hour long solo is a wild combination of Kekäläinen’s characteristic movement language and Kari Hukkila’s text, which are complemented by Debussy’s impressionistic composition. Kekäläinen’s figure, a human transformed to an animal, functions in a state of narcissism and auto-eroticism. In the movement the animal and the human blend, the figure kisses itself occasionally and sniffs its own scent. One IS following Kekäläinen’s movement and doing intensively, it does not let go” ” Kekäläinen’s movement language is original and truly demanding and so captivating for the audience.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat 24.4.2006
“The place of performance, groups intimate rehearsal studio in Cable Factory, functions perfectly for these crystallised intensive as well as strongly thought-provoking and emotionally charged works in the smaller scale” “Her interpretation has steadfast authority and a subtle grasp to this versatile and physical performance with its conceptual depth.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet 1.5.2006
CREATURE and Unidentified dancer, 2006
“The works are philosophical and conceptual, and in the context of Finnish contemporary dance, Sanna Kekäläinen has a unique way of embodying abstract concepts.” “The thought of “being whoever” is extremely fascinating especially in relation to dance. Since, dance is often understood as an extension of the dancing self’s identity, as an expression of one’s own bodily identity. Becoming “whoever” is revolutionary philosophy and identity policy in dance, and hence very welcoming.” “Sanna Kekäläinen and Katri Soini are magnificent dancers, who are aware of their every gesture and movement.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat, Finland, January, 2006
“Kekäläinen’s conceptual aesthetics and novel way of representing femininity is pathbreaking in the Finnish dance scene.” “Most meaningful is however the movement language.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, January, 2006
“How to exist without alterity, the other? How to live without metaphysics: without an idea, symbol, afterlife, identity, truth, God, absoluteness… Physical moving body is not more true than a word, it does not tell the truth or lie less than language. They both share the experience of being thrown to the world. Derrida deconstructs language with language, Kekäläinen deconstructs movement with movement.”
Anna Makkonen, Web magazine www.liikekieli.com, Finland, January, 2006
“…The archaic “animal” – a kind of a “dream animal” with deliciously articulated movements- danced by Kekäläinen herself,..”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, April, 2005
“…The aesthetics of the new work TEO fits into its author’s long series of works smoothly. … Among the work’s most impressive scenes, in its grotesque beauty and cheerful humour, was Kekäläinen’s solo where through an ecstatic breathing sequence she ends up to describe consumers’ insatiableset of values verbally. … Kekäläinen’s movements emphasise joints and bones, resulting in marionette-like expression that looks not only directed but also mechanical. It brings an ironic shade to the whole piece of work. This is often the way that movement and the tradition of dance have been used to create a contextual frame of reference.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Tanssi-magazine, Finland, February 2005
“Sanna Kekäläinen is one of the “big ones” in the Finnish contemporary dance scene. Kekäläinen has worked two decades and in that time she has expanded the idea of dance art… Both the thematique and the action of Kekäläinen are intensive in the performance.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, November 2004
Persoona – Person, 2004
“All her choreographies prove that the dance theatre is not only a movement, but a domain of very strong intellectual character, and in this case I would even say: epistomological. Sanna Kekäläinen`s works are always significant events of the following editions of Lublin Festival.”
Andrzej Z. Kowalczyk, Nasze Miasto, Poland, November, 2004
“The whole concept of the new work is liberated. It opens to ironic humour. The work truely celebrates with the diversity of human mind… The work produces a strong personality of a woman… Kekäläinen herself is sovereign in her work. Her technique is fabulous especially because she crosses it… Kekäläinen`s self-dependent way of making dance art leaves an impressive trace till deep, once again.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat, Finland, September 2004
“The dancing is elegant and fluent and arouses rich associations.”
