maike's blog

A bit more on „Emperor’s New Clothes”

In my last blog entry I discussed over the article by Heili Einasto, which was published in Sirp. I expressed discontent and asked several questions. I am very pleased that these questions were not left unattended. Heili took time to explain her views and answer some of the questions. Below is Heili’s feedback to my blog entry:

MAIKE: „Renate Valme has emphasized more than once that Kompanii Nii represents physical theatre.“

HEILI: Regardless of how Renate Valme titles her work, she’s engaged in a field, we call „contemporary dance” and in the official reports the piece is categorized as dance and not theatre. Also, Renate Valme doesn’t stage her pieces in any theatre and is engaged in the arena of „independent dance” as are other artists who state their independence from the field of dance, like Mart Kangro, Kaja Kann, et al. Renate Valme’s „Pung” was also presented during the contemporary dance festival „Uus Tants”…

MAIKE: „but despite my biggest efforts I cannot see why and how are Renate Valme’s studies in the university connected to the other topics in the article – even after reading the article over and over, it remains a mystery..“

HEILI: In the article : „Renate Valme has developed her virtues [familiar already from her days in school] and given free hands to her flaws – with the support of critics and curators and as a result her post-graduation work sticks out with bright, but undeveloped ideas.” For the author, it is not a mystery, but let’s clarify the picture. The characteristics that caught the eye already in school – both good and bad – are still the same. A person, who defines oneself as an artist, should develop somewhere within 10 years? Mature? Get over the spirit of the teenage years to rebel against all that one doesn’t understand (or doesn’t want / need to understand), be able to learn from one’s own works (and advisably from the works of others). „But what may seem natural and fresh in the late teen years or in the beginning of twenties, may seem ridiculous ten years later”. That’s the way it is. In my view. Certainly, there are those who find kindergarten and teenage jokes actual and amusing also in old age. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just the way it is.

MAIKE: „To attack someone on such personal grounds in a context that discusses completely different matters is awkward. In any context it would be awkward..“

HEILI: Personal? In what way? There’s no discussion over Renate Valme’s complexes, shape of her body or eyebrow. What is discussed, is her creation, that her work has not developed since her school years. Nothing personal, just business.

MAIKE: „why exactly Renate Valme and „Pung” got smashed in such a manner?“

HEILI: The article is 3 pages long, discussion over Renate Valme was only on half a page of it, thus this is not a review. Yet, Renate Valme is an esteemed artist in this field („has developed her virtues and given free hands to her flaws – with the support of critics an curators), where she herself doesn’t want to be. A good example. And „Pung” premiered „at the right moment” – it was a good contrast to the Vitebsk Festival. Thus, two extremes: Renate Valme and the awarded performances in Vitebsk. And that was the only reason why I added Renate to that article (+ I had several requests to express my opinion in regard to her work).

MAIKE: „Why the author brings out and praises the Vitebsk dance festival (out of all the festivals out there)? Why Fine 5 Dance Theater attending it was so special (some other Estonian contemporary dance artists also attended that festival)?“

HEILI: In the Article: „In the post-Soviet Union dance space the event has been a place for exchanging dance-related ideas for already 20 years /--/ For the jubilee, troupes important for the festival were invited, like /--/ Dance Theatre Fine 5, which also celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. /--/ Reverence for body and motion, /--/ have made Vitebsk Festival a strong ally to Dance Theatre Fine 5 /--/ as there, the creative quests of Fine 5 have always been honored an valued, even if they are not always understood.“ Fine 5 has attended Vitebsk Festival for 20 years (no other Estonian artist has done that) and is regarded by the Vitebsk Festival as highly as some of the best Russian contemporary dance artists.

MAIKE: „Why raw and rough talent doesn’t suit on stage?“

HEILI: Raw is raw. When one buys a raw pie, one is disappointed. When one is served a raw piece of meat in a restaurant, one is disappointed. When an electrician does a „raw” job, it endangers lives. Raw art is dangers when represented as cooked, not for your body, like in the case of a pie or loose wire, but to the mind. The same way as surrogates are dangerous (read „Vestlusi vene kultuuriloost” by Lotman). Raw is not equal to the aesthetical category „crude”, which can be an acknowledged choice. Even with clothes we prefer no to see bastes, unless they are part of the decoration and not presented as a professional stitch-work.

MAIKE: „Why STÜ may not support „that sort of contemporary performing arts“?“

HEILI: Estonia is so small, that Kanuti is more than enough. It is a waste of resources, even more so, as there are no dance producers who would continuously support different type of performing arts.

MAIKE: „And how is that all related to Renate Valme?“

HEILI: Renate Valme is one of the best examples of „that sort of types”, both in her strengths and weaknesses.

MAIKE: „In order to compile a beautiful bouquet from so different components one needs a good ribbon that would tie and hold everything together. If one just piles together different topics without thinking it through, the bouquet leaves exactly the impression Einasto herself criticizes..“

HEILI: there are different kinds of bouquets, the ribbon in this article was the cited texts in italic.

MAIKE: „The most astonishing about it all is that Einasto as a professional critic should be the last person whose work would enable me to use such rough words. For some curious reason Einasto ignored all the written and unwritten rules of writing a review..“

HEILI: Rules are to be broken. And no one has said that this article is a review. There’s no genre, thus when one reads it not as a review, but as a reflection, poem, essay, short story etc, one could understand it quite differently. Right after the citation the reader is given the key: „November week in Vitebsk and „Pung” by Renate Valme, that took place side by side raised questions over what is „contemporary” in choreography.”

MAIKE: „Whatever it was, the article was supposed to achieve, got lost due to a more than awkward way it was written.“

HEILI: Just as „Pung” by Renate Valme was a success in the sense that it created a discussion, the article is also a success as it got a lot of feedback. Is it enough, is a different matter.

MAIKE: Again with the help of Einasto’s own words: due to that her creation sticks out with bright, but undeveloped ideas.

