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Story | 11/28/2018 08:00:00

‘An ode to the forest’ dance work brings library and trees together

Oodi, the new Helsinki central library, will host the dance performance of Hanna Brotherus’ “An ode to the forest” when it opens to the public. The performance supported by UPM takes books back to their origins: trees and forest.

The birth of choreographer Hanna Brotherus’ new work can be traced to a construction site. While walking along Kansalaistori square, where the new Helsinki central library was being built, a seed of a thought popped into her mind. “It would be wonderful to premiere a new dance piece here,” she mused.

She soon found that the seed had taken root and simply would not be dislodged. She finally gave in and called the Director of the library, setting into motion events that would culminate with the world premiere of “An ode to the forest” on Oodi’s opening night.

“The library is the cradle of civilisation, science, art and the imagination. It is free to everyone and anyone is welcome to be themselves, regardless of age or status,” Hanna explains. She wanted to create a work that goes beyond generational lines, and would sweep over the entirety of the building, spreading from the stage outside to all three floors of the library.

an-ode-to-the-forest-dance-work-brings-library-and-trees-together-2.jpgHanna Brotherus

The finished work, with its 207 performers that range in age from 9 to 88 years, from primary and high school students to professional dancers and the elderly, definitely meets those requirements.

“The atmosphere to create this work is sympathetic and touching. Helsinki communities are welcoming the new library with warm hearts and they are happy to take part in this big event,” describes Hanna, who is choreographer, director and producer of the work.

The forest – Nature’s library

One way to think of a library is to see it as an oasis, a place of calm and tranquillity. Just like a forest.

“The forest is a haven for both inspiration and peacefulness. It is Nature’s library, with its chirping birds, whistling wind and bubbling brooks, its flora and fauna as varied and diverse as the people that are welcome in Oodi. The forest and the library are spaces where you can safely explore your inner thoughts and discover all that is great with science and art, with wisdom and knowledge and enjoy just being with others.”

“An ode to the forest” examines how life begins in the forest and how, from tiny seeds and fragile saplings, massive trees emerge. It tells of how these trees in turn give life to paper and how books are born from them. These themes and the importance of literacy were part of the reason UPM sponsored the piece.

“It has been great working with UPM. They are aware of just how important this central library will be to the people of Helsinki. I am truly grateful to be part of this historic project. It will usher in so many wonderful things to come,” says Hanna, anticipating the peaceful moments in the heart of Oodi, with travels to new worlds and stories.


Petra Niemi