Jukka O. Miettinen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, April 2004
“The quality of the dance is fumbling, sketching and reflective that gives the trace of spontaneity and the feeling of immediate moment; though the piece has a clear shape. Kekäläinen exaggerates the perfection, in lifting the leg and in the sudden split to give her performing a touch of irony and absurdity. The piece has an open end, which fits perfectly together with the intensively developing and form reshaping performance.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, April 2004
Sanna Kekäläinen’s unique and original movement language is always facinating and demanding. Its occasional roughness and animal-like gestures and at the same time skillfully controlled rhythmics captivate. Mieli-Mind surprises and facinates and its atmosphere full of dynamics keeps the mind in a strong hold from the beginning to the end.
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat, Finland, January 2004
In a manner unique in the field of Finnish dance Sanna Kekäläinen has almost over two decades dealt with cultural, social and politic issues with a bite and drive and has clearly taken a stand generating her public to do so too. Mieli-Mind is one of Sanna Kekäläinen’s best works.
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, January 2004
Sanna Kekäläinen does powerfully unique physical art standing strongly behind her thinking.
Jussi Tossavainen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, January 2004
Proposal for a Duet for Two Men and Women’s duet, 2003
” ‘This performance is an absolute must for every dance and theater lover.’ ‘Women’s duet is a brilliant example of deconstructed choreography with many different layers. If you’ve seen the original piece from 1993 you can still create your own memories and echos.’ ‘In Proposal for a Duet for Two Men Jyrki Karttunen’s incredibly strong stage presence is compelling. It makes the viewer thoughtful and also touched.’ ‘Sanna Kekäläinen’s humour is clear. It’s underlined with rhythm and slapstick structure with surprises and unexpected features. It’s a performance that has to be seen. Not because of nostalgia but because of art.’ ”
Annika Tudeer, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, April 2003
” ‘Jyrki Karttunen is a virtuoso!’ ‘The figures are totally integrated in their expression, they have their special physical qualities, expressions and sometimes voices.’
‘I will not describe more. Go and see for yourself!”
Auli Räsänen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, April 2003
“Kekäläinen discovers Donald Duck as the godfather of expressionism, and finds the perfect Hardy for Karttunen’s Laurel.”
Katja Werner, Dance Europe, Etiquette and the Inner Ape, January 2004
BODY – Fragments of The Human Body, 2002
“In this work body is not only a personal experience. It´s also very much public, conceptual and political place. The female dancers in the work, Sanna Kekäläinen herself and Johanna Rantanen, have processed and absorbed this demanding challenge so well, that the viewer can see in their dancing bodies the most widest range of different kinds of ideas about the body.” “In its entirety BODY is a courageous and heavy statement which makes you consider body deeper than just superficially.”
Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat, Finland, November 2002
“BODY consists of fascinating movement and realizations of human body´s possibilities and limitations.” “The movement of Sanna Kekäläinen and Johanna Rantanen is strong and there´s a strong tension. The original images get broken with banal movements, which are far away from sublimity.”
Jussi Tossavainen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, November 2002
“This is one of the most interesting Finnish dance companies established in 1996. The leader of the group, Sanna Kekalainen had the unusual gift to build magical pictures from her body. Therefore her performances have the specific climate. Sanna looks for the inspiration in the world of animals, but the sources of new performances can also be poetics or philosophical conceptualism. ”
THE DANCE ZONE, The Festival of Varieties, June 2003
“The body is the well of lust, and this naked scene in the performance creates a wonderful vision… The dance is inspired by the pulse of time.”
Von Philip Rössner, Ostsee Zeitung OZHGW, 30.06.2003
“…Two extremely fragile bodies open up. In a cubical spiral the dancers look for restless stream of humanlike movement to clear new ways to a world of utopia. ”
WOCHENENDAUSGABE, 28/29 Juni 2003
“The time Sanna Kekäläinen went even further in her searches: she went beyond the conventional biology up to the social sphere in its most delicate manifestation – the artistic activity. This performance should be seen especially by those who have just started their adventure with the contemporary dance, including some critics and journalists, because the can learn a lot from it.”
Andrzej Z. Kowalczyk, Nasze Miasto, 14.11.2003
VERSO – Two Versions of Transientness, 2002
“She, Sanna Kekäläinen is extremely unique and because of that a true gift for dramatic art.” “In VERSO, just like in all the other latest pieces Kekäläinen is in the focus as a solo protagonist in a very aesthetic format and she does it with sizzling radiation.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, April 2002
“Kekäläinen is an interesting and innovative in her movements.” “There are many impressive and photogenic scenes like the final scene.”