HEILI: Good enough :)

MAIKE: „For some reason people seem to think that the purpose of criticism is to say something bad or negative about something or someone. Without negative aspects, it’s not criticism.“

HEILI: I have a feeling, that if the piece is not praised, then criticism is at once regarded as „bashing”. It is not a current topic, I read the same outcries from history. Even if nothing bad is said, when the piece is not celebrated, the article is „negative”. Read the article over after a month / year with a different perspective – you’ll see that most of the „bashing” is done by the reader him/herself and not by the article. You’ll see how connected the perception is to the reader’s presumptions and mood. If you have a different mood, you’ll have a different emotion.

MAIKE: „Despite that it is time for the critics to open their eyes and ears and come out of their comfort zones.“

HEILI: Critics – at least in Estonia- come out of their comfort zones already by watching performances and writing about them.

Thoughts inspired from the article „The Emperor’s New Clothes“ by Heili Einasto

Article „The Emperor’s New Clothes“ by Heili Einasto, published on 20.12.2012 in the cultural newspaper „Sirp“, moved me (and many others) in so many different ways that I just can’t keep myself from writing down and expressing my thoughts inspired by this article. Following the fairy tale motive set by Einasto and rushing ahead of things I must first state that it seemed to me that in the article Einasto tried to kill seven flies at one blow. This explains somewhat the eclectical manner of the following text. I just had as many very different thoughts as there were topics in the abovementioned article.
 
Title. The Emperor’s New Clothes is in my mind one of the best fairy tales written by H. C. Andersen. It is a multi-layered story with a very strong subtext that has affected children, youth and adults alike in different contexts over several generations. When the phrase „emperor’s new clothes” is used as a title of whichever other text or if it is used as a reference, comparison, analogue or parallel, it carries a very specific and strong meaning. Overstraining a bit, one could say that putting these three words in a row spares one from writing at least half A4 page (if not more) of explaining text. When an article is titled „The Emperor’s New Clothes“, it lays out a very certain context and gives a very strong appraisal to the topic dealt with in the content. Simply by taking a glance on the title, it is clear that whatever the article is about, the topic is not given a positive evaluation. Thus an intrigue and a small conflict has been created even before one gets to the content. In terms of complimenting the title – the reality of today’s media is such, that the title has to be catchy, intriguing and create interest in readers within seconds. Seldom are titles so subtly and intellectually intriguing.
 
Renate Valme. I didn’t quite understand what it was that Einasto blamed and who she blamed it for. On the whole it seemed that she blamed the Estonian contemporary dance field in general for having lost movement and body based contemporary dance form (or it’s disappearing). In the light of this, it was absolutely awkward for me that as an example Einasto used Renate Valme and performance „Pung“ by Kompanii Nii. If one blames the whole field in general then it strikes me as very odd and a very bad manner to smash one certain artist and performance as an example of everything-gone-wrong. Even more so as the example is totally out of place. Renate Valme has emphasized more than once that Kompanii Nii represents physical theatre. Also she has clearly stated that she doesn’t see her performances as contemporary dance performances, as the term contemporary dance today seems to entail basically everything that is not word-theatre. And it’s true that the specter of contemporary dance is really wide and colorful. Thus a critic should have that much respect for the artist that if the artist says she’s engaged with physical theatre, then that’s that. If the critic thinks that the creation of the artist is not physical theatre, but contemporary dance and wishes to stubbornly press the artist’s creation in the box of contemporary dance, then it is the critics responsibility to explain and reason why she does that and why the creation is contemporary dance. Plainly stating that, without any explanation, is degrading and insulting. It degrades the critic and insults the artist as well as the readers. After a long mind-game I may come up with some explanation and see some relations between the performance „Pung“ and the other topics entailed in the article, but despite my biggest efforts I cannot see why and how are Renate Valme’s studies in the university connected to the other topics in the article – even after reading the article over and over, it remains a mystery. And the problem isn’t in me. Heili Einasto is a professional and experienced critic and academic. Thus I was struck and amazed with such... unprofessional manner. To attack someone on such personal grounds in a context that discusses completely different matters is awkward. In any context it would be awkward. As a reader I felt really bad reading this. As the article lacked any explanation whatsoever why exactly Renate Valme and „Pung” got smashed in such a manner, this part remained confusing and vague. It seemed as if the critic launched some sort of a personal vendetta against the artists. Awkward, unpleasant and again surprisingly unprofessional.
 
Villa Villekulla. In her article Einasto has put together completely different components and tried to compile them in a beautiful bouquet. The beauty sought after was lost on the way. The topics discussed in the article would on their own make very good stories, that would be interesting to read and that would raise very good questions:
- Vitebsk contemporary dance competition / festival and what Fine 5 Dance Theatre did there;
- article that would discussion whether movement and body based dance is disappearing from the Estonian contemporary dance field or not?
- article, that would discuss how full-clad and consummate movement must / should be? Should or could this be defined at all?
- review of the performance „Pung“ by Kompanii Nii (without discussing Renate Valme or her studies in a personal manner);
- are there too many or too few dance production houses in the Estonian contemporary dance field? If at all or how much should the dance production houses differ from one another?
Instead of discussing in depth the aforementioned topics and questions, Einasto felt it was more appropriate just to write a bit about everything without giving any particular explanations and reasons. And in such form the article raised a lot of questions (and not necessarily the ones Einasto might have wished to raise). The reason for that is foremost the complete lack of reasoning and explanations - why where these particular topics put together in one article in such a manner? Why the author brings out and praises the Vitebsk dance festival (out of all the festivals out there)? Why Fine 5 Dance Theater attending it was so special (some other Estonian contemporary dance artists also attended that festival)? Why raw and rough talent doesn’t suit on stage? Why STÜ may not support „that sort of contemporary performing arts“? And how is that all related to Renate Valme?
In order to compile a beautiful bouquet from so different components one needs a good ribbon that would tie and hold everything together. If one just piles together different topics without thinking it through, the bouquet leaves exactly the impression Einasto herself criticizes. Paraphrasing her words: why bother with „handicraft“, deal with perfecting the text and developing the quality of argumentation, if one can get by without it?
The most astonishing about it all is that Einasto as a professional critic should be the last person whose work would enable me to use such rough words. For some curious reason Einasto ignored all the written and unwritten rules of writing a review. Whatever it was, the article was supposed to achieve, got lost due to a more than awkward way it was written. All that one remembers after reading this article is unreasoned smashing of one artist in a very personal way and a incoherent compilation of almost every topic that one has carried in one’s heart without bothering to explain why. Again with the help of Einasto’s own words: due to that her creation sticks out with bright, but undeveloped ideas.
 
