Kenneth Greve. Photo Heikki Tuuli
Kenneth Greve, director at the
Finnish National Ballet
HELSINKI: Dansportalen has met with the Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet, Kenneth Greve, for a talk on program policy, choice of choreographers and his plans for the coming season.
Kenneth Greve has been the Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet since 2008 and recently renewed his contract for four more years, from 2014 until 2018. Greve comes from Denmark, where he was educated at the Royal Danish Ballet School and later at the School of American Ballet in New York. His dancing carreer started at the New York City Ballet under Balanchine. He later moved to the American Ballet Theatre and then to the Paris Opera Ballet, where Nureyev appointed him to the state of Etoile.
After one year as freelance he worked with the ballet companies in Stuttgart and Vienna before he returned to Copenhagen and the Royal Danish Ballet. He is married to the ballerina Marie-Pierre Greve and has three children..
You are going to stay in Helsinki for four more years. Could you tell us about your plans if you have had time to think about them?Of course. We are already planning for 2016, 2017 and 2018. I find this is a wonderful opportunity – with the work I have done here so far and to further develop it.
I have had a very wonderful time here so far. I have had the opportunity to create around me a team of people and dancers that I find are bringing the company up and bringing dance in Finland up. I am trying to increase that. Also the quality of the dance we are doing here.
Kylián's Bella Figura. Photo Sakari Viika
The Bella Figura program was a perfect one.Yes, but I was not completely happy with The Four Temperaments. We had quite a lot of substitutes who had to jump in because of illnesses. I think there was a bit of flu going around so I had to substitute some dancers. But they did very well actually. Three new girls and no mistakes!
And the Forsythe piece was very good as well as was the Kylian.
Yes, all three of them are beautiful ballets. The idea of this evening was to show the development of ballet. One was made in 1946, then Forsythe was inspired in a way by Balanchine and In the Middle somewhat Elevated (1987) was a development of that and then the Bella Figura (1995) is again a development by Kylián. A very different feeling but still based on classical ballet. It is just taken to an even more contemporary level and with beautiful estethics.
Are you planning to put it up again.
Perhaps yes. It is a question of the licenses. And Balanchine ballets are not cheap.
Some of the Finnish soloists have not been available because of injuries or pregnancy. Is that why we got the Chinese people to come here as guests in Swan Lake?
No, I would not say that is why we invited the Chinese people to come. I was very eager to see Ms.Wang. She danced so beautifully in the competition last year so I wanted to show her to the Finnish audience also. I think it was a very nice experience to see her here.
The first performance they were terribly nervous, both of them. But I think it is important for the public to see. And it is a very different performance. Their way of acting, their way of behaving.
She had very soft arms and added something. I think it was good for my other ballerinas to see her. He turned out to be a surprise and a very powerful dancer. They have both danced this before but not in this version.
Nicholas Ziegler and Minna Tervamäki. Photo Stanislav Beljajevski
Have you done your version of Swan Lake elsewhere?Yes, it was created in the Czech Republic in Prague and has been given there for the last five years and also in Poznan in Poland. So it has been danced in three cities now and I think it will go to one more place now. I was commissioned to do a contemporary look of a classical ballet, be modern and still old.
So if we could leave Swan Lake for a while and go to the future more. What is in your bag?
Well, actually I have to say, quite a lot. Because I have lots of ambitions for the company and I have started to feel that the company is now able to dance at a level where we can try challenges more.
We have managed to get a big audience. The last four months have been completely sold out.
I’m pleased now that we were invited to the Bolshoi theatre. To be able to go there, and to show The Rite of Spring by a Russian choreographer in Moscow. This is something we are very proud of.
We are also trying to increase dance awareness in Finland in general. Last year we had 9 000 people showing up at our open air performances. This year we are doing an open air tour free of charge around Finland.
We want to give the public a broad awareness. I want dance to be 'hype'. Our society is actually looking at a challenge. We are more and more dependent on gadgets.
My children are specialists in using iPads and gadgets. I now see as a challenge to get children to move. The kids who come to the ballet school are now clearly showing signs of lack of basic motoric skills.
It is also a challenge to make people to get up and move and do stuff. I would like to get them inspired by dance and get them to think that dance is something to do.
Most people, when they dance, are actually feeling quite good. It stimulates you and gets you into a good mood and at the same time it is also good for your health. It is good both for your mental health and for your physical health. It is very important that dance could be a bigger part of Finnish culture.
Have you had possibilities to get closer to e.g. the hip-hop scene which I suppose is popular also in Finland?
Yes. My son does it. Also street dance and popping. He goes to DCA five times a week (a dance school with a diverse and high class education in everything from hip-hop to show dance and ballet).
What we have done is that we have created an evening with dance we have called “Dance with the Dancers”. We have opened it up as a discoteque evening. It starts in the Almi Hall at 10 o’clock P.M. when people are leaving the opera, and then we make a place for young people. Actually, we are several generations there and people come to dance for themselves.