Anni Valtonen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, April 2002
Uhri – Sacre, 2001
“- an Icarus image – as a symbol of an attempt to free oneself from the role of the victim and boundaries.” “Sanna Kekäläinen has as a choreographer and a dramatic artist a special talent to fuse large-scale and intimacy into a cohesive whole.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, November 2001
“The expressive Kekäläinen & Company of Finland performed choreographer Sanna Kekäläinen’s highly impressive Uhri-Sacre.”
Newspaper in Gdansk, Poland, February 2002
“On Sunday, the last day, the stars performed: the expressive dancer of the Finnish company K&C Kekalainen and company, the dynamic company xIda of Austria and the revelation Wojciech Mochniej.”
Natalia Ligarzewska / Mirella Wasiewicz, Gazeta Wyborcza Trojmiasto, February 2002
“On Sunday performed the solist of the theatre Kekalainen & Company with the expressive performance “Uhri-Sacre”…..
Tadeusz Skutnik, Dziennik Baltycki, February 2002
IHO – Skinless, 2001
“The performance is full of different associations and gives them space for development in the mind of the spectator., — Kekäläinen’s, — body is extremely elastic and her long extremitire appear to be astonihingly animal like. The effectiveness and fascination of it is there, that she is not trying to imitate the animals as such but merely represent their physical abstraction.”
Annikki Alku, Uutispäivä Demari, Finland, April 2001
“The dance scene of the human female is deeply touching. Also otherwise the work awakens warm emotions for the different, most surprising and animal forms of existence.”
Jukka O. Miettinen, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, April 2001
“The performance appears to be an allegory of evolution from animalistic origin towards the human primitive as well as more developed forms. Sanna Kekäläinen sketches, — pictures of different animals with great precision.”
Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland, April 2001
“From choreographic and performing side Sanna’s solo was a masterpiece. Each form presented by the dancer was enriched with her own, individual character. When one watches her dancing it is very easy to see the whole evolution of homo sapiens hidden in every single person. Although, not everybody can highlight it. Sanna Kekalainen can.”
Andrzej Z. Kowalczyk, Kurier Lubelski, Poland, November 2001
“Sanna Kekäläinen from Finland showed a radically analytic work. The Finnish dancer exposed the presence of primitive animal’s passions in biology of human movement. That close movement enabled her to extract instinctive layers of corporality from the human cultural canon. The dancer was able to tell us about how much we are involved in biology – it was a very surprising and alarming story. Sanna Kekäläinen uncovered our inclinations to insect’s symmetry, our hidden atavisms and instinctive sexuality – no doubt we are a part of the nature. IHO is full of basic animal’s gestures which exist in our culture, and the human nakedness seems to be rather a complicated rich costume.”
Miroslav Haponiuk, Kresy, No 48/2001
“One of the most impressive productions was Sanna Kekäläinen’s solo called IHO – Skinless. Choreographer studies, analyses and reconstructs animal movements which she transforms into human movements that have a specific meaning.”
Hana Pecharová, Tanecní Listy, Poland, January 2002
“Monoperformance IHO-Skinless by Sanna Kekäläinen from Finland was full of subtlety and fragility.” “Kekäläinen researches the world of real animals. Her body painted in white with black spots of dalmantine standing close to a wall and slightly stirring reminded a big insect hiding itself through attempts to merge with the surroundings. Then a little monkey, racoon, frog, fish, different birds and many other creations appeared on the stage for a moment. Her endless motion, full of small detailed movements, hypnotised, creating a desire never to come to a stop. But suddenly light eyes start looking from under the black cap, red dress was pulled over the black spots, and a woman stood up in front of the audience trying to constrain everyone to conceive, that we all have come from the animal kingdom and still carry on old habits somewhere deep inside.”