Seven flies at one blow. It is difficult to kill seven flies at one blow. Usually there’s also no need and reason for that. Seven flies are seven flies and without a clear battle plan the act of killing seven flies at one blow seems to a by stander either as a mindless struggle or as arrogant boasting.
 
Critique. It is quite difficult to write reviews or opinions. Seems simple at first, but actually demands a lot of in depth thought and time. One of the most difficult parts is explaining to oneself for whom, about what and why one writes. When that is clear, then after the piece is ready, one should go through the aims again and honestly answer whether the piece has achieved the goals or not. And a golden rule to be kept in mind at all times: in case the only purpose of the piece is smashing someone or something – no matter how well reasoned, keep it calmly to yourself, even as a critic. No one needs that. Really. Some of the reasons (to name a few), why nobody needs it: tastes are [very] different; absolutely everyone can say badly; someone’s whining or negativity is boring and tedious to read from a magazine or newspaper. This belongs and should stay in the sandbox of so called Delfi commentators (anonymous online commentators).
For some reason people seem to think that the purpose of criticism is to say something bad or negative about something or someone. Without negative aspects, it’s not criticism. A very weird approach. It would be interesting to know why and how this perception has emerged. But no matter the reasons why, it’s about time to push this perception aside and establish again what criticism is about. Criticism is not about saying negative things, not about bringing out all the things that seemed or went wrong and smashing it all. Yes, one of the functions of criticism is to give evaluations. But giving evaluations and smashing are two completely different things. Evaluation entails the responsibility to reason and explain. You think what you saw was crap? Why do you think that? And here I turn back to the beginning – if you think what you saw was crap and you even can reason that splendidly, but you have nothing more to say, keep that knowledge to yourself. Maybe share it with your friends, but the wider audience doesn’t need to know.
It would be nice if critics took giving constructive feedback as one of their aims and responsibilities. You think what you saw was crap? Okay, but how to fix it, what to change and modify, why to change and modify? By searching and giving answers to these questions the critic takes on a lot of responsibility. Who is a critic to say, how and why a performance should be (made) better or that the performance in its present form is not good enough? Why is the artistic vision of a critic better than the artistic vision of the artist? It’s quite understandable why such responsibility is avoided. It’s way more easier just to state that what I saw was crap, maybe add a few lines of explanations and be happy with that. Even though critics, artists and the general public have acknowledged the need for constructive criticism for a long time, it is still a rare thing. Why is that so? This is a topic for discussions and debate. Despite that it is time for the critics to open their eyes and ears and come out of their comfort zones. Exactly like the artists must again and again prove themselves to other artists, critics and the audience, the critics have to prove themselves to other critics, artists and the readers. Otherwise one day one’s opinion doesn’t matter and isn’t relevant anymore. Taking responsibility over one’s creation and acknowledging the impact and consequences of one’s work gives an extra value to it. It gives new depth and fresh breath that is valued by artists, other critics and readers a like.

kedjaTallinn workshops for those writing about dance + a review

In September I participated in keðjaTallinn 2012, a meeting of the Nordic and Baltic dance artists. Some time ago I promised that I would give an overview of the workshops I attended. As I wrote about it for Müürileht (Estonian culture newspaper) I won’t invent a bicycle, but put the same text here. =) (review in the end hasn’t been published anywhere before).
 
Thus, during keðjaTallinn 2012 it was possible to attend in several workshops and seminars and listen to lectures. The program entailed activities from wall to wall and enabled to perceive dance from very different angles.
 
The angle I chose was writing about dance. In the course of keðja’s subprogram Writing Movement that was launched in keðjaTallinn, it was possible to take part in several workshops that focused on writing about dance, critics and criticism. As I write from time to time on topics related to dance and have found myself many times staring at a blank sheet of paper for hours in a row when I’ve wanted to write about some performance, I grasped the opportunity to learn about it. keðjaTallinn’s program enabled me to put together a combo of workshops and lectures, that discussed criticism from up and down, left and right. Those interested could choose the following activities related to the art of criticism::
 
Sidsel Pape, Re/viewing Dance.  The description said the aim of the workshop is to focus on the viewer and the viewer’s perspective: from which position and through which lens does the viewer see contemporary dance?
 
Ott Karulin, Cooperative Criticism. The introduction of this workshop raised a very intriguing question: in the light of ever growing freedom of expression, that enables everyone to say whatever they want in the blogosphere and/or in the social media, is the era of professional critics and criticism published in paper finally over? When anyone can be a critic, the functions of a critic have to be looked over and reframed.
 
Heili Einasto, Writing About Dance: Dance Critic As A Historian. In the introduction of this lecture it was written that even though oftentimes the purpose of reviews is deemed to be immediate feedback, it is not the sole purpose of reviews. In longer term, the reviews and other commentaries published are the sources for reconstructing the past.
 
As I found myself unable to decide which of the previously named activities to attend or not to attend, I gave finally gave up and decided to take part in all of them. I took my notebooks and pencils and went to enjoy the combo I mixed together.
 
In Sidsel Pape’s workshop we mapped in the course of three days the elements from which a dance performance consists of. We got quite a bunch of them (I wrote down 14 elements) and thereafter we divided them into two groups: objective and subjective. After that we mapped all the elements a review consists of and then combined the elements of a performance with the elements of a review. Seems exiting? It was! We also had the chance to put our newly gained knowledge into practice. In the end of the first and second day we got homework. The first assignment was to choose one element of the dance performance and use that as a perspective / lens through which to look a dance performance. To make the assignment more exiting we had to choose a perspective we normally don’t use. Thus I took the element of relationships. Others took motion, light, sound, gender, space etc. Even though this assignment seems as an easy one, I’s really not, proved to be rather difficult actually! To watch the dance performance Camouflage by Krista Köster and Kristina Paśkevićius through the lens of relationship is almost impossible. As I was forced to focus only on one element, my attention constantly moved to other elements as well.. at times only to all the other elements. At one point the relationship lens got so overwhelmingly boring for me that I started to shift the perspective from relations between the dancers to the relations in general. I looked how the dancers related to the space, how the audience related to the stage, how the light related to sound. In the end of the performance I felt as if I completely failed with my task. The next day it turned out I was not the only one whose assignment got messed up this way. Other participants of the workshop struggled with the same problem – half way through they started to focus on totally other things. We eventually concluded that this was the point and trick of the assignment – by forcing oneself to focus on only one detail you will notice more and more details. The next assignment was to write a review straight after seeing a performance (deadline was midnight) keeping in mind that the review should entail all the elements of a review. Again it proved to be quite a complicated task as dance performance Sarah Kane by Mārtiņš Eihe is something that is extremely difficult to put in words. (I’ll add the review I wrote in the end of this blog entry). The next morning we read and analyzed each other’s reviews, exchanged emotions. On the whole we learned quite a few tricks that hopefully will make it a bit easier to write reviews.
 
