The Experience Carries the Performance; Minna Tervamäki Proves a Promising Choreographer
Minna Tervamäki’s position as a soloist heralded as the Finnish National Ballet’s “star ballerina” must be both a benefit and a burden.
A benefit in terms of the fame it brings; her two dance soirées on the National Opera’s small stage were sold out. But can the ballerina shed the burden of celebrity and present us with the “something else” that the event’s title promises?
The audience expects high développés and grand jetés, and their expectations are met, because Tervamäki’s choreography is based on ballet techniques. But she manages to avoid clichés and the excessive magniloquence of classical ballet.
The three National Ballet dancers at the beginning of the performance – Minna Tervamäki, joined by Jaana Puupponen and Francis Guardia – make ballet moves to a light Japanese drum beat. The combination is unusual and charming; drums do not always require afro-style contortions.
Although Tervamäki is a “cool” interpreter – closer to an American Balanchine dancer than to a French-style or even less a Russian-style dancer – this, her second choreography, comes alive with strong emotions.
The middle sequence of the performance, where Jaana Puupponen’s motherly figure loses her strength and slumps down motionless, and Francis Guardia’s young woman, her daughter, is left alone in the boundless universe of the stage, is genuine and moving. Tervamäki dedicated it to her late mother.
Puupponen and Guardia have the same subtlety as the piece’s choreographer and dancer Minna Tervamäki, which is actually unusual on the dance stage. The clichéd notion of ballet as simply a platform for the brilliance of star dancers is powerfully contradicted by this performance.
For instance Jaana Puupponen, who retired last spring at the age of 44, is in such good dancing form that the National Ballet should really continue to offer her good parts rather than leaving her to
languish in retirement.
The best thing about Tervamäki’s choreography is the fact that she draws from her own experiences. This is evident in her solo, where she tries to break out of an “armour” shaped like a tutu. The
symbolism is nothing new, but she performs the scene beautifully, putting her strong back muscles to good use.
Something Else? gives convincing proof of Minna Tervamäki’s talent.
-Auli Räsänen, Helsingin Sanomat 12/2005
Something Else? Choreography: Minna Tervamäki. Dance: Francis Guardia, Jaana Puupponen and Minna Tervamäki. Sepia longa, aspectus brevis. Choreography and dance: Virpi Pahkinen. Labile. Choreography: Isira Makuloluwe. Dance: Minna Tervamäki. Alminsali, 9 December.
A dedicated soirée is an unusual and exclusive event in the ballet world, especially when it is not related to an anniversary, a farewell to the stage or a similar happening. But now Minna Tervamäki, one of the top soloists in Finnish ballet, has put together and produced an evening of her own choreography, with one visiting performance and a tailor-made solo.
Something else? is the title of both the whole soirée and Tervamäki’s own choreographed piece, which she performs with Francis Guardia and Jaana Puupponen. Tervamäki’s choreography is, in itself, neither innovative nor surprising. It is clearly structured and carefully worked, as well as tailored for these particular dancers, each of whom manages to fulfil expectations with all the authority and
charisma of a soloist dancer. What stands out in this succession of female portraits is individuality, experience and quality.
The movement sequences, which meld together pointe work in pirouettes, arabesques and elegant leg lifts with more ordinary walking and standing, are characterised by a kind of calm and clarity. A brief story – a farewell between a mother and daughter – is performed in pared-down fashion by Puupponen and Guardia.
A muscular back dance in an iron crinoline prison, set to Apocalyptica’s piercing tones, is visually effective as a solo and a duo. The ethno-style music, Kalle Kuusela’s stylish costuming and Mikki Kunttu’s accentuating lighting round off the exotic and exclusive feel of the performance.
In Virpi Pahkinen’s solo Sepia longa aspectus brevis, exoticism bursts into full bloom, although with more stamina and increased symbolic striking power. Pahkinen, a seldom-seen visitor in her homeland, is faithful to her own style even in this, her latest work. Her expressive, sculptural and at times genuinely acrobatic body language is framed by serious contemporary classical music and dominant lighting that creates surprising spaces and dimensions around the scenography. The end result is a dynamic flow of energy that thickens, dissipates, sharpens and focuses in different ways. The stage setting is archaic, futuristic, concrete and symbolic with its intricately woven patterns.
In one of the piece’s most beautiful scenes, Pahkinen sits on one hip in her wine-red dress and lets her legs and arms perform in profile – not unlike a divine image performed in cosmic dance.
