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DDF News — 17 May 2023

Festival Blog – Q&A with Taneli Törmä

Festival Blog – Q&A with Taneli Törmä

With stages across Dublin soon to be graced by dance works from around the world, I sat down with some of the artists involved to hear about what is in store. In a co-commission between the Big Pulse Dance Alliance and Dublin Dance Festival, Taneli Törmä brings Alien to the stage of the Wood Quay Amphitheatre with a cast of 9 dancers from the MA Contemporary Dance Performance programme at University of Limerick. Described as ‘an intervention’ that pays testament to the human need for connection and community, Alien promises to be an exciting experience. Read on to hear from its creator…


Can you tell us a little about Alien? 

Alien is a project I started to work on in 2019. […] Irish ALIEN performance will be the fifth edition. 

It is a transformative choreography, which I create and offer to different dance communities around the world. In each country, where I present this performance, I will work with a group of local professional dancers for two weeks and create a performance for them. 

Irish ALIEN performance outcome will be 30min long meditative and timeless dance for Finnish composer Esa Mattilla´s music. A large moving and living statue is placed in a public location. Choreography, where movement language is inspired by universal rave and folk dance styles. 

Alien is exploring the feeling of longing as an individual to be part of a larger community. A need for community as present now as it has been in the past. This longing can create a feeling of strangeness and alienation in life. 

I hope this project will strengthen the dance communities and present contemporary dance to a broader audience. For the established festival audience and random passing by people. My hope both audience groups and the local performers will get a special experience and memory from it for their own city. 

Each time when I create this project it is alien to me. It’s like a research field where I can also reflect on past experiences. New performers, new location, new country, new culture, and new moment where we are living. I am interested to see how this topic and choreography will be received and interpreted in different countries and locations by different spectators. 

Can you tell us a little about you and your practice?

You can maybe see already from my company name LOCATION X, that I am interested in creating dance projects in different locations. I want to create new bridges for contemporary dance and find new audiences and collaboration partners for it. I have got diverse knowledge from my 18 years of professional career, as a performer, teacher, choreographer, artistic director, fundraiser, and curator… for me, it’s difficult to do only one role or one way of creating my art. I need to be challenged and I like to expand my knowledge and keep learning new things. […]

I create works that are often immersive. I am driven by the interest to create situations and experiences, that will carry a specific feeling and movement towards the public - permanently moved by the question of who is dancing and how and where we can dance today in our everyday lives? 

How have you found the experience of re-making the work with a new cast in a new place? Does the show change a lot with each new set of collaborators?

I think it's super inspiring. Each time it’s a new ALIEN - a new strange situation for me which gives me a playground. 

Short and intensive working periods with local dancers keep me and the dancers on our toes, creating an inspiring meeting point for the group. Different kinds of performers and groups and locations where it will be presented [affect the outcome], how we interpret the work, and also what kind of process it will be - how performers relate the topic and what kind of community they have or want to have in the future. 

This project is also […] research for me, how to make choreography, which can be taught to dancers of different ages and backgrounds. Depending on the group and dancers, it's depending how I modify the choreography for them. […]

In Ireland, I am creating this performance for the first time with a group that knows each other really well. They are studying together and already now dancing together every day. It will be interesting to see how their group dynamic is different than in other countries where the dancers might don’t know each other so well. 

A key focus of the work is connection and community – Has your understanding of community and connection changed or evolved in the process of creating the work? 

Yes, it has, for example how differently we can speak about community. For some community is strongly connected to a specific location. As an international artist who has not lived in my home country Finland since 2007 and who at the moment travels a lot aboard from my longer-term new home Denmark, I see my community is spread more across Europe. 

I am interested in how we can keep strengthening both communities (in one specific location or in more broadly sense), and stay connected even if we are not based in the same place. Sharing experiences and knowledge, keep getting inspiration from each other, staying connected, and supporting each other.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the work? 

[It may depend on the audiences] we speak about; the audience who come to see the performance, who have read about it beforehand, has maybe some expectations and maybe know some of the dancers beforehand OR random passing by people who might see only part of the performance. For me both audience groups are equal, and that’s maybe why Alien's performance has a durational installation feeling even [though the] performance is only 30min long. 

I am interested to explore how different or maybe similar kind feelings and thoughts both audience groups get from it. If you see the whole show you get more layers and you have more time to think about it same time when you experience it. 

It will be interesting to see if normal audiences or passing-by peoples start to become aliens in public places as well. 

I am sure both audiences get visual and mesmerizing dance memory from it. Who could forget the image, where a group of dancers dance weirdly dance in silver leotards to weird music in a public place?

Our dance steps inspired by Rave and Folk dance styles are so universal, I’m sure all audience members can recognize them and have some kind of relationship with these dance moves, even if they have not danced these dance styles ever. Maybe they get a feeling that they could or would like to join and dance this choreography as well but at the same time they might get feel a sense of outsiderness about it. Can I and how can I join this community? Is this an open or closed community? 

[…] Does strangeness have to be a scary thing? Can you just experience it without overthinking it and see what it will give to you? Maybe it gives you a similar kind of satisfaction when have lost track of time while watching flocking birds or the magical starry sky.

If you had one sentence to encourage someone to go and watch Alien, what would you say? 

If you want to see and experience 9 dancers in silver costumes guiding themselves into a hypnotic and mesmerizing choreography, don't miss this show! 

What are you most excited about seeing in your downtime at the festival? 

I just saw The Pretty Things by Compagnie Catherine Gaudet in Lithuania and it was an AMAZING show. Maybe I would like to see that again. I also can’t wait to see Navy Blue by Oona Doherty. 

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