In the workshop of Ott Karulin we mapped the functions of a critic (yes, in plural, as a critic really does more than just brings out and forth all that bad in a performance in the most awful ways imaginable) and then focused on (dance)artists. The focus and aim was to figure out how to give feedback to dance artists. How to criticize so that it would give feedback to the dance artist but at the same time fulfill all the other tasks as well? Working in pairs and groups we worked on different ways of giving feedback. We discussed how feedback at all could be given. Inspired by the cozy atmosphere and pillows of Draamamaa (Dramaland), we got bunch of ideas. The most fun was the idea to make a reality show that would show a critic for 24 h after seeing a performance. During the 24 h the critic would have to give updates on what (s)he thinks about the performance. These would enable others to see how the opinion of the critic evolves. To make everything even more exiting, we worked out concrete methods how to realize the ideas. In the end of the workshop my head was full of different ideas on how and what to keep in mind the next time I write something.
 
Heili Einasto made us think about the future generations in her lecture. She noted that critics do not only write for today’s readers, but for the readers of tomorrow, the day after and in the many years to come. This is an aspect many tend to forget. With the reviews that focus only on the emotions of the moment or that plunge into comparing the performance being reviewed with others seen before through giving parallels and what not, the readers in the future have nothing much to do. The reader will get to know about the context of the performance, but nothing much about the performance itself. When one tries to reconstruct a performance after 20 years based on articles and reviews, one will be faced with rather big difficulties when texts describing the performance are only about ovations, despair or other emotions the performance created. The writer will be as helpless with the reviews that compare a performance with five – six other performances, which the future reader may not have seen and may say next to nothing to the writer. To illustrate the point, we read a review written years ago about a dance performance. The task was to figure out what was on stage. Mission impossible. After the lecture I pondered for quite awhile how to write a review so that it wouldn’t just retell the performance, but still would give an idea what was happening on the stage.
 
By the end of the third day, when all the workshops, lectures and other activities were over, I had my head full of ideas and thoughts. The combo offered to those interested in criticism by the organizing team of keðjaTallinn was full of completely different tastes that on the first glance didn’t match at all, but in the end of the day made up a unique, exciting and very tasty mixture – a complete overview of a critic, his/her roles and methods. I really enjoyed it and found it all very enriching and even the professional critics left the workshops with big smiles on their faces.

********************

Sarah Kane. By Mārtiņš Eihe.
Sometimes it is nice to go and watch a performance without any previous knowledge about it. Just to stop by in a theatre, take a glimpse at the program, choose a performance by a title or by suitable time and just enjoy the show… and just let the performance impress you. Sarah Kane by Mārtiņš Eihe is not a performance one should watch in such a manner.

Without any insight and knowledge whatsoever, the performance will probably leave behind a very confused audience that may not grasp what they just saw and experienced. The storyline is hard to understand and does not evolve much. The performance is full of somewhat chaotic violence and aggression with no apparent reason. The sound is aggressive and overwhelmingly loud.

Sarah Kane begins with three dancers (two men and a woman) sitting on a couch discussing about the manner in which they would like to kill their best friend(s). The manners are unconditionally cruel. The topic of discussion is surprising, to say the least. With three dancers sitting on a couch, a love story would have been much more expectable.

The opening topic set the theme for the entire performance- the violence, deep depression, anger, despair and destruction that death and torture entail was present from the very beginning until the very end. It appeared in the movements, which at times begun softly and mildly, but very quickly evolved into rapid and aggressive motion. The aggression appeared in the sound, which was irritating and at times agonizingly loud. The aggression was visible in the relationships between the characters the dancers portrayed. The relationships were superficial and aggressive, they were passionate, but violent. At times disturbingly aggressive and violent.

The first moment the audience is given a hint of what is happening, comes in the second half of the performance, when one of the dancers says that he hates everything, he doesn’t want to live nor die. This puts the performance in a strong context and clarifies the motives behind everything. The performance presents and depicts a person’s despair, anger, passion, loneliness, a search for reason, a search for meaning of life. In a way this calms down the confused audience, as through this understanding they have something to hold on to, something to relate to, they can address the violence, justify it and put in a somewhat safer context. Ability to understand the far too direct violence and aggression sooths and enables the audience to associate what they see with their own experiences, understandings, values and principles.

Despite that clarification and contextualization, the true understanding of the performance comes after familiarizing oneself with the introduction of the performance and the background. After one reads and learns about Sarah Kane and what Mārtiņš Eihe wanted to say/express with the performance. The knowledge about the background really puts the performance and its elements in a perspective, makes you understand what and why you saw and allows you to make peace with what you saw. Thus the performance delivers its essence, reveals its motives only in a concrete context. One has to know the background, the (hi)story behind the name and title of the performance.

Even though one gets the fullest experience from the performance only when one has a good previous knowledge about the background, about Sarah Kane, it doesn’t undermine the value of the performance. In the performance despair, aggression and violence, passion, depression and anxiety surrounding Sarah Kane were presented in almost unbearable authenticity. But the true power of the performance does not lie in its exceptionally good way of depicting and delivering aggression, violence and other emotions and feelings. The power of Sarah Kane lies in the way it leaves no one untouched. It touches. It may leave one in awe as easily as it may leave one in complete disappointment and horror. Sarah Kane provokes, intrigues, shocks, confuses, irritates. But it surely does not leave anyone indifferent, which is a true compliment for the performance and the author/choreographer, dancers and the whole production team of the performance.