Vita Mozuraite, Kulturos Barai, Lithuania, March 2002
“Finnish dancer Sanna Kekäläinen finished New Baltic Dance -02 festival with her curious, charming and mind blowing performance IHO – Skinless. In the beginning she performed as different animals with her naked body painted with black spots on white – slowly and incredibly accurately. Halfway through the performance S. Kekäläinen opened a black package with no big gestures. The package contained a scarlet dress which she put on. That worn-out cloth changed the animal to a woman and the magic disappeared. That´s the kind of human being that we run into everyday. The dancer did not flatter that person; she didn´t show her as more sophisticated or noble.” “It´s obvious that New Baltic Dance is one of Lithuania´s greatest art festivals which is not lacking of audience or attention of dancers from wide range of countries.”
Ruta Oginskaite, Lietuvos rytas, Lithuania, April 2002
“Individuals from the Wild West prefer the noise of braking of the waves instead of the noise of a train. Ecological catastrophy against the communal one. They stay alone on the stage don´t grappling the partner. As Finnish Sanna Kekäläinen does. Her body, painted in style of a skin of a wild animal, for fifty minutes imitated habits of different creations. She rocked as a seagull on the waves, flogged invisible sand with invisible claws, balanced on the stage as the lightest insect thrown in the stormy wind. Before Finns nobody except of Japans could join a male and a female, animal and a human being in one body. Finnish butoh dance becomes more and more popular on the European stage and is not so frightening as the Japanese one, but it seems to take the ideas from the results of catastrophy – ecological if not personal.” “Finnish Sanna Kekäläinen without any efforts turns herself from a swallow into a little duck, from a little duck into a girl.”
Olga Gerdt, Daily Gazeta, Russia, April 2002
NET – Images of the Other, 2000
“In Sanna Kekäläinen´s choreography the athletic intensity of movement was inseparably weaved with the comfortableness, the brave sensuality and excited even hysteric expression. P.A.T. from Finland has presented the piece ‘NET’, one of the most interesting proposition of this year Dance Theatre Festival.” “Thanks to P.A.T. we have seen extraordinarily intensive spectacle, conceptually fully fledged, original and most awkward, awkward as awkward are sometimes nightmarish, we wish we forgot them immediately.”
Miroslaw Haponiuk, Kurier Lubelski, Poland, November 2000
“Slowly the dancers step out of their roles and characters letting the dance take over. The dancers take place from the casual and minimalized movement toward strong and physical gestus, which on a higher technical level breaks out of classical elements and traditional choreographic methods.”
Barbara Engelhardt, Theater der Zeit, 1997
Afternoon of a Faun, 1996
” Choreographer and dancer Sanna Kekäläinen visited for a month as a guest in Artist-in-residence in WUK. In Festival Neuer Tanz she showed two works created with her company Physical Art Theatre established in 1996. In P.A.T.´s interpretation of Debussy´s Afternoon of a Faun as well as Querelle-variations the Finns combine expressive theatrical elements with storm-like acrobatic movement without compromises creating an axciting wholeness. ”
Heidrun Hofstetter-Hambach, Tanzaffiche, 1998
“Sanna Kekäläinen n’y va pas de main morte avec son Après-midi d’un Faune, un duo shoc sur la figure de Narcisse.”
Marie-Christine Vernay, Libération, Juin 1999
“Une Faune Fauve – The Savage Faun. Illustartion musclée avec The Afternoon of a Faun signée par Sanna Kekäläinen.” “Formée à la danse classique et contemporaine comme son interpréte Mika Backlund, elle relit le ballet mythique de Nijinski à sa facon, sobre et vigoureuse.”
Rosita Bouisseu, Le Monde, France, June 1999
“La choréographie que Sanna a composée pour son danseur Mika Backlund en référence à L’Après-midi d’un Faune de Nijinski, est furieusement farouche, performante et brusque; jusqu’au nu.”
José Gabriel L. Antunano, International, 1999
“La choréographie que Sanna a composée pour son danseur Mika Backlund en référence à ‘L’Aprés-midi d’un Faune’ de Nijinski, est furieusement farouche, performante et brusque; jusqu’au nu.”
