Choreographer Ari Tenhula combines dance, live images and animation in a dizzy series of highly imaginative scenes. Part dance performance and animation, part sampled video reality, Dances with myself speaks with a multitude of voices about contemporary humanity.
In Dances with myself, your dance partner is a digital image of yourself. What is the basic idea of the piece?
In the piece, I dance both live and as a digital character. An infrared camera records my movements. Initially, the digital figure is quite realistic, but towards the end it becomes transformed into a digital inkblot, a figure from science fiction. As the work progresses, the live dancer fades into the digital world, as it were. Something vanishes and becomes abstract.
Where did you get the idea for the piece?
I've been following the debate on dance and technology for quite some time. I wanted to do something in the nature of motion capture, but ended up investigating the opportunities of using digital technology in choreography.
What is it like to dance with a digital partner?
It's different from dancing with a live person. The human being is absolutely incredible, and the work underlines that fact. A digital character can do things one would never be able to do oneself, bending joints in any direction at will, levitate... And it never becomes tired. When you realise that, there's no need to compete with the digital character.
How has dance benefited from digital technology?
Digital technology is used quite a lot in entertainment, especially in films. For example, the digital characters in Matrix can be made to do anything at all. I think dance is perhaps the most human artform of all, and it is closely allied with the investigation of boundaries.
Your work also has an animation sequence. Would you tell us something about that?
In the animation, there are six dancing figures who are moving on the screen in all kinds of configurations. Gradually the human figures melt together into abstract forms or other reality figures, like snowflakes or insects. I made the animation using choreography software I learnt to use last winter. The result is a 13-minute animation with 115 million frames!
You are both a dancer and a choreographer.
I worked for a number of years as a dancer before I made my first choreography. I suppose I was so stubborn I wanted to do my own choreographies.
Do you dance other people's choreographies?
Not any more.
You studied dance in the Far East. What was it like?
One of the places I studied was Indonesia, where dancers are grouped according to their role types. I studied the role of the hero, which is very slow and meditative. I also danced in Japan, where my studies included buto. I've danced in India, and I still practice yoga. All this can be seen in my works.
You worked for a time as the director of the dance troupe of Helsinki City Theatre. What was it like, working in a big institution?
Well, of course, an institution does give you a certain security and continuity. But I didn't want to continue as director, because it involved too much administrative work. I rather wanted to be an artist instead.
What is the state of Finnish contemporary dance?
There are great performers and choreographers in Finland. But I would also like to see the public outside Helsinki discover contemporary dance, so that going to see a dance performance would be as natural as going to the movies.
What is the role of dance festivals?
Dance festivals are important in that they commission new dance performances. When the repertoire does not just consist of old, familiar works, even younger choreographers get a chance to be seen.
What are your future plans?
I'm going to do some independent projects. The next one will be a duet, and then I'm planning a larger work. I work very slowly, and I always need an idea I'm sufficiently enthusiastic about. I'm also preparing a DVD of Dances with myself.
Communications Manager, Kiasma
DANCES WITH MYSELF
Choreography, dance and animation by Ari Tenhula
Set and lighting design by Kimmo Karjunen
Digital manipulation of live image by Ari Tenhula, Kimmo Karjunen
Costume design by Marja Uusitalo
Music by e.g. Iannis Xenakis
Produced by the Full Moon Dance Festival, Zodiak - The Centre for New Dance, Kiasma Theatre
The work is sponsored by The Finnish Cultural Foundation, the National Council for Dance