Photo: Matilda Rham
DOUBLEtake, premier 4.10.2014 at the Malmö opera house.

“Jumping classes” led Jyrki Kasper to pursue a dance career

Jyrki Kasper started taking dance lessons already at age 4 when his mother tricked him into attending “jumping classes”. His teacher was Isto Turpeinen, who defended his Doctoral thesis on 25 April 2016 at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. Even though Kasper discovered the truth about “jumping classes” in a few years, he didn’t abandon dancing. Over the years, Turpeinen became Kasper’s friend and an important figure who has drawn him in into the world of dancing.

-I knew I wanted to become a dancer already back when I was 12 years old. Back then, Isto was collecting material for his dissertation, so he conducted a lot of interviews with us students, and his classes also included discussions. Isto spurred me on to pursue a career in dancing.

That early stage has been very meaningful for Kasper’s career, and Turpeinen played an important role in opening doors for Kasper as he went on to become a professional dancer.  Kasper tells us more about his work and looks back on his time as a student in this interview at the Theatre Academy.

What did you study and when did you graduate?

I studied in the Degree Programme in Dance and graduated in 2012.

Where have you worked after graduation?

I’ve worked with choreographers Alpo Aaltokoski, Sonya Lindfors and Jarkko Mandelin, among others. Jarkko is a former teacher of mine, and I worked with Sonya already as a student. I have also participated in children’s theatre productions at the Glims & Gloms dance company and Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth.

I had a one-year contract in Kenneth Kvarnström’s dance group in Stockholm in 2014. In autumn 2015 I will start my two-year contract at Helsinki Dance Company.

What has it been like transitioning into the working life?

I was especially surprised by the financial instability, even though I have known what my next project was going to be this whole time. But it’s not uncommon to have no idea what’s going to happen one month from now.

On the other hand, it was really freeing to transition into the working life. After going to school your whole life, it was such a liberating feeling.

What kind of skills do you need in your current job?

My work requires networking and social skills. Obviously dance talent is a prerequisite.

My work also requires compositional thinking: Dancers must see themselves as part of the choreography, as its component. It’s also important to have scheduling skills, especially as a freelancer.

Do you wish that you had some skills that you didn’t acquire as a student?

I wish I had learned more about taxes and scholarships. There was some talk on the matter on a career-planning course, but it would have been useful to have more information already as a student. Taxation and scholarships are such a central part of this field.

We could have also had more instruction in dance technique, but I’m not sure if it would have made that much of a difference.

I feel that the education gave me a pretty good basis that I can build on in my journey of life-long learning and tools that I can use when I run into new things and perspectives.

How can students prepare themselves for their time after graduation already during their studies?

It would be useful to have personal connections in the field already as a Bachelor’s student. You should start networking already during your studies, because you find jobs through your connections. Holding auditions isn’t such a common concept in Finland.

You should keep your eyes open for people that you study with and find easy to work with; this way you yourself can create job opportunities for yourself individually or as part of a group.

When I was a student, there was this course called Aikalaiskoreografit where different choreographers came in and gave lessons. I assume that it was specifically this course that gave me two jobs later on, so it’s important to make use of these kinds of opportunities, as well. This kind of instruction could also work as a long-term initiative, not just in a course setting.

What kind of advice do you have for current students?

Go and watch dance performances. Discover your interests and seek them in different situations, places and groups. Or do the exact opposite and pursue things that you aren’t all that interested in and develop yourself that way.

What kind of memories do you have about your studies at the Theatre Academy?

It felt really safe studying at the Theatre Academy. I felt like people cared about me and looked after me. I also remember that the atmosphere at the Theatre Academy was very open for discussions. At times, it was maybe overly academic.