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The final show in this season’s Global Dance Connections series is The Days, performed by the exceptional Finnish dancers Maria Nurmela and Ville Oinonen. We sat down with Executive Director Mirna Zagar to discuss the piece and the historical connection between Finland and BC.
Who are the artists involved in The Days?
Maria Nurmela and Ville Oinonen are two of Finland’s most renowned dance artists: both have reputable and extensive international careers and have performed with some of Europe’s leading companies. Theo Clinkard is English choreographer with noted for his large-scale projects for international contemporary dance companies like Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch and Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. Maria and Ville approached Theo back in 2017 with the proposal to collaborate on making a work, resulting in The Days.
There’s a story behind this work coming to BC….
Yes there is! Mary-Louise Albert, who runs the BC Movement Arts Society, is based in Sointula which was established over a hundred years ago by settlers from Finland and has a proud Finnish heritage. She proposed a partnership with The Dance Centre to bring The Days to the West Coast. In addition, the show is part of Nordic Bridges. This is a major multidisciplinary program run by Harbourfront Centre in Toronto which runs all through 2022 and works to connect the Nordic Region – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland – with artists and communities across Canada.
And of course the work itself is of exceptional artistic quality. I always look to offer our audiences an opportunity to hear different voices and perspectives, and experience diverse ways of engaging with dance; even more so if there is a connection to the history of this region and it opens up dialogue around community. This was that perfect moment bringing together the elements of how touring happens, and how we can engage with international artists in a sustainable way.
What kind of show is The Days?
All three artists felt this commission was a natural development in their career pathways. The work started from a point of trust, with no real funding until later. The creation process began with movement research rather than concrete themes. Through the research different thematic ideas started to emerge and take shape incorporating their individual life experiences. It is a work about negotiating relationships, complex feelings, and the sometimes comic disconnections that happen when different perspectives meet. In essence it comes from (and is about) care, resilience, and the desire to connect.
It’s an intimate performance with the audience seated ‘in the round’, and it deals with themes we all can easily relate to: the need for physical communication, the drive to challenge old power balances and stereotypes. It has been performed extensively around Europe and it really touches the hearts of audiences regardless of their knowledge of contemporary dance.
Technically it’s not just a duet…
Maria and Ville are briefly joined on stage at each show by two people from the local community – a man and a woman over the age of 65. This came from the artists feeling that it was crucial to engage with those who have seen more of life than they have, and has become a key part of the work. It means each show is unique as each ‘visitor’ leaves their mark: it is about the individuals and their presence, not the choreographic movement. The message is that all can engage in the creation of art, and dancing belongs to everybody.
Anything else we need to know?
BC Movement Arts Society is presenting The Days in Sointula, Alert Bay and Port McNeill prior to the Vancouver shows. Sointula itself has a fascinating history: it’s a village on Malcolm Island, and is part of the territory of the ‘Namgis First Nation, which spans the islands of the southern Queen Charlotte Strait and parts of the north of Vancouver Island. It was established by Finnish settlers in 1901 – the name in Finnish means ‘place of harmony’. They planned to set up a utopian socialist society known as the Kalevan Kansa. This was eventually disbanded, but many of the community members remained on the island, as have their descendants, and the town prospered through resource industries such as fishing and logging. The Sointula Cooperative Store is the oldest co-op store in the province, and still handles dry goods, groceries and fuel for the islanders. (Sources: Sointula Museum).
The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections Series
Maria Nurmela and Ville Oinonen: The Days
June 24-25, 2022 | 8pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Info and Tickets
Presented with BC Movement Arts Society, and as part of Nordic Bridges 2022 in collaboration with Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.
Photos: Viktor Dimitriev