Tiny review of the past half year in the studio

On - the - last - Wednesday - before - Christmas we decided to take a holiday break. The first half of the season has been really joyful. We have amazingly fun people in the studio and our teacher Liis is truly cool. We have fun in every single class and we train really hard. Altogether we have learned 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 and a half combinations. =)
During this half of the season only one combination made me want to cry and luckily we did it only in one class. One day I will manage to do the triplet and the turns... turns may take a while longer.. And the coordination part will also take some more time. =) But I can do somersaults from weirdest positions and I made my very first almost adequate handspring (up until now when I handsprings I was basically the only one who knew that I was doing handsprings) and by now I understand and know Liis’s handwriting in movement.
One of the funniest moments in the classes was when in one class we did our floor combination to the left instead of the usual right. Despite all my efforts I still did it to the right half way through the combination the latest. At one point Liis shouted: “Maike. To the left!“ and I said: “I know, but I don’t know where left is!“ Having decided and being convinced which side is left, I continued the combination and Liis shouted: “This is the right side, Maike! =) =) We had much fun also in the classes with our substitute teacher. Raido’s coordination tricks are still mystic. But I managed to follow them through. May eyes went bigger and bigger and at times I did something totally different that was shown, but I kept doing. =) I had fun also with Raido’s combination (that’s the „and a half combination“). There was a moment when we had to go on the floor. As Raido went on the floor so smoothly and quickly I got the impression that I had to jump on the floor. As I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, I jumped on the floor flat and asked: “Like this?” Haaa, it was funny, turned out there was no jumping whatsoever involved. Also, this combination was supposed to end so that we all faced the windows. When I finished I looked at the door. When Raido asked: “Maike?”, I said only: I’m as surprised as you..“
But we will win in the end any way! =D From January we’ll continue with the combinations, learn some new ones and improve our technique. It’ll be so much fun! =) =)

The Wolf Project by Külli Roosna and Kenneth Flak

On Saturday night I went to KUMU (Estonian Art Museum). To enjoy art. Dance art. In the KUMU auditorium was about to start „The Wolf Project“ by Külli Roosna and Kenneth Flak. Usually I don’t familiarize myself with the promotional texts or other introduction sheets of the performance. I prefer to watch the performance and discover later whether I saw what the author/choreographer wanted me to see. This time I acted differently. I read the introduction materials beforehand. As I already know how well Külli and Kenneth move, I instead went to see how well they tell a story.

On the introduction sheet of „The Wolf Project“ it is written, that Külli and Kenneth investigate the mechanism of power and manipulation. As a physical document the birth of one possible way of perceiving the world is presented. Can one fight a monster without becoming one? How we manipulate others to understand the world as we do? In the end it all comes down to the question: who do we believe and trust to shape our views?
Intriguing, isn’t it?

In the introduction text in the Piletilevi website the following text is added: on March 25, 1949 Külli’s grandmother was deported to Siberia, Russia together with tens of thousands other Estonians. Many of them didn’t survive the journey. Grandmother’s memories are not from a fiction novel cleverly written by someone, but the real and personal experience of so many Estonians living under the oppression of a foreign power.
This made me cautious.

The subject of Siberia and deporting always makes me cautious. Deportation is a sorrow story of the Estonian people, but it is also my own sorrow story. It is very difficult to watch from an objective and analytical perspective the materials regarding deportation and the different interpretations of this topic. Deportation is not just another chapter in the history book. It’s not just dates, numbers and anonymous people. This is the story of my grandfather and grandmother. This is my story. And it’s personal. I know a lot of people, who say that they don’t want to see nor hear the stories about deportation. They saw and heard all that in their homes, and they don’t need any extra. I do watch and listen to the stories others tell. With my own reservations, but still I read, watch and listen. It helps me to keep a bit more objective angle and perspective on this topic – well, as objective as the circumstances allow anyway.

Thus I went and sat down in the KUMU auditorium. I was excited and elated on one hand and distant and reserved on the other. The first view from the stage was compelling. In the middle of the stage that was round with long cold white canvases from three sides, sat on a simple chair a woman, head in a cotton bag. In the given context this view already told it’s story. The story might have been slightly different in everyone’s head, but definitely in the same direction – she has been tortured (how?) or she will be tortured (how?). Only after a while the spectator notices the other dancer standing in the corner. The man stood in the shadow, his stance calm, yet callous and disdainful. After the audience had settled down, familiarized themselves with the view from the stage, the performance began.

The choreography of Külli and Kenneth and the way they move is impressive. Accustomly impressive. The ease, elasticity and synchronization with which the sequels of movements appear and disappear on the stage, is a complete pleasure. Their aesthetics and professional performance enables the viewer to choose whether to focus and enjoy the details of the movements or the story told through the movements. One does not distract the other, they intertwine and complement each other.

I was released from the enchantment of the movement only after Külli told the following story: „I was on my way to the cinema. Two police officers checked my ID. They handcuffed me because I am an Estonian. They brought me to the Amsterdam train station, platform no 5. There were many others- Latvians, Polish, Bulgarians, Romanians. We spent the night there. In the morning they put us all in a big train. No windows, no seats, only small benches for half of us. In the center, a bucket – the toilet. /--/“.

From that moment I didn’t concentrate on the movement as such any more, instead I started to search for connections between each movement and feelings, themes related to deportation. Control over another person, control over his thoughts and movements. The deceptive feeling of freedom, that in the next second changes back to controlled and synchronized movements. Manipulation and games. Captivity and solitude. This was all present on the stage, in the movement(s).

At one point while watching Külli I discovered myself pondering how people become prisoners and prison keepers of themselves. A moment later, like reading my mind, Kenneth told (accompanied by wonderful movements) a story of apes – a story of an experiment with 5 monkeys. The 5 monkeys were kept in a cage with a ladder. On the top of the ladder were bananas. Whenever one of the monkeys would climb the ladder to get the bananas, all the monkeys were electrified. Soon, the monkeys understood what’s going on and each time a monkey tried to climb up the ladder, he was beaten. Despite no one was electrified, no monkey was allowed to climb the ladder by other monkeys. Then, one monkey was removed, and another monkey put in it's place. The new monkey didn't know about the forbidden bananas, so when he tried to get the banana, the other monkeys would beat him up. Then another monkey was replaced. He also wanted a banana and was beaten up – the previous new monkey joined in the beating. Eventually, one by one all the monkeys were replaced. No monkey was ever electrified, but every time a newcomer, who tried to get the banana from the top of the ladder, was beaten up by the rest, despite the fact no actual cause existed for that.

