Marjo Kuusela reminisces and nearly remembers…

Marjo Kuusela reminisces and nearly remembers…

Background for the beginning of the festival… I had got to know the Pyhäjärvi dance scene through dance groups lead by Marketta Viitala beginning in 1975. I fell in love with enthusiastic and talented dance pupils, voluntary staff always ready to help and the nature of the whole area. And of course, in the passionate relationship the Viitalas had with dance art.


Marketta had wanted for a long time to have more collaboration with the professional dance scene. In 1991 I was commissioned a dance piece for Joensuu Song festival. We were quite an impressive work group (Tero Saarinen, Tuomo Railo, Katri Soini, Tommi Kitti etc.) The previous year we had together with my husband Tommi Kitti found Vuohomäki disused school in Pyhäjärvi for a rehearsing and working studio. Because we fell in love with the school and its surroundings, the positive atmosphere towards dance, we lived there part time for seven years.


Our group of ten artists worked there for a month in 1991 – nowadays you would call it in residence – and prepared our piece Gamblers. Its preview and open rehearsals were performed at Pyhäsalmi school. The props so important for the performance were made by Seppo Kivelä from Jokikylä. This was one of the best rehearsing periods in my work history. The people of Pyhäjärvi were enthusiastic about our performance and us living in the village. Continuation was wanted and Marketta proposed that a festival should be founded. The nationally known dance leisure activity scene would be boosted and the professionals in dance would get to know the possibilities of Northern Finland, collaboration would be inevitable, the contemporary dance festival Full Moon Dance had been born. The first festival was indeed at the time of the full moon. Through outdoor performances I became so smitten with the names’ connection to nature, that I wanted the next festival to be called “Festival of the new moon”. And so indeed happened. The thought would have gone on… During the second year the wise marketing representative said that it was too messy, and the name of Full Moon Dance lived on.


After my initiative, the festival turned into something new to Finland, a combination of performances and dance lessons; only a few performances were commissioned, mostly from young artists just published or about to come out, that needed to be performed, seen and given versatile critic. Therefore, we had open application and artist that were chosen were committed to staying for the whole festival, to discuss other performances, listen to lectures, participate in outdoor happenings, courses etc. The chosen artists were only paid their transport, lodgings and food.


For me, the most important events were the outdoor performances and the final night of the festival, “The night of Dance” (planned by Alpo Aaltokoski from the start of the festival). Reijo Kela designed and directed the night hike or Valkeislampi – Kela himself danced inside a burning log-cabin frame – when the flames started to die down his wife Eeva poured fuel onto the logs. Three significant dancers of the time, Harri Heikkinen, Tommi Kitti and Tero Saarinen danced (and hang) on the framework made for the hanging of hunted elk and from all over under the spruce trees you could hear women crying.


Another beautiful occasion was the performance on Pitkähiekka planned by Leena-Mari Unho. The audience moved in rowing boats along the lake watching happenings on the shore, further away on the lake musicians were playing on a raft. There was a horse galloping along the shore ridden by Leena-Mari herself and on the night sky the sun and moon could both be seen at the same time.


And third in my memories is my own event – Syntisten iltakirkko / Evening mass of the sinners. We hoped to take the performance into the church but had to make do with dancing around it in the churchyard and Perinnepiha / Traditional yard setting.


And then to the humorous incident asked for: The authorities had forbidden driving round the church during the performance – only the inhabitants of the point had permission to use cars. There seemed to be a fair number of them! Dancing in front of the church felt dangerous during practices. At the last moment I asked for an old woman’s costume from Marketta and placed myself at the gate to the churchyard in sight of all the performers as a guard and signaled each time a car approached. The rest of the time I acted the part of a crippled old lady. The performance hit the main news, me as the old cripple.


I must have been to all but two of the Dance festivals. At the end of July I have to experience the late summer at Pyhäjärvi. I feel the flowers are brighter there than anywhere else and swimming at Lauttaranta between performances brings together so many things I love about life – people that truly love dance, the inhabitants of Pyhäjärvi that really try to understand contemporary dance, enjoy culture and talk about it. Nature and peace, that makes international dance stars and representatives of other festivals wonder and seek to come back again and again.


And in the end we were let into the church, in 2017 my piece Kristina, set in the middle ages was danced in and in front of the old church.


~Marjo Kuusela


Ensimmäinen Täydenkuun Tanssien festivaalijuliste vuodelta 1992. Kuvassa tanssija Tommi Kitti, kuvan tekijä Yrjö Kitti ja Marketta Viitala