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Susanna Leinonen is a mature, top-class dancemaker

The new star of Finnish choreography is Susanna Leinonen, as was confirmed last year with Trickle, Green Oak. Leinonen, who won the Dancework award at this year’s Kuopio Dance Festival, brought an interesting new work Disturbed Silence to the Helsinki Festival.

As its name suggests, the work, which has been made for six dancers, studies the breaking of silence in different ways. The lighting design and empty space above the dancers also affect the spectator’s experience.

” My shirt is wet through after such an intense viewing experience. The work directly affected my kinaesthetic senses”, says writer Sara Nyberg in her review.

Disturbed silence is an intense journey in a world of dream and reality

Choreographer Susanna Leinonen continues her rise as the shooting star of Finnish dance. In Disturbed Silence, which has just received its first premiere, she shows exactly why she is one of Finland’s top choreographers. It’s been a fast ride. Her first work No One, Just Your Friend was only made four years ago for an international choreography competition. This year Leinonen won the Dancework award at Kuopio Dance Festival. She is now planning a commissioned work for next year’s festival. Leinonen’s movement language is clearly recognizable. The dance proceeds through angular details. Although she makes contemporary dance, Leinonen’s classical ballet education brings forth extensions, leg lifts and hand turns. When the compact and captivating Disturbed Silence ends with the last lights going off on an empty stage, it feels as if the seats move half a metre forwards. I also noticed myself leaning forwards in my seat. My shirt is wet through after such an intense viewing experience! The work directly affected my kinaesthetic senses. My body jerked with the dancers’ and at one point I was slipping off the side of my seat. This wasn’t because I wanted a better view – the auditorium in Stoa Culture Centre of Eastern Helsinki is made for dance, and there is a fine view from every seat. Leinonen’s choreography and the dancers simply stopped time and took it away with them.

The dancers’ interpretation

Heidi Lehtoranta, who has often danced in Susanna Leinonen’s works, has interpreted the dance wonderfully well. She has clearly matured and developed as a dancer and interpreter. The phrases or rhythms that she finds for the movement demonstrate that she has internalized the choreographer’s material. With Kaisu Hölttä, Lehtoranta dances an intense duet that describes the female reality. The dancers are on a journey somewhere together, but they also manipulate each other, compete, begrudge and try to get one over on the other. They are marionettes, but they try to escape their role by cutting the imaginary string above their heads that is dictating their movements. The four female dancers are joined by the choreographer’s own partly sidelined but still central character. Leinonen, in her frilly jacket and rolled-up skirt is like a has-been diva remembering her life with pride and grandeur. Her back is stooped but her hand gestures are sensual, and she still has the legs of a super-model.

The costumes support the work as a whole

Erika Turunen’s costumes support the drama in the choreography. Tight jackets and frilly skirts and trousers are stylish and functional. Kasperi Laine’s dramatic music begins with the lonely sound of an instrument squeaking or the sound of it malfunctioning which disturbs the dancers’ silence. The soundworld however is riveting and changes as the work develops into a rhythmical dance musical. The art work unites the space that has been cleaved by Mikki Kunttu’s white lights. Kunttu’s work often features a high cube from the stage. The space above the dancers’ heads is just as important as the floor. Spots are sharp, precisely delineating the bare black stage. The sidelights complement the dancers’ bodies and movements and dramatise the work. Disturbed Silence is quite a way to open the dance season. If our other choreographers have matured in the same way during the rainy summer we’re in for quite a year of dance.

Sara Nyberg
Etelä-Suomen Sanomat 31.8.2004