After the end of the performance, my head was full of different thoughts. I didn’t know what to answer to the question: “Weeeellllllll?????” [How was it????]. I was haunted by the sterilized impression the performance left me with. By sterilized in mean, that every detail in the performance was extremely thought –through, so professional, there was not a single extra movement in the performance. That optimum was visible in every element of the performance- in the setting, in sound and light, in costumes, in choreography. Everything was simple, clean, minimal. In a way it reminded me a laboratory, where experiments and tests are carried through... which actually serves its purpose in a way, as the purpose of the performance was to investigate, experiment. It was a project. Surprisingly, due to the sterilized impression, the story of deportation told on the stage left me completely untouched. It totally bypassed me. Maybe it was so because for me this topic is so emotional and loaded, that if presented so optimally and minimally, I can’t relate with it. In my mind, the topic of Siberia could’ve been left out completely. The manipulation, evil, control, affection, suppression... that was all present in the performance without the topic of deportation. Would the performance have played out as well without this context? That I can’t tell anymore. Though I think it would have. The images the dancers presented on the stage, carried such subtext, that the audience probably would have made these conclusions, drawn the parallels themselves. On the other hand, maybe for some the theme of deportation presented the necessary context, frame and perspective.

Now, after a few days have passed from watching „The Wolf Project“, I know what to answer to the question: “How was iiiiiiit????” It was good, I liked it. I truly enjoyed the movements, I was mesmerized by some details and synchronized movements. After running this performance over several times in my head, I even like the minimalism in the performance. And I would really like to see it again- I’d like to know, what I would see the second time.

And I would like to know why in the story of deportation the place of deporting was the Amsterdam train station?

New Season! =)

Another dance season has begun! Joy!

I’ve wanted to write this for so many times now. The first time I wanted to write it, was about a week before the season in Zick studio started. To invite everyone to join in and to share my excitement and stuff. But the pen didn’t move on the paper...or to precise - my fingers didn’t push the buttons on the keyboard.

Then I wanted to write this sentence when the classes in Zick Studio actually began in September. But as I didn’t make it to the classes at the time, it felt somehow weird to write it.

Then I wanted to put down the sentence after I saw my first dance performance of this season. “Pung“ by Renate Valme. This wasn’t the final version of the performance yet, it wasn’t ready. But it was great. I will definitely go to see it, when it is done and finalized.

Then I wanted to write this sentence before / during and after kedjaTallinn 2012 – the encounter of Nordic and Baltic contemporary dance artists, which was in every way a really scrupulous and enriching event. (I’ll write about kedja in a separate entry some time). But amidst all the commotion surrounding kedjaTallinn I couldn’t find a moment to sit down and write.

But today, when I finally attended the dance class in Zick Studio, I felt that now’s the time to write this sentence down! =) Despite the fact, that I had encountered dance in many different angles already during this season, the season truly and really began for me exactly on the moment I stepped into the dancehall and once again was struck with amazement and pondered how is it possible that all hands and legs can do different movements simultaneously (not mine of course); on the moment I tried to memorize the warm-up exercises and as simple sequence as move one’s foot in front, on the side, to the back proved quite tricky for me (partly because we had just done it in another order)… and especially on the moment I got my first bruise on the floor. =)

Thus for me the dance season has now officially begun. And it promises to be really exciting and fun. The classes in the studio are given by Liis Ilula this season. Based on the first emotion I can’t say much more than that there is a lot going on in the class. We manage to do and do truly a lot. The combinations that Liis has but together for us to tackle with, are really cool. I’ve completely missed the train with one combination... I have to wait for a class with not so many people attending and hope Liis will have mercy and teach the combination in really slow motion. =) The second combination I managed to more and less understand and perform. I even remember most of it still (and here I take a minute to congratulate myself as I usually never remember combinations this quickly). =) In addition to a cool teacher and a pithful class, we have very many new and fun dancers in the studio! So, if there’s someone out there, still hesitating and wondering to attend or not to attend, then stop hesitating and come attend the classes! =) It’s fun!

The Story of Miia - Milla - Manda

Wolf Kriimsilm had 7 occupations. I have one to more than one. Meaning that as of yesterday one may turn to me and ask half whispering for a sound technician =) As I am the person who pushes and pulls all the necessary buttons in the sound-deck to ensure that in Dance Theatre’s Zick dance performance The Story of Miia – Milla – Manda every sound, splash, chirrup and song is heard on a proper moment. =)

Even though it is my second time in this position, I still have to repeat that this occupation is not at all as easy as it seems. The lord’s prayer of sound technicians I posted some time ago remains completely accurate and true to this day and cannot be skipped. Before every performance the prayer must be mumbled atleast once.

Yesterday was the premiere of The Story of Miia – Milla – Manda. Premieres are always very important and to be honest, they make even the sound technicians toes a bit shaky. Especially if one has more than 20 different ways to mess everything up. =D Luckily nothing went wrong. History remains silent in terms of almosts. =D It was cool to hear after the performance people say that “it’s a pity that the sound was fluent, I would have wanted to see how the dancers would have reacted if it were messed up!”. =) Despite that, after the performance I felt exhausted.

With the occupation of a sound technician comes the privilege to see each and every performance. This gives the opportunity to see the performance in its many variations. Even though the performance is the same, it is performed every time a bit differently. Sometimes people ask if it doesn’t get boring or tiresome? It really doesn’t. I have more than enough details to keep an eye on and signs to which I have to react to. And for the joy of all sound technicians, this performance entails sooo many exciting and fun stuff that even the sound technicians enjoy every minute of each and every performance. =)

The Story of Miia – Milla – Manda is a dance performance I wouldn’t want to miss as a spectator also. It is just that type of unique and fun performance that keeps you smiling for days after seeing it. Come and see it for yourself, you still can! =)

How I (almost) became friends with the floor

We had a class with a substitute teacher in Zick Studio. The class was given by Ave Tuumalu. It was extremely cool (not that the classes usually aren’t)! We rolled and improvised and did combinations. May be I was in some super-good mood, but today everything was in its right place and all went so smoothly in my tiny head. I didn’t even get upset at myself when I messed up.

