Transitions 2018: Q&A with choreographer Jarkko Partanen

Partenen_churchoftheinternet_credit_Jussi_Mankkinen_Yle

Jarkko Partanen, Church of the Internet (Image credit: Simo Karisalo) Jussi Mankkinen / Yle

Ahead of Transitions’ 2018 international tour, we caught up with acclaimed Finnish choreographer and Trinity Laban alumnus Jarkko Partanen who is working with the company on a brand new piece. Jarkko is a founding member of multidisciplinary arts collective WAUHAUS, which recently won the prestigious annual Finnish State Award for Performing Arts.

The 2018 company is truly international – do you think this has had an impact on the style of the company and/or the way you worked with them?

Transitions is a company with its own identity and I think the group is fantastic. It’s really nice to have such a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, with very different skills, but who work really well together and complement each other.

What have you most enjoyed about working with the Transitions dancers?

At WAUHAUS we have a very collaborative creative process, which I have tried to keep in my working method with Transitions. It’s my responsibility to arrive at a point where the dancers feel they can take the piece and make it their own. As I usually work with people I know well, there is a certain level of trust and dialogue and understanding, which needs to be built here in a short time frame – just five weeks!

And in this scenario, it is a bit of a challenge to have a process-oriented rather than product-oriented working method. But it’s been going great so far. There’s been a lot of laughter and playfulness which is good and they are adapting to the continually changing and refining process and they work very professionally. I am very happy with this collaboration!

What was your inspiration behind the work?

The piece continues two trajectories I have been interested in continuing from previous works: touch and obscuring the body. In Playhouse (2017), we looked at different ways of physically encountering strangers in a performative setting, and in Flashdance (2016) the performers’ bodies were completely hidden throughout the performance.

I am interested in transforming the body – something that is always cultural and carries representation – into something else that can go beyond gender, and can challenge the norms of how we look at the body on stage. I think there’s something beautiful in limiting our senses and how we perceive things, so that the norms of watching meet the limitlessness of our imagination. We are challenged by whom or what we are looking at.

Combining these two trajectories of touch and obscuring, and finding a balance between them, is what’s interesting. In this piece the dancers have limited vision whilst on stage, which affects how they are on stage, how they interact, how the piece is experienced. The light, sound, stage design and other elements or materials – such as costumes – become intrinsically linked to the choreography. Together, they create a condition for the performers and audience. These create the movement vocabulary of the piece rather than me applying a “signature movement language” or something like that that I have shaped over the years. I consider every piece to have its own specific physicality.

You typically work in less traditional performances spaces. Have you had to adapt your choreographic style for the tour venues?

I don’t usually work in theatres with a proscenium arch, where the stage is very separated from the auditorium. The performance space brings another set of questions regarding how the audience engage with the performance. And of how to bring other senses into play rather than just ‘watching’. I would say it’s a challenge, not a limitation.

Transitions will perform at The Theatre Academy of Uniarts, Helsinki as part of their international tour. What will it be like to see the company dance your work in your home town?

I haven’t really thought about it yet, but of course it’s exciting! Of course I’m looking forward to the whole tour, and particularly to seeing my piece within a triple bill, which will add a whole other context. It will be interesting how the pieces will communicate with each other.

You studied dancing at Trinity Laban as an undergraduate. What was your time like here and how has that influenced you?

One of the reasons I applied and chose to study at Trinity Laban was the ability to experiment and learn choreography from the beginning. That was very influential for me, as it was very clear to me that I wanted to choreograph. I don’t think I’ve ever really imagined myself as a dancer. So to collaborate with so many colleagues and find people who were interested in working with me was very powerful. As was working with and observing the choreographers who created the newly commissioned works for us in my final year, which gave me greater insight into different creative processes. I really liked my time here, I felt very supported by the institution, and the Laban Theatre is one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve worked in.

 

By Robyn Donnelly (Press & PR)

 

Transitions 2018 Tour | 19 February – 24 May

For more information and to find out more about Transitions Dance Company, visit our pages.

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban, visit our pages.

Resolution 2018: Ania Straczynska

As The Place’s annual dance festival commences, we chat to current Trinity Laban MA choreography student Ania Straczynska who’s presenting her work Grains at Resolution 2018 later this month.

Grains reharsal

Ania Straczynska’s ‘Grains’ in rehearsal. Dancers:
Rebecca Lee, Edurne Ruiz de Alegria, Victoria Winter. (Image credit: Jeremy Henderson)

In brief, how would you sum up your piece Grains?

I like to think of it as a strong and engaging female trio.

What was your inspiration behind the work?

I started reflecting on my cultural heritage and the idea of passing traditions between generations. Growing up in Poland where people strongly embrace their national culture, I was always surrounded by some sort of folklore and tradition. Then, having moved away, it felt natural to revisit those folk elements and dynamics through the lens of my own movement language. I also wanted to question the meaning and validity of intergenerational relationships.

How has your study at Trinity Laban influenced your choreography?

I have only been studying here for a few months, but it’s already influenced how I approach my practice. One of the most beneficial things so far is being able to examine my creative process through other disciplines and to learn from other artists. I have discovered a lot from sessions with architecture students, visual artists, and even a surgeon who joined us in the studio. I have connected with students from Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) and we are currently working together on a multidisciplinary performance exhibition which will take place in March at p12 gallery, which I am very excited about.

At the beginning of my time here we were told that no one is going to teach us how to choreograph, and it is true. However, the programme is designed in a way to stimulate you and equip you with the tools to discover new skills and ways of learning.

Resolution is an annual festival celebrating and supporting new dance and performance works by diverse emerging artists, what is it like to be part of the festival and present at The Place?

I am very lucky to be involved in the Festival for the second time. It is a unique opportunity to test your work in front of almost 300 spectators and be supported by the amazing, professional team at The Place. I felt like I learnt a lot from my first year at the festival so this year I am more organised and focused, and finding it easier to divide my time between the production and creation of the piece.

You invited composer Nick Murray to collaborate with you in creating Grains. How has that collaboration worked and how does having a live score influence the dance?

When DanceWest commissioned me to create a short work for the Ignition Dance Festival I asked Nick to compose a piece for me inspired by folk music. This became the first version of Grains. We worked simultaneously but separately, before putting music and choreography together half way through the process. This time, in extending the piece for Resolution 2018, we are working more collaboratively. I invite Nick to the studio so he can observe and share in the process. Sometimes we experiment with sounds as we go. This keeps the piece and the process alive and allows us to spontaneously play with ideas.

For me, as a choreographer, a live score gives an amazing flexibility as it’s specifically designed for my piece, and I believe for dancers it’s also a bespoke experience.

Have you any advice for aspiring choreographers?

Don’t underestimate research. Whether it means gathering imagery, getting inspired by videos, or looking for more context, try not to separate that from your time in the studio. Carry on the research and creation processes in parallel.

Also, be ready for ups and downs! The challenges will often surprise you but just treat them as an opportunity to boost your creativity.

 

SPACE

Ania Straczynska presents Grains at Resolution 2018 as part of a mixed triple bill Wednesday 31 January at The Place. Dancers: Rebecca Lee, Edurne Ruiz de Alegria, Victoria Winter.

Resolution 2018 runs 12 January – 23 February. To find out more and to book tickets visit The Place’s website

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban, visit our pages.