Midi Libre, Juin 1999
1996-2000 Physical Art Theatre, P.A.T.
“The dancers of the P.A.T. move with keen sense of each other, with precision and emotional strength. The movement style is very eclectic, reflecting Kekäläinen’s understanding of the historical and political meaning of dance concepts. It is also based on physically bold yet sensual expression.”
V. Sutinen, Tanssi-magazine, Finland, 1997
“Finnish choreographer Sanna Kekäläinen stood out – as an Artist-in-residence in WUK – with two solid pieces which presented high-quality dancers and choreographic know-how. The good-old-modern dance is not dead any longer, but required: with historical consciousness and such high quality one never reaches in Vienna.”
Helmut Ploebst, Wiener Journal, Austria, 1998
AINO JÄRVI-ESKOLA: master’s thesis
FEMINISTINEN AUTOBIOGRAFINEN ESITYS TANSSINÄYTTÄMÖLLÄ, ESIMERKKITEOKSENA SANNA KEKÄLÄISEN PUNA-RED-ROUGE, 2015
Ehdotus sukupuolen esittämiseksi näyttämöllä / MUSTEKALA 2/15, Vol. 59
SANNA KEKÄLÄINEN ALASTOMANA / ESITYS-LEHTI 2/2010
TANSSISSA KOROSTUU NAISEN KEHO, LIIKE JA VUOROVAIKUTUS / KRITIIKIN UUTISET 4/2012
SELECTED ARTICLES IN HELSINGIN SANOMAT
TIZIAN FROM THE DARK
Jürg Zbinden, Ballet-Tanz – Tanz Aktuell, Germany, January 2003
Rough, disturbing roar from the chaos: “Eh yes… I moved, moved parts of my body. My body. It moved. It moved without moving. It moved and I was moved…” This message spoken in the darkness, Kari Hukkila´s longer text, makes clear that first of all the following is about momentary presence and the strength of the body becoming visible. Finnish choreographer and dancer Sanna Kekäläinen’s fourth study of the human body at Nokia’s former cable factory in Helsinki appeared even more minimalistic, hermetic and concentrated.
The tireless interaction between two bodies begins unforgettably with heartbeats. These beats are composer Aake Otsala´s musical outline to the dancers, Sanna Kekäläinen and Johanna Rantanen ever continuous and pulsating movement. Even when the dancers come very close to the audience and seem to stay completely still the fingers cut up the air and their heads slightly shiver.
The space made up of pillows indicates to a cell with a vulnerable membrane. Inside this membrane a restless and often very quick flow of movement is trying to clear new routes for itself. Dancer’s cooperation reminds a lot of an exploration to utopic world done by two children who are lead by constant curiosity. It´s fascinating to see what unfamiliar movements both bodies provoke: after they have moulded themselves in a crushing experience and happily found their own form they start to express things that we have never been able to find a name in human language. The asexual childlike bodies are at the same time fine and strong, their movements are extreme and fragile, like human animals.
The naturally lyric team work of the dancer’s doesn’t break until the final scene. The other is placed down as an object to the gaze like the well known Tizian’s Venus. The body moulded like this is itself a thousandfold story and a reality. What has glimmered out of the movement of the two bodies that used to be so restless, the BODY – Fragments of the Human Body is focusing even more than the other body studies IHO – Skinless, 2001, Uhri – Sacre, 2001 and VERSO, 2002 to the body itself and it’s preconditions or as Sanna Kekäläinen says “being in the body”. Uhri-Sacre was an interpretation of Stravinsky´s Le sacre du printemps and it caused a polemic in the Finnish press. It confirmed again the important position that Kekäläinen has as a pioneer of contemporary dance field in Finland. Since the ´90´s she has in her physical art theatre consistently put in perspective the human body in it’s political and historical dimensions.
