Events 26.06.2019

“This IS a passion – New takes on work at Kiertoliike

Composer, inventor and futurist Perttu Pölönen on stage. © Pekka Mäkinen

Composer, inventor and futurist Perttu Pölönen on stage. © Pekka Mäkinen

Kiertoliike – a professional forum in the field of dance – brought nearly 150 dance professionals to Kuopio, Finland to discuss working for passion.

The two-day forum featured thought-provoking talks and workshops allowing participants to reflect on their work. Paikallisliike Contemporary Dance Festival and Kuopio Dance Festival provided the guests with dance performances.

“The atmosphere was genuine and relaxed. The event didn’t have a packed programme, so we also had time to exchange ideas and reflect. I believe that the participants were not just inspired but also equipped with practical tools that they can apply in their future endeavours, says Jaakko Toivonen, Artistic Director of Regional Dance Centre of Eastern Finland.

Talks, a mash-up of idealism, realism and social structures

“Passion is a topical and versatile theme that concerns us all. It is a wonderful umbrella under which to discuss topics such as coping, loneliness, working conditions, limits and even money,” explains Toivonen, who was a member of the working group in charge of Kiertoliike’s programme.

According to Anna-Maria Väisänen, a freelance dance artist working in the Kuopio and Northern Savonia regions, the theme raises conflicted feelings: “This IS a passion. But, on the other hand, when you simultaneously work as a choreographer, a producer, a press officer and a costume designer, it just feels like work. And work doesn’t always have to involve passion anyway.”

After a morning session of taiji and coffee, the Kiertoliike event was inaugurated by inventor and futurist Perttu Pölönen. Pölönen shared his story, which began in Nurmijärvi and took him to places such as Nobel Prize celebrations and the Silicon Valley, and he spoke of the link between passion, values and identity: “People are at their most honest when they are passionate.”

Pölönen said he believed that the next revolution would be a humane revolution, where the focus was on empathy, culture and art, social interaction and history instead of efficiency and analytics: “The characteristics that set us apart from machines are the same ones that make us happy.”

In a move from idealism to realism, the next speaker, Santeri Lanér, spoke of passion and fatigue. Lanér, a community coach and supervisor, said: “Every fourth Finn suffers from burnout symptoms at some point of their working life”, and noted that work should never be an emergency.

Lanér shared his own burnout experiences and listed a number of pitfalls on the passion pathway: audacity, thinking ‘Now or Never’ or “Just a Little Bit More’, feeling like work is life, and the “Scarcity Trap”, where a lack of money, time or sleep creates a state where the person is no longer thinking clearly.

Lanér concluded by giving a number of tips for achieving ikigai, balanced life, for example through mindfulness and merciful awareness, and left the participants some time to discuss it all, which they actively did.

Väisänen says Lanér’s speech made people see how burnout has become the new normal:

“It’s important that we set limits and protect ourselves; freelancers often lack the structures that a traditional workplace provides, she says and continues, “our group came to the conclusion, though, that complaining does not help. Change is always slow but we need to make the effort.”

“I represent the dark forces of Mordor,” joked culture scholar Mona Mannevuo, continuing to connect burnout and structures that fuel overperformance.

Mannevuo said the cures offered for burnout always involve changing the affected person’s behaviour – discipline, measurement, monitoring and mindfulness apps. Personal decisions will not, however, solve macro-level issues, she argued. Mannevuo’s talk inspired a lively debate about topics such as unpaid labour, “artist salary” and limit-setting.

According to Toivonen, the talks were a success: “They sparked a strong realisation in me that these are universal issues. I liked that they talked not only about the field of arts but about passion and well-being at work in general. They made you re-evaluate your views and ways of working.”

“Cooperation is power”

© Pekka Mäkinen.

Kiertoliike is an annual professional forum in the field of dance – the only of its kind. This year’s event was organised by Dance House Helsinki together with the Regional Dance Centre of Eastern Finland and the Finnish network of regional dance centres.

“The field of dance is so diverse and scattered that a joint annual forum is highly significant. It allows us to meet our colleagues, expand our network, address topical issues and just share our experiences. Cooperation is power, which is something I’m convinced every participant felt again”, summarises Toivonen.

Anna-Maria Väisänen also recognises the value of coming together. However, she encourages people to engage in dialogue more actively: “Kiertoliike is a place where you can catch up with colleagues and people tend to seek the company of people they already know. The event would foster open dialogue better if we also took the opportunity to meet some new colleagues.”

In 2020, Kiertoliike travels north: the next Kiertoliike event is organized in Kajaani on 20–22 March 2020.

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