In the middle are performances by the little swans and black swans and the pas de deuz from Corsaire. They love these classical pieces! People may have drinks and there is a band playing. We have street dancing, hip-hop, ballroom, contemporary dancing – all in one big event and it ends at four o’clock in the morning.
This has been incredibly popular.
– Of course, the dancers are incredibly tired in the morning!
From Marjo Kuusela's Seven Brothers. Photo Stefan Bremer
How about Finnish choreographers for the company?Well, we have done a couple of workshops and we have tried to make a complete, let’s say, extravaganza of choreographers from Finland because I don’t necessarily want to call them Finnish. But choreographers who are based here. Very young talents from here, so we try to bring the new generation of choreographers from Finland.
What about international choreographers, living or dead?
We start next year with Marjo Kuuselas Seven brothers which has not been seen here for many years and is a very Finnish piece. We are going to bring it back and update it a little. I’m looking very much forward to having that.
Of course I also have some other choreographers, quite a few Finnish ones, that are still active and new choreographers and new creations that will be made here.
I think this is very important, to keep pushing and making sure that we invite them in.
I also have cooperation with companies outside. Three companies are going to come here and participate in cooperation with the house. I like to open up the house as much as possible.
Three Finnish groups?
Yes. And of course international choreographers. I met with Mats Ek in Moscow and we hope very much to land a deal with him. And I have talked with Nacho Duato and hope to land a deal with him too.
You keep to this Kylian and Mats Ek and Nacho Duato generation?
Both yes and no. I also have some very new. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui who is younger, and the whole new generation which is now coming. I am also trying to get someone like Francesco Nappa from Italy, who is not so well known. A lot of names I have seen and said 'oops!' – let's get them now, when we can still afford them and before they become too hot. It is always a gamble.
I will visit Vienna where I’ll see two evenings and then to Copenhagen to se a piece by Tim Rushton. I stay in touch with the international repertoire as much as possible. I also have friends who call me and say, hey here is a great number, look at that. The dance world is very much based on hearsay. Somebody sends you a link for instance, and that is how I want to stay informed.
Still, you are not afraid to engage the people who are in an international career already, Kylián for instance.
Of course it is also a question of generosity and we are a bit at their mercy. Now, Kylián was so kind as to let us take Bella Figura. This took me a lot of begging from him and I was convinced that this was right to do and he was kind enough to say yes.
The pieces that touches me are also the ones I would like to bring here. I could combine two evenings and have quality pieces from different generations.
Nijinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (reconstruction). Photo Sakari Viika
What did you present at the Bolsjoj?
Except Sacre we took three ballets, we chose from the programs we are doing now. We presented an evening composed of very different types of music – but also very brilliant music. It is Phillip Glass, it is Martynov, it is Ravel, it is Stravinsky. Who cannot say that we were giving them a fireworks of music?
(Double Evil by Jorma Elo/ Philip Glass, Vladimir/ Martynov and Walking Mad by Johan Inger/ Ravel and Sacre by Nikinsky/Stravinsky)
And the Russians are opening up to the modern dance and the world.
I don’t know enough about Russia, but I now they are celebrating Stravinsky and Nijinsky. And of course we are also celebrating here in Finland the 100 years of these extraordinary artists.
What about collaboration in Scandinavia?
I have had Johannes Öhman here to look at The Snow Queen and he said: Oh, could we have it? He was very eager and we have very good communication. And now with Ingrid Lorentzenin in Oslo we are very close and have exchange deals so we have very good cooperation.
I have been 22 times to Denmark to see productions there. I always have nice communications with them.
What about Balticum and Estonia?
We borrowed some dancers and sent dancers a little bit back and forth.
We have a tiny problem actually. We thought it was a challenge but it is a problem. It is the different sizes of our stages. We wanted to have Manon and wanted to fit it in and reduce the size to 12 meters and that means that the audience sitting on the sides sees nothing. Thomas Edur is forthful, I know him well.
Marina Tirkkonen's The soundtrack of their lives with the Ballet School. Photo Mirka Kleemola
How about the ballet school here?
Of course I have this idea to continue with the school working in connection with the theatre. We are both government subsidised. I’m now in charge of the ballet school.
One of your boys is now in the school. What about the other one?
I have a 14 year old son who is singing and an 11 year old in the ballet school. I also have a 16 year old daughter.
We have had great problems with the school in Sweden. How is it here?
We had difficulties too and I think now we are having some structure changes, but I keep updating the curriculum. I’m trying to introduce more of what I call Central Europe and move a little bit away from the Russian influence.
We would like to combine the two. I don’t want to get rid of the Russian school but would like to combine and add a little bit of footwork from the Paris opera. So I have some helpers to come to do that.
I will finish by saying that I’m happy to have the chance to work here. I have continuous ambitions. I’m pleased with the company and the public.
Anita Jokela/Anders Jörlén
June 10, 2013