Kirsi Törmi: Greetings from the artistic director of the 2017 festival

Kirsi Törmi: Greetings from the artistic director of the 2017 festival

What is a good life? This question has been asked by shamans, artists, philosophers, therapists, and many others for centuries if not thousands of years. The festival in summer 2017 was wrapped around the question of wellbeing and a good life.


Many beautiful angles and original propositions around those questions were found during the festival. Stirring moments were offered for instance via Utopia (about empathy) by Sari Palmgren, Pyhäjärviset (people of Pyhäjärvi) by Sonja Pakalén, Kristiina by Marjo Kuusela, Ulkorastilla by Anna Kupari and Outi Markkula, production by Kaislarannan Tunto- group, Trash Heroes by Antti Lahti and Panu Varstala, just to mention a few. In the workshop lead by researcher Pia Houni (PhD) from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health we had the opportunity to dive into the depths of wellbeing at work and existential health. The contribution of all the festival pieces and workshops could also be seen in the feedback of the festival, the audience had been able to feel the unique atmosphere, the warm communal spirit and closeness.


I myself turned then, and still do, towards compassion, to seek the answer to the question of a good life. How we treat each other and how we treat ourselves; it matters, also and especially in the artistic work field. Autumn 2017 brought with it the “metoo” – movement. With it a bigger damn was broken and the knot of inappropriate behavior, insecurity, fatigue caused by undefined work, general malaise and conflicts in the working community of dance art started to surface slowly, for the Covid pandemic to really fire up the situation.


With the Covid pandemic our sense of security and connection to other people has weakened. Political decisions have not been beneficial for the arts sector, and this has increased desperation among artists. We all have our unique tolerance – it is important to think about how we can support those who have been pushed to their limit and over. How can we take care that despite these challenging and traumatizing times, we would still be able to hang on to compassionate encounters, generous feedback and saying things out loud, as well as remedial and cleansing dialogue. How, in the middle of todays’ mistreating culture politics, we should remind ourselves and our colleagues that we are valuable as we are, and the work we are doing is valuable, even though the structures of society do not treat it as such.


My path as artistic director was short, it lasted for that summer 2017 – its themes and the values connected to them were and are so important in my personal life, that in the reality of the festivals, and indeed the reality of most dance art work, the ethical dilemma caused by sparce resources forced me to step down. The situation drove me into the familiar state of ethical stress. Research has shown that if a person is forced to work daily against there values and principals, the risk of clinical exhaustion is especially acute. That was a road I had been down and now wanted to avoid.


As in 2017 I still have the urge to lift questions concerning wellbeing – including all these difficult sides of the matter – into discussion. We shape our world and values with words. If we avoid talking about our problems, hide our vulnerable side, shame, humanity or sorrow, the true nature of dance art cannot be seen, and we end up presenting a polished image of success. An apparent, maybe even false, state of stability prevents development. Only by repairing the balance can we improve, like a child learning to walk. Something in the child is convinced that the key to success is trust: surrendering to instability will produce something one hasn’t yet experienced. I truly wish we would be brave enough to recognize and acknowledge all sides of the reality of dance art in all the manifestations of dance, festivals and elsewhere. I wish the Full Moon Dance festival an open, compassionate, hopeful, inquisitive and bold 30th Birthday year from the bottom of my heart!


Kirsi Törmi