Photo: Jan Ahlstedt

Gesa Piper graduated from Dance Pedagogy and now teaches in Theatre Academy

Gesa Piper has danced since early childhood. She is originally from Germany but took her first dance degree at Artez Dance Academy in Holland. Afterwards Piper worked as a freelance dancer, but eventually found herself at a point where she wanted to re-evaluate the development of her artistic self.

- I had come across some Finnish dancers and artists and I also found something interesting in Finland itself. I followed my feelings and my intuition, and they led me here to the Theatre Academy to study dance pedagogy.

Piper says that the auditions were confusing to her since there was no such pressure as she was used to.

- I’m used to situations where you have to elbow a hundred people applying for just one job in dance. But in the dance pedagogy auditions we just had some dance classes, reading, group exercises and essay writing – which I found very inspiring. Anyway, it was confusing because I wasn’t sure what they were after. There was no pressure of showing something specific.

Piper got in to the Theatre Academy and started her journey towards the unknown: She started a new life in Finland, which itself was a learning process. According to Piper, being an international student gave her a lot of freedom in studying because some lectures were in Finnish and therefore she had some options on how to gather the required credits.

- I could say I was almost lucky, being one of few international students in the programme. I had a chance to be quite autonomous and do my own projects and, for example, take part in some LAPS courses.

 

There are two kinds of myths Piper had heard about dance and pedagogy. One was that pedagogues are unsuccessful dancers who just “couldn’t make it” as dancers. Another myth is that performing dancers are just egoists who want to exhibit themselves on stage.

- I think these rumours exist in every institution. I’ve studied both dance and choreography and for me, pedagogy felt like the missing link. After all, it is all about dance – spinning around the idea of it and researching it from different angles.

Piper wants to throw light on the interesting things that happen inside the process of rehearsal. She thinks that those things often go neglected.

- The process-oriented approach in art is something that interests me. And I think that through pedagogy I can place more emphasis on the process itself. The Theatre Academy’s master’s degree programme in dance pedagogy has given me a chance to explore that.

 

During her studies at the Theatre Academy, Piper has regained her ability to integrate art into her life again. She says that she found the Theatre Academy’s academic mentality a bit challenging at first.

- Back then, I just didn’t have the knowhow for that kind of stuff. But at this point it feels good though. I’ve understood that it doesn’t take me away from being practical and physical. It just adds on to it.

Piper says that regaining words as a dancer had allowed her to face other disciplines more easily. It has been easy to encounter new people, for example from the acting or directing departments.

- I strongly feel that we have something in common. Not in terms of form, but in terms of ideological foundation. Interdisciplinary work feels very possible here and I found this institution to be a very inspiring platform for exchanging knowledge with other artists.

 

After graduating from the Theatre Academy, Piper started to teach here. She has taught e.g. contemporary dance and improvisation to theatre students.

According to Piper, the non-hierarchical and dialogical approach in the Pedagogy programme makes the jump from studying to teaching quite easy, since she is just an artist who shares and investigates artistic and creative themes together with other artists. Within that sharing lies the space for individual growth and development.

- I’ve been a little bit of an outcast because I don’t speak Finnish. That way it’s been easy to avoid falling into some preset roles. As a student I could easily consider myself being in my own artistic process, and now as a teacher I can just follow my interests.

Piper has also worked actively as an artist. Lately she’s been interested in working with durational and situational themes, asking which role a bodily existence plays in social, political and ecological life. Therefore, she often picks settings outside of the traditional and conventional frames.

 

Piper’s latest performance was an overnight happening in Nuuksio that was produced by a Finnish contemporary theatre group called Reality Research Center.