Isira Makuloluwe, who works in Paris but hails originally from Sri Lanka, won the award for choreography at Kuopio’s dance festival in 2003. He tailored the solo Labile for Minna Tervamäki. The piece displays the work process related to a performance in an improvisational and jagged way.
Movement phrases are repeated only to be quickly turned on their heads. The piece’s minimalism, changing dynamics and powerful pointe work are reminiscent of William Forsythe’s reforms in classical ballet. The plastic packaging, the choice of music and the band text provide humorous perspectives to the portrait of a dancer considering her many self-images and the scene situation. These questions create
movement and change.
-Jan-Peter Kaiku, Hufvudstadsbladet 11/12/2005
Tervamäki’s work is touching in its subjectivity. Tervamäki is a phenomenal dancer, but Jaana Puupponen’s mother figure is downright heart-breaking in its emotion.
-Jussi Tossavainen, Helsingin Sanomat
TERVAMÄKI & MARTIN - On A String
Minna Tervamäki and Kaari Martin at the Savoy Theatre. Costumes Erika Turunen, lighting Mikko Linnavuori
Dancer étoile Minna Tervamäki and eminent Finnish flamenco dancer Kaari Martin have pooled their different dance backgrounds to create the new, vibrant, visually impressive yet slightly one-dimensional On a String to the Sibelius Violin Concerto.
The first-night audience was in ecstasy over the encounter of the two dynamic stage personalities, and it is, for the most part, easy to go along with this feeling.
Erika Turunen’s dark, flamenco-hued costumes and Mikko Linnavuori’s clear and simple lighting elevated the performers to a breathtaking level of dance expression, but in terms of movement, the work was not quite on a par with Sibelius’s magnificent richly-shaded concerto. The second movement of the concerto, in particular, floated along in the fantastic musical world of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leif Segerstam with Pekka Kuusisto as its soloist, leaving the dancers and movement in their shade.
The choreography and presence of the opening and, especially, the closing sections raised the dance to the level of the music and did full justice to the often-performed Violin Concerto.
The earlier works on the programme, the flirting It Sax frolics of Minna Tervamäki and the superb sax of Timo Lassy, and Kaari Martin’s kinetically extremely interesting Korppi ja kello demonstrated their performers’ virtuosity and exceptional musical precision.
-Mika Saarelainen, Helsingin Sanomat
Creative Insights into Modern Dance
On a String, SE2, The Raven and a Timepiece
Choreography & Dance by Minna Tervamäki and Kaari Martin
Tampere-talo, 27th of March 2011
Choreography & Dance by Minna Tervamäki and Kaari Martin
Tampere-talo, 27th of March 2011
Modern art carelessly combines different elements and searches for new models of interpretation. So, why couldn’t the étoile of Finnish National Ballet and the pioneer of Finnish flamenco bravely mix together their own assets?
On a String, which has been plaited into the Violin Concerto of Sibelius, is the first collaboration of Minna Tervamäki and Kaari Martin. The movement of hands makes one realize the similarities of ballet and flamenco. Both the swan princess and the flamenco master use their hands from shoulder blades to the fingertips with an incredible sensitivity. When set next to each other, the fast movement of feet in flamenco and ballet demonstrate coherently, how different the required quick skills need to be.
On a String is a well-thought combination of light spots, shades, fluttering skirts and the adaptation of two different dance forms. There are various creative ideas, but also weird infractions are included. The entirety points out that different expertise can be combined and reach for the wholeness of an art work without getting stuck in a specific genre.
Tervamäki is a calm and strongly confident mover with her long limbs. Delicate Martin does not get an opportunity to show off her explosive flamenco expertise, she occasionally for no reason turns inwards and makes herself smaller than she is. Through choreographic means, the work exploits the dancers separately a great deal. Scenes in unison have problems with timing, but the moment of dancing with one skirt goes seamlessly and attractively. Tervamäki’s solo SE2 is charming and humourous.
Eric Satie’s piano’s relationship with movement is more credible in its sensitivity than the earthy dynamics of drum music, which on its part is highly contradicting to the flying movement of ballet.
Kaari Martin’s solo The Raven and a Timepiece is based on a musical piece of the same name by Roni Martin. The work is filled with plenty of elements, from world of sounds to singing and the rain of feathers to spots of lights. The visualization of the dancer is reminiscent of 1980’s Cats musical. The moves remain under everything else and get forgotten.
-Merja Koskiniemi, Aamulehti