The most fun was the rolling on the floor. I began to like rolling on the floor a bit already in a previous class given by Triin Marts. But today I really enjoyed it. I fully don’t still understand what it should feel like, when one “on command” has to divide all one’s heaviness equally on the floor (I have felt it when I’ve done it (not so) free-willingly), but I almost got the hang of it. And today, probably for the first time during my history of struggling with dance, the floor was soft..or as Raido sometimes says “my friend”. We rolled in every way, from one side of the room to the other and in one place and it was soo cool all the time. =) And the moment I realized, that it was soft and cool, was awesome.

Thus, I am ready to announce that I’ve almost made my peace with the floor. Complete peace will come when I stand up and I must drop on the floor “on command” and it won’t seem as jumping head first against a huge, sharp and painful concrete. =) It will take some more time until I get there =D But I’ve stepped on step toward it. Yay! =)

And we practiced one really cool combination as well, that I will probably totally forget by the next class, but I’m completely sure that I made my personal high record of all times in the speed of remembering the movements in more or less correct order!

Story about how the Horse became a Dancestar

Long ago when Earth was still young and the sky and the stars were not as far away and unreachable as today, there lived a Horse. Horse loved to gallop over the vast landscapes, along the endless coast lines. He loved to climb in the mountains and rush into the valleys.

But above all Horse loved to glare the stars in the night sky. Horse loved it even more than chewing juicy grass, which he adored from head to toe. Horse could lie for hours on his back, hoofs stretched and watch how the stars dance across the sky. There was something mysterious and special in that. Horse desired to move as the stars, at times really slowly, at times fast as comets, at times following a certain pattern and route, at times absolutely unpredictably and unexpectedly.

The more Horse glared at the stars, the more this longing grew. Horse’s secret wish was to become a dancing star in the sky. Finally Horse gathered his courage and told about his dream to his friends Mouse and Frog. Mouse sneered and said: “Who has ever heard of a dancing horse? This is not suitable for a decent horse. A decent horse strides on parades or plows the field.” Frog on the other hand understood Horse and suggested he went and searched for Yggdrasil Tree, who might be able to help him. “Yggdrasil Tree is behind three hills, three rivers, in the center of the crossroad of four roads”, the Frog said.

Horse set off, crossed over the three mountains and three rivers and reached the crossroad of four roads in the center of which stood the enormous ancient Yggdrasil Tree. Horse told the Yggdrasil Tree about his wish to learn to dance as well as the stars. Yggdrasil Tree looked at Horse, measured him from every angle and said finally: “In order to be able to dance as the stars one must go the Northern Star- the brightest and fairest star in the sky. To get to Northern Star one must get an approval from her 5 councils: Cassiopeia, Orion, Pleiades, Great Bear and Little Dipper.“

Horse was completely puzzled- how was he supposed to get to them at all? The councils and Northern Star are high in the sky but he was standing firmly on his four feet on the ground. Yggdrasil Tree again looked at Horse, measured him from every angle and said finally: “Climb to the top of my longest branch, there one will find a cloud that will take one to all the councils. But do consider this carefully, for when one goes, there is no turning back.”

Horse thought and decided. Decided to go. He climbed to the top of the longest branch- and it was seriously long!- and found a cloud there just like Yggdrasil Tree had said. For a moment Horse doubted whether a small cloud could carry such a strong horse as he was. But as there was no other way to find out, Horse took a deep breath, closed his eyes and stepped on the cloud. And the cloud carried him! Horse nickered from joy and relief. Then the cloud started to move and softly carried Horse to the councils.

First council he went to was Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia loved contrasts and contradictions. Cassiopeia was joyful both when happy and when sad. Happiness and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. Horse went to Cassiopeia and told him his story. Cassiopeia listened to Horse and grew fond of him. He said to the Horse: “Horse, sometimes you are on top of a mountain, sometimes you are in the bottom of a valley. Sometimes you are above the water, sometimes you are under water. Don’t forget on top of the mountain, how hard was the road to top from the bottom of the valley, don’t think under water that you cannot reach the surface. You have my approval. You can find Orion when you cross the mountains and valleys of my kingdom."

Horse thanked Cassiopeia, memorized his words carefully, stepped on the cloud and they crossed the high mountains and deep valleys. Soon they reached Orion.

Orion was a council who loved perfection. She adored order and beauty. Horse went to Orion and told her his story. Orion also grew fond of Horse and she said to him: “Always strive for perfection, search for the best. But remember that more important than to get the best or to be the best is to give your best. You have my approval. You will find Pleiades when you pass the Three Kings."

Horse thanked Orion, memorized her words carefully, stepped on the cloud and they sailed towards Pleiades. They passed the Three Kings and after a while they reached Pleiades.

Pleiades was a council who loved company. He adored friendship and love. Horse went to Pleiades and told him his story. Pleiades liked Horse even before Horse finished his story. He said to Horse: “Even though it is great to be the shiniest, the biggest, the most famous star, you must never forget that power lies in collaboration. Take care of your friends and make new friends, the more you collaborate the more you’ll achieve. You have my approval. You will find Great Bear when you go through my star cluster.”

Horse thanked Pleiades and memorized his words of wisdom. Though now Horse got a bit worried. He had visited three councils already, but none of them hadn’t even vaguely mentioned dance nor taught dance. Being occupied with these troubling thoughts Horse didn’t notice that the cloud had already reached Great Bear.

Great Bear was a council who loved grand things. He loved to do everything in a big way. The more, the merrier. Horse went to Great Bear and told him his story. Great Bear liked Horse, because Horse had a Grand Plan. He said to Horse: “Don’t be afraid to do big things, don’t be afraid to take chances. If you don’t make it the first time, you’ll surely make it on the seventh time. Dear to dream big, dear to try new things, most importantly dear to fall down and dear to stand up after you’ve fallen. You have my approval. You’ll find Little Dipper behind my large castle.