Ballett International – Tanz Aktuell, June 2001, Jürg Zbinden
Sanna Kekäläinen’s solo ‘IHO – Skinless’ in Helsinki
Picture a primeval cave: outside the sea is raging; now and then seagulls screech. In the pale light a strange mottled creature presses itself against the side of the cave. Awkwardly and distractedly a foot and a hand fumble along the black wall. Gradually the being – half animal, half human – feels its way out of the darkness, now calmly and gracefully. Full of innocence, the human-animal shows what the body was capable of before purpose began to rule the world.
It experiences its skin as a natural dress and boundary that it scratches and scrapes. When the creature sees its reflection in the water it transforms into a young woman. She admires herself in a pretty pleated skirt. Now she has reached her limit as she can neither shed nor create a new one and because this she loses her soul and becomes a mere puppet. The machine-man’s soulless dance is one of the most impressive passages of this performance, where alienation is extreme and skin has become nothing more that a membrane for a destructive machine. Exhausted, the creature subsides into melancholy to the sound of Debussy’s “Ariettes oubliées”.
‘IHO – Skinless’ is an allegory on evolution and is designed to portray a metamorphosis. The main theme is the conflict between nature and animals, skin and nakedness. “Iho” means skin in Finnish. Along with the brain, skin is formed from the ectoderm in the embryo and is the largest and most vulnerable organ of the body. This boundary between self and world is both permeable and hard. In contemporary art the body’s exterior is defined as a surface for projection of fantasies and fetishes; as the scene of wounds and stigmatizations; as an individual or social straitjacket.
That is one reason why ‘IHO – Skinless’ is reminiscent of Beckett’s “How it is”. A creature is stumbling around in a no-man’s-land. As in Beckett’s monologue, the conceptual viewpoint is combined with sensual flow of movements and pictures. With this solo performance, dancer and choreographer Sanna Kekäläinen picks up on her deconstruction of the traditional body concept. Earlier experimental solo studies on the subject of movement and female body such as ‘Santa Maria delle Grazie’ and ‘My Sword Has Seven Edges And Three Knots’ created a sensation and established her role as a pioneer of modern dance in Finland. In 1994 she became the first female choreographer to receive the prestigious “Young Finland State Award”. In the mid 1990’s she alone succeed in forming a permanent ensemble independent of the National Opera’s ballet and the Municipal Theatre of Helsinki’s ballet. Today the ensemble goes by the name Kekäläinen & Company, K&C.
‘IHO – Skinless’ was performed in the engine room of former Nokia cable factory in Kaapelitehdas. This huge brick building by the sea is now a centre for modern art and home to Kekäläinen. Here she goes about her exemplary work, proving how thrilling developments in Europe’s outer reaches can be.
Death in Venice, 1999
Jürg Zbinden, Ballet International – Tanz Aktuell 2/2000
The Physical Art Theatre* stages Mann’s Novel at the Helsinki Opera
December light. The day has hardly begun when night falls again. The two of three hours of daylight seem like a monument . the ideal atmosphere for a reworking of Thomas Mann’s novella “Death in Venice”. For exactly this purpose, the Helsinki Opera House has invited the Physical Art Theatre, P.A.T.*.
In semi-darkness on the middle of the stage, Death, Sanna Kekäläinen awaits the audience, alternating in the prologue solo between two types of movement: laboriously wading in wellington boots through the swamp of the underworld, then suddenly agilely leaping across the earth, as light as a feather. Several times, an adagietto from Mahler’s 5. Symphony fades away painfully. And instead of Mahler’s delicate music that Visconti fans are accustomed to, they get subjected to the foreign underwater sounds of the young composer Harry Ahponen, which weave along in an unexpectedly powerful manner, industrial music.
The signs are clear. The introduction of the figure of death and the fading away of Mahler’s music make it obvious from the start that the choreographer Sanna Kekäläinen will be using neither the famous original, nor Visconti’s film version. The barren set is therefore very apt: in the background a horizon divided by neon strips, a few pillars, patio furniture and a barber’s chair.
