- Finnish Dance Research at the Crossroads: Practical and Theoretical Challenges
This anthology of collected research articles is part of a series of yearbooks that started in 1997. This is the first time a volume has been published in English with the explicit purpose of providing international readers [End Page 103] with a survey of Finnish dance research. This is of course an excellent goal given the limited readership available for texts published in the Finnish language. The studies presented cover a wide field, an approach to dance research that is also typical of the Nordic Forum for Dance Research (NOFOD), created in order to further the interests of researchers in Finland and its neighboring countries, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The volume, with its broad spectrum of topics, and the research organization reflect the importance of promoting a marginal academic field of inquiry through joint efforts.
Dance research in Finland has expanded during the last decades, and the volume collects the work of twenty writers, many of whom have earned their doctoral degrees in subjects such as dance pedagogy, artistic research, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, and history. Although the subject matter varies, there are some common tendencies that concern choice of methods or research interests.
First, interdisciplinary approaches as well as holistic worldviews appear in several studies, for example, in Eeva Anttila's nuanced use of Martin Buber's and Paolo Freire's dialogical philosophy for studying dance education; in Päivi K. Pakkanen's development of a holistic research model for dance pedagogy based on pragmatist-hermeneutic philosophy; in Teija Löytönen's investigation of the everyday life of dance institutions based on organization theory, qualitative interviews, theories of everyday life, and social constructionism; and in Maarit E. Ylönen's intriguing analysis of dancing as kinesthetic narrative. In this work Ylönen interweaves anthropological fieldwork in Nicaragua with psychodynamic theory, semiotics, phenomenology and hermeneutics. In most cases, these multifaceted analyses are engaging; however, one notices that more explicit sociopolitical stances easily become overshadowed by the emphasis on holistic conceptualizations.
Second, the high number of researchers applying phenomenology is a feature that stands in contrast to dance research in other locations. One of these articles is Petri Hoppu's research of the minuet. What is exciting here is the coupling of phenomenology with historical study, typically an uncommon association. Hoppu considers his own body the ultimate source for understanding and interpreting how people danced centuries ago. Jaana Parviainen is probably among the most widely read Finnish scholars from an international perspective; her thesis on dance and phenomenology was published in English in 1998. In the current anthology she gives a short introduction to phenomenology, with the focus on presenting concepts that could be developed into movement analysis methods. Leena Rouhiainen has used the theories differently and addresses interview material through a phenomenological framework in order to understand what being a freelance dance artist means. This interest in phenomenology among Finnish dance researchers can possibly be explained by the "bodily turn" in international dance studies since the 1980s, but it could also have to do with the fact that many of the Finnish writers and scholars have been and still are actively engaged as dance artists. The latter aspect is true for Kirsi Monni, who wrote her dissertation on ontological considerations of dance, based to a large extent on Martin Heidegger's thinking. According to the editors, keeping up with current dance research is considered, among practitioners, a professional resource and an important source of know-how.
Third, this bridging of practice and theory awards several research projects an activist dimension. In recent terminology it is often [End Page 104] called research for the arts (rather than research about art or in art), meaning that the research is done in order to develop new dance practices. Soili Hämäläinen's 1999 dissertation investigated two different ways of teaching and learning choreography based on an experimental study carried out with students at the...