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Susanna Leinonen surprises with ballet

Contemporary ballet at the temple of contemporary dance in Pyhäjärvi

Susanna Leinonen is the great surpriser of our modern dance. Just when we have learned to recognise her as a contemporary dance choreographer, she brings her history in the world of ballet to the stage. Her new work “Indigo” resembles a surreal and baroque dream in which tropical birds live in a colorful magical forest. A cunning trick indeed, because a consequence of this is that in Pyhäjärvi, the temple of contemporary dance, we got to watch contemporary ballet! And it must be said, some people were not amused! Leinonen assembled a group of young dancers with ballet training for this work, and they gave their all to the choreographer’s expression. The legato movement of the ballet technique, arm gestures and bodily understanding were accompanied by new kinds of hand gestures, bends and floor movement.

The result is overwhelmingly decorative yet absolutely original modern ballet. Mia Hämäläinen’s sound collage is comprised of many different kinds of elements such as Japanese contemporary music and accordion sounds (the sources were unfortunately not revealed) which strengthen the dreamlike atmosphere. Erika Turunen has created a version of a ballet tutu which preserves the decorativeness of the ballet aesthetic but at the same time creates a new kind of ballerina figure, which has one leg covered in a black sock. It creates the impression of a one-legged bird. Simon Le Roux’s scenography was needlessly abundant, which to a certain extent stole the thunder of the decorative movement language. The whole entity is however so unique and surprising that the visual profusion and the minor shortcomings in the choreography don’t matter. It’s a rare event that a dance artist has the ability and the courage to make the Sacred Ballet her own with such authority. Let us hope that our National Ballet is wise enough to use a talent such as Leinonen’s that could have a lot to give to renew the language of ballet.

Jukka O. Miettinen
Helsingin Sanomat 15.7.2002