Youmakeme – elegant but unsurprising
Helsinki Dance Company’s latest work, YOUMAKEME by Kenneth Kvarnström, is an excellent performance that caters skilful dance in a visually stylish setting, interesting movement, well-designed structure, strong emotional charge, and relaxed stage presence – all laced with a touch of humour. In other words, everything we have come to expect of and receive from a good dance performance, Kvarnström, and the city theatre’s dance group in general.
However, perhaps this lack of surprise is the one thing that makes you want something even more, once the initial euphoria of the performance wears off. But then again, you really should not complain; the audience gets just the performance it is there to see. Perhaps the problem is that all the expectations were met, but there was nothing beyond that.
A sequence of show performances
YOUMAKEME, one hour in length, builds up from clear scenes that resemble stand-alone show performances. The beginning of the performance loads the atmosphere with mysticism as Kai Lähdesmäki and Valtteri Raekallio dance in spiked puffy pants and all-blue tights up to their faces, costumes created by Erika Turunen, to Kvarnström’s familiar, softly flowing abstract choreography.
One of the themes of the performance is different interpretations of the same song. The song Feeling Good gets the treatment first and is presented in three different versions after the initial introduction by Janne Marja-Aho. The first take is a kind of a vanilla version by Nina Simone, followed by the group’s own highly caricatured growling version with the dancers dressed in long, black wigs and dresses, all leading up to a slamming rock version to the pace of Muse’s interpretation of the song.
As the repetition idea is applied to the instrumental piece by Biosphere, it is interesting to see how the same song can have different atmospheres when performed by a duet, a trio, or a group to a slightly different choreography.
Toward the end of the performance, the mystical atmosphere returns with three different versions of the song Gloomy Sunday. The duet by Sofia Karlsson and Raekallio comprises slow liftings and static postures, concluding in a cross-like stance. The duet is as much beautiful as it is painful to observe the physical execution of the postures. However, the group performance to Diamanda Galas’ quite personal interpretation is both freakish and filled with sneaking menace. In the scene, a creature played by Kenneth Bruun Carlson, dressed in deep blue spangly tights, is met with the rest of the group dressed in black feathered cloaks and hands that resemble tree branches or birds’ talons.
At times, the all-white stage is dominated by spotlights hanging almost down to the floor level, manipulated by the dancers themselves. The lighting design by William Iles is stylish and impressive but does not take the focus away from the dance itself.
YOUMAKEME is an outstanding example of a visually stylish contemporary dance performance with demanding choreography and skilful execution. However, the performance is polished to the point where it loses its ability to touch. It lacks that one crack, that one insecurity that would give something to grasp on in an otherwise perfect surface.
(Translation: Multiprint Oy / Multidoc)