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Whirls at the Aleksanteri Theatre 25.–31.8.2011


The alpo aaltokoski company is staging a contemporary dance performance at the Aleksanteri Theatre in Helsinki to the music of Whirls by Uuno Klami. The three-act ballet Whirls to be premiered in August at last has a choreography. The music completed by Kalevi Aho will be heard in a taped version made by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and can now be heard in its entirety for the first time.

The ballet Whirls has a very chequered history. The piano score of the first act won the prize for the best ballet composition in a ballet and opera composition competition held by the Wihuri Foundation in 1958. Its stage premiere at the Finnish National Opera was planned several times, but the composition was not ready in time and the premiere had to be postponed. Originally to have been in three acts, the unfinished score of Whirls was forgotten for many years after Uuno Klami’s death, until composer Kalevi Aho completed it with respect for its history and tone. He finished his task in 2001, but listeners have had to wait until this year to hear it.

Whirls is based on the story of the forging of the Sampo in the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala. The stimulus for translating the music into the language of ballet came from the sketches made by costume designer Regina Backberg, which inspired Klami to begin composing a ballet on a Kalevala theme in the 1940s. Backberg’s sketches capture the spirit of the traditional world of the epic, its Ilmarinen and other mythical characters. The dance work Whirls to be premiered this year does not, however, aim at this traditional Kalevalaic imagery envisaged 50 years ago. The Whirls of the alpo aaltokoski company boldly brings the themes of the work up to the 21st century.

In Whirls, Klami sought to compose a modern, abstract ballet. Alpo Aaltokoski, choreographer of the dance work to be premiered in August, wishes to respect the composer’s strivings to create a topical work. His approach to the Kalevalaic story of the forging of the Sampo is abstract and topical. Themes and characters from The Kalevala will nevertheless be seen on stage. The choreography and movement language are a sort of synthesis of Aaltokoski’s own style and 1950s–1960s modernism, plus references to folk dance. Choreographing Whirls has long been a dream of this internationally celebrated dance artist. He has listened carefully to Klami’s and Aho’s music and reflected on the meaning of the Sampo in the world of today.

“Whirls is a story of man’s age-old search for happiness,” says Aaltokoski. “Each generation may find its own Sampo. What does the golden-egg-laying Sampo mean in the present day and age?”

The stage designs, relying mainly on projections, and the imaginative costumes made partly from recycled materials support Aaltokoski’s idea of a topical contemporary choreography. The dancers are some of the finest Finnish modern dance artists.

The staging of Whirls is a significant landmark in the history of Finnish art music and dance and a great cultural-historical achievement. 


Choreography: Alpo Aaltokoski
Music: Whirls (Uuno Klami/Kalevi Aho) recording by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Dancers: Janne Aspvik, Johanna Ikola, Jyrki Kasper, Ahto Koskitalo, Kaisa Launis, Jouni Majaniemi, Tuovi Rantanen, Samuli Riik, Esete Sutinen, Terhi Vaimala, Mariano Vega, Emmi Väisänen
Stage designs and projections: Alisha Davidow
Lighting design: Matti Jykylä
Costume design: Marja Uusitalo
Graphic design: Kirsti Maula
Production: alpo aaltokoski company, Aleksanteri Theatre

Premiere at the Aleksanteri Theatre at 19:00 on Thursday 25.8.

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Whirls at the Aleksanteri Theatre 25.–31.8.2011