Horse thanked Great Bear, memorized his words of wisdom and sailed to Little Dipper.

Little Dipper was a council who was extremely curious. He loved to read, explore, discover and test. Horse told him his story and like all the previous councils, Little Dipper also liked him. He said to Horse: “Never stand still, keep learning, discover new things. Enlarge your knowledge. Every new piece of wisdom is valuable and useful. You have my approval. You’ll find Northern Star in the castle that lies in the end of the road that begins from the backdoor of my library.

Horse thanked Little Dipper and memorized his words of wisdom. Despite the fact that he had gotten approvals from all the councils, he was in serious panic now. None of them hadn’t taught him to dance, none of them hadn’t even mentioned dance. How will he go before Northern Star like this?? The second he thought of Northern Star, the cloud reached Northern Star's castle.

Horse stood for a while, looked at the beautiful castle and then stepped inside. Northern Star was already expecting him. She greeted and welcomed Horse and said: “As you stand here before me I assume you got the approval of all my councils. What did my councils teach you about dance?” Horse panicked. The councils hadn’t taught him anything about dance. “They said that when on top of the mountain one must not forget that one can always reach the surface and when in the bottom of the valley one must not forget how difficult the road to the top of the mountain is…eeeeh…or vice versa. And one must take care of one’s friends, and not be afraid to stand up and fall down. And one must learn a lot,” Horse said quickly. Northern Star laughed and said: “I see you are worried, Horse”. Horse said warily: “Well you see, I came here to learn to dance like the stars … but no one has taught me anything about dancing…”

Northern Star laughed merrily and said: “Learning the dance steps is the easiest and most trivial part of dance. When conquering the sky more important than to know all the dance steps, is to remember and apply the words of wisdom the councils provided you with. Horse, I will tell you the magic word that gives you the ability to dance like the stars. But do not forget what I told you about the words of wisdom. For when I see that you ignore them, I will take away the magic word and the ability to dance like stars. Horse promised that he will not forget the words of wisdom, that he will use them and what’s more- he will pass them on to others who wish to learn to dance. Northern Star smiled and said: “Repeat after me: "Zick!"” Horse was confused. “Zick???” he thought, “What is Zick??? Shouldn’t a magic word be something like Abracadabra or Simsalabim or something?” Horse pondered a bit and then said loud and clear: “Zick!”

As soon as Horse said this word he new that it was a real magic word. He felt how every inch of his body itched to dance, to move. He took a step and another and these were the coolest dance steps ever seen. Horse beamed with joy, thanked Northern Star and stormed across the sky dancing. Now that he could dance like the stars, the sky was his dance floor.

Horse never forgot the words of wisdom the councils had said nor the promise to pass these on to all who wish to dance he had made to Northern Star. Every now and then he fools around and says the magic word to an ignorant piggy or person, who until then didn’t want to know anything about dance, but after that becomes a devoted friend of dance.

Horse dances in the sky to this day. Joy of dancing has only grown. When one looks to the sky on a clear night one can see the shiny Horse dancing across the sky!

Zick!

***************************************************

Background of the story:

While preparing the party for celebrating the 10th anniversary (2011) of Tantsuteater Zick, the organizers thought the celebration should be a bit different and special. As the place where the party was held was Museum Miia-Milla-Manda, it was decided to use all its different rooms. One of the most special places in the Museum is the Celestial Tower, on the ceiling of which is a wondreous celestial map. The Celestial Tower is a very comfortable room filled with pillows- perfect for telling stories. Thus came the idea- why not tell/listen to a story... What the story would be like remained partially a secret even to the organizers. Thus on the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Tantsuteater Zick the guests listened the Story of how the Horse became a Dancestar in the Celestial Tower of Museum Miia-Milla-Manda. During the storytelling the constellations on the celestial map were lit and so the listeners could travel with the Horse from constellation to constellation across the sky. All in all it turnmed out to be a joyful and memorable experience.

In the class

Throughout this season I haven’t written how I’m doing in the dance classes. To be honest, I’ve not written almost at all… But in regard to dance classes, I’ve knowingly avoided writing about them. I have two reasons for that. Firstly- writing twice a week that Istilldonothaveacluewhatwearedoing is much too much for my ego and secondly- reading week after week how shestilldoesnothaveacluewhattheyaredoingthere would be immensely annoying. I mean there ought to be some development, right? Well, there isn’t. =) ..well, maybe just a tiny bit, but still…

Our classes continue to be really funny and challenging (both physically and mentally). We have a really great gang this season. Raido keeps generating these maddening “every-body-part-does-a-different-movement” exercises, which are impossible to do despite the fact that everyone except for me are doing them perfectly well. The combination we’re working on this season is also really cool. Almost every class I discover one new plié in it, that allegedly has been there all the time (honestly, not the case!).

Lately I’m having trouble with the terms used in the classes. For example, when one uses the phrase “like a spring” while explaining the exercise, but the exercise looks “like a screw”, then my mind will go into a short circuit. This in turn is immediately and vividly visible in my performance which looks neither “spring” nor “screw”, but more like a stiffy trembling stick. Or when one uses a phrase “sensitive foot”, then this does not in any way relate to pushing with the foot or what the explanation was. Sensitive foot means that it’s tickly.

Although every class is unique and cool, the one today was so different, it made me pull myself together and write about our classes. Thanks to my amazing ability not to pay attention, the only one in today’s class was me…and my imaginary friends =). And as hope is the last one to die and I’m very generously blessed with stubbornness, then me and my imaginary friends spent 40 whole minutes in the class. =)

When I set aside for a moment how ridiculous it was, then today’s class had its charm. I had the chance to rehearse in a big class with mirrors on my own. For example I figured out why I can’t do chaîné’s and why I’m so clumsy with rolling. I saw how curvy my flat back is. And I mapped all the incomprehensible parts in our combination. And I discovered that I really really don’t dare to do some jumping exercises. I tried. But when one begins a jump and then clearly visualizes broken bones and broken neck, then one does not jump. No way.

Next time I will triple check whether the class is cancelled or not and will turn around the second I see that I’m the only one in the class.