Kordelin Foundation awards a prize to choreographer Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo

Aino Kukkonen: "Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo and architecture of the body", 8.11.2019

In November 2019 the Alfred Kordelin Foundation has awarded four €30,000 awards for work done on behalf of Finnish culture. The prize board praises Heikinheimo for his artistic courage, and his groundbreaking cooperation with the visual arts and architecture. Besides Heikinheimo, the prizes were awarded to actor Maria Ylipää, journalist Pasi Heikura and professor Harri Vasander.

Folllowing article, written by Aino Kukkonen, was originally published in Finnish Dance in Focus magazine (2018-2019).

Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo: Anybody’s Architecture ©Sakari Viika

Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo and architecture of the body

Dance and architecture share the same laws of nature, such as verticality and gravity, according to choreographer Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo. Movement also alters our experience of space.

“Spatiality is an essential element of dance – dancers continuously observe space and time. I’ve always been interested in the space for performing and its visual elements. For example, in the work ToF, which dealt with the gay community, we built a two-storey home and an outside space on the stage.”

Heikinheimo’s popular series of works, Anybody’s Architecture (2017–2018), has so far featured four choreographies. They form a fine cycle of encounters between Finnish architecture and dance. Löyly is a popular sauna building with its terrace by the sea, and represents new architecture. The architecture of the internationally famous Temppeliaukio Church, which was dug inside a rock in the 1960s, was initially criticised by some. The studio home of Hvitträsk with its garden is an example of national romanticism in the early 20th century. The oldest venue is The National Library (1840), called one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

The works are solos created together with the dancers, also involving musicians and architectural experts. The working group initially examines every space and its users. The focus is on the way in which experiences of a space change into dance.

Heikinheimo describes his approach as ecological.

“We don’t leave any traces in the venue, we don’t bring in any equipment and we don’t buy anything new. Oh, all right, we bought a moustache for the hipster character of Löyly,” he says with a laugh.

The series has also drawn attention to the fact that public spaces are not really open – performing in them demands long negotiations. In line with the title of the series, the performances are accessible to all and free.

Another starting point is a straightforward relationship with the public.

“I’m at the door to welcome people, and I tell them in a few words what we’ve done. I want to create an atmosphere in which the choreographer can be approached by the public. For example in the National Library, some members of the audience stayed behind to have a lively discussion with the working group. I don’t remember when I’d have had as much feedback as now!”

Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo

Heikinheimo is a graduate in Contemporary Dance and Choreography from London Contemporary Dance School (1989). He has a Master of Arts (2014) from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. He was senior lecturer for Contemporary Dance and member of the faculty at the Theatre Academy of Finland from 1996 to 2001.

Ismo Dance Company