New ideas spring from meeting face to face – Performing HEL offered networking and inspiring encounters 

Emma Vainio, 21.9.2021

Performing HEL showcase brought to Helsinki dozens of presenters, programmers as well as theatre and festival directors from across Europe. The aim of this event, which has been supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, is to promote exports of Finnish dance, circus and theatre.

At Espoo Cultural Center © Emma Vainio

During Performing HEL on 2.–5. September, 27 Finnish dance, theatre and circus artists and companies presented their work through pitch, demo and performance program – ready to tour and work internationally.

Approximately 60 presenters from across Europe came to Helsinki to explore the current artists and companies of the Finnish performing arts field. Performing HEL received guests from for example Jacksons Lane (London), Trafó House of Contemporary Art (Budapest), Mercat de les Flors (Barcelona), Berliner Festspiele,  Lithuanian Dance Information Centre and Danscentrum Sverige.

In addition, about 70 programmers registered to participate online – also from Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Finnish dance travels to Denmark – as a result of Performing HEL 2019

Ib Jensen, the director of Baltoppen LIVE – a theater in Ballerup, outside of Copenhagen – participated Performing HEL last edition in 2019. This year he came back to the showcase.

“It felt so good to come again”, Jensen states.

After 2019 he contracted several Finnish companies. “Last time in Helsinki, I saw a demo of Kinetic Orchestra’s piece Liquid and a pitch of Agit-Circ’s 2+2+2. Baltoppen LIVE is presenting them both during this autumn. In spring 2022, we are presenting Susanna Leinonen Company’s Nasty and Ilmatila’s Atlas – also because I saw the pieces in Performing HEL two years ago.”

Ib Jensen has also been co-operating with The Finnish Cultural Institute in Denmark. “They are helping me to spread the news about our programme.”

Two journalists from a Danish cultural magazine ISCENE were exploring Finnish dance, circus and theatre in the showcase. The editor in chief, Rie Hammer, was impressed by choreographer Tiia Kasurinen’s I’m not entirely here (cybersad). “I’m going to tell about this piece to the organizers of CPH STAGE, a theatre festival in Copenhagen.”

Encounters before the opening seminar © Jeremy Bengts

Encounters before the opening seminar © Jeremy Bengts

“The creativity is on a totally different level, when you do things live”

Amy Fee, the director of Danscentrum Sverige, described the atmosphere of Performing HEL on Friday:

“It’s been a very special experience, since everybody is just back to international travelling. It’s been wonderful to meet people in person and to actually see live performances,” Fee explains. “The  time between the shows and pitches – and the networking aspect of meeting colleagues from around the world face to face – is also very important.”

“We’ve already invented a new project just by meeting and talking. That’s something that doesn’t happen in Zoom,” Fee says. Online you have to keep to the agenda, otherwise the meetings become too long.

“The creativity is on a totally different level, when you do and plan things together in a live situation,” Christina Simpson from Danscentrum Sverige adds.

The opening seminar of Performing HEL was streamed to YouTube and is open to everyone. The panelists of the seminar delved deeper into the co-operation between Finnish and Russian performing arts: How Finnish and Russian performing arts professionals collaborate despite changing winds?

Performing HEL was held in Helsinki and Espoo on 2.–5. September. The showcase was organised by Dance Info Finland and CircusInfo Finland, in collaboration with Helsinki Festival, Espoo City Theatre, The Swedish Theatre, Klockriketeatern, The Finnish National Theatre, and Theatre Info Finland (TINFO).