The meeting between Aschenbach, Jorma Uotinen, Tadzio, Mika Backlund and death is central. Tadzio is surrounded by his three sisters, Johanna Rantanen, Reetta Rönkkö and Ruusu Sunnila and his mother, Anna Airaksinen while on the outskirts, Aschenbach, marked by life, discovers the payful young ones running round in circles in the centre of the stage and cannot escape their thrall. In order to lure Tadzio towards him, he attempts to press forward into their midst. This comes across as both comic and tragic at the same time, as the respective body languages could not be more different. While Aschenbach is slow, measured and weak, the children are fast. Impulsive and strong. His nervous wooing of Tadzio ends on the malevolent barber’s chair. Again, Tadzio is able to escape his sweet embrace. But whoever rebels against the law of ageing – like Aschenbach – simply speeds up the process: macabre dance of death.
The Finnish Dance legend Jorma Uotinen plays Aschenbach to perfection, convincingly portraying Aschenbach’s attempts to absorb youthful freshness, accelerating his own failure. The final scene is impressive: Uotinen, in a monologue by the writer Kari Hukkila, reflects upon his situation and reveals a vocal potential that the audience loves.
For P.A.T.*, founded in 1996, and it’s director Sanna Kekäläinen, the invitation to Helsinki Opera House is further confirmations that their role as pioneers of modern dance in Finland is being honoured. Their recipe for success: various art forms are combined as a means of finding new perspectives on dance as physical performing art, last seen in 1998 with Studies in Hysteria, My Sword has Seven Edges and Three Knots and in 1999 with Prisoners of Love.
* Kekäläinen & Company was formerly called Physical Art Theatre
Jürg Zbinden, Ballet International – Tanz Aktuell, July 1998
Spartacus in Helsinki
The Physical Art Theatre*
The psychological interpretation of the Spartacus myth, dating from the end of the 73 to 71 BC slave uprising in Rome, is one of the strongest production of the Finnish ensemble Physical Art Theatre, P.A.T.*. It demonstrates the revolt against fate, and struggling for one’s freedom, ina thoroughly unheroic fashion.
The Finns pay close attention to what goes in the kingdom of Russian bears. Spartacus, throughout the entire Soviet era one of the most significant icons of class struggle and likewise a casus belli among historians and politicians, disappeared from the scene at the end of the Cold War. The Spartacus Uprising, the most successful slave revolt in Western history, supplied first proof of history forcing a dialectic-materialistic path. The material was first adapted for ballet in the fifties. For the structure and virtuosity, Grigorovitch’s Spartacus choreography, staged at the Bolschoi Theatre at the end of the sixties, is considered the most effectice.
After the “red” hero of mythology and martyrology disappeared, the material was free to enjoy newer interpretations. Precisely that provoked P.A.T.* to create – according to their programme notes – a “political tanztheater brimming over with strength and heroism.” The ironic gesturing fascinates. The re-enacted spectacle transpires on various levels with consistently funny and lively sense of communication. Dance, music, pictures, film and texts recalling various historic situations: scenes and quotes from Roman antiquity and the French Revolution. Past and present join together into a cyclic and historical image. This Spartacus repeats itself with accents on the comic, romantic and sarcastic. That the myth is worked through so dynamically is what initially frees the viewer’s gaze for the dancelike presence. For the first time, the prestigious Svenska Theatre gives its stage to a postmodern tanztheater. For P.A.T.*, founded in 1996 and directed by choreographer and dancer Sanna Kekäläinen, this is further proof of their pioneer role in modern dance in Finland being recognised. P.A.T.* effectively combines different art forms as a way of presenting dance, as a “physical performing art”, in a new perspective. Working with the troupe’s dancers are Anna Airaksinen and Mika Backlund, the writer Kari Hukkila, costume designer Riitta Röpelinen, lighting designer Tuukka Törneblom, architect Olli Turunen, and the producer Hannele Kurkela. The Finnish dance critics chose Requiem – A Dance Performance in the Spirit of Mozart as Best Choreography of the Year in 1996. Since then, other productions were Afternoon of a Faun, Acts of Desire, Katharctic and Querelle-Variations, honoured with invitations to perform in Budapest, Vienna and Prague.
* Kekäläinen & Company was formerly called Physical Art Theatre