Sunday, 25 January 2015


Finnish dancer Nelly Hakkarainen (23) came to Berlin almost 5 years ago. Having finished her dance education she is now working on her own projects together with her Korean boyfriend, Wooguru. The symbiosis of their different cultural backgrounds has come to fruition. With their ongoing improvisation piece grounded they have already been to New York, Ourique, Tampere and Helsinki. Next month they even have a residency in Seoul.
Nelly Hakkarainen |Photo: Mark Fernyhough

Tell us a little about your backround. Have you always wanted to be a performer?
When I was 10 years old I started with Finnish folklore dance. A couple of years later I started to learn modern dance. I really enjoyed it and began to progress very quickly. Back then I decided to be a dancer. One of my biggest idols is the Finnish dancer and choreographer Susanna Leinonen. She gave workshops at my dance studio as well. At my high school I could choose different educational paths and I completed my Abitur in performing arts. That motivated me a lot and helped me to make dance to my profession. When I was 19 I came to Berlin and studied dance for three years.

Was there a particular reason why you came to Berlin?
I learned German at school and worked
previously on a project in Germany in the Ruhr area. Berlin interested me very much as a metropolis. Here there is so much going on and it is so much cheaper here. I guess I couldn`t afford to live as a dancer in Finnland. 
I´m orginally from Tampere in Central Finnland and in comparison to Berlin the cultural life here offers you so much more! In Tampere there is maybe one dance event per month. Here you have a couple of events every day. I don´t go to those that often, but I enjoy having the possibility. 
Last Friday f.ex. I was in Friedrichshagen at lake studios to see unfinished Fridays. Once a month you can see or show work-in-progress pieces. For me its quite interesting to see the progress of an idea from other dancers, too.

Performance with Wooguru in Grandacos, Porutgal | Photo: Ana Nobre

What do you like about Berlin?
Paris for example is like a big museum. Berlin is different. It‘s not that perfect
plus its more diverse. Those breaks in the image of a city are way more interesting for me than just nice facades. Berlin is a bit like Helsinki. Maybe that’s why it feels like home here. 
I already moved four times since I came to Berlin and lived in different areas. Right now I live close to Schönhauser Allee. I like the name: street with beautiful houses. Before, I lived in Schöneberg. I liked it a bit better, because it’s more calm and chilled and there are less tourists. 

Was it difficult to get into the dancing scene in Berlin?
No, because of my school I could establish myself very fast and got involved in different projects right away. It is quite easy to find interesting projects here, but the payment is often not that good. That´s why I work as a dance teacher and at Berliner Residenz Konzerte as well to finance my projects. At the same time I enjoy teaching very much.

Solo improvisation at Joachim Rongs Gallerie für Moderne Kunst | Photo source: Nelly Hakkarainen

Berlins Kulturstaatssekretär Tim Renner said in an interview that the ticket prices for Berlin’s cultural life are too cheap. What do you think about it?
Of course I think artists should get paid appropriately for their work. At the same time it is questionable, when all tickets are as expensive as f.ex. the city ballet, it’s not possible for everybody to afford culture anymore. Art and culture should be accessible for everybody!

You work as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. Do you prefer one field over another?
Every field supports one another. When I´m teaching I have great liberties to develop a choreography. I couldn’t work only as a choreographer right now. It’s too important for me to dance, too. It’s great to work
on projects from other people as well, so I don’t have to bear the entire responsibility by myself.

Does your Finnish background influence your work as a dancer?
Yes, i still like Finnish folk music very much as well as history, mythology and tradition. One day I want to make a multigenerational piece with modern Finnish folk music about the relations between generations and the stories behind them.
Nelly and Wooguru | Photos: Noora Lehtovouri

What is your favorite project so far?
I have been working with my boyfriend on a project called grounded. We have been working on it for over a year now and have developed quite a bit. 
It is about freedom and its various forms. How are we as humans responsible for our freedom? What is freedom in our actions? We try to focus on the moment during our performance. 
Further it is important for us to perform at unusual locations and not at traditional dance stages, like galleries, streets or even at a former bear cage at a zoo. It is an improvisation piece and every performance is a bit different and adapted to the location. We have already had performances in Germany, Portugal, Finland and the USA. Next month we are residents in Seoul and will perform there as well.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Pictures are my main source of inspiration. Either I have a certain picture in mind or I come across with one in my daily life. I often go to exhibitions and museums. Out of a certain picture I develop an idea or concept for a choreography. Another important source of inspiration for me is literature.
I love reading autobiographies of strong successful women. Recently I read Teetyötä ja rakasta, a biography about the finnish author Tove Janson. Another woman I really admire is Isadora Duncan, the pioneer of Modern Dance. She was so passionate, its fascinating to me!

Choreography by Andrea Krohn | Photo source: Nelly Hakkarainen

What are your future plans? 
I want to focus more on my own projects and establish myself as a dancer. In a couple of years I can imagine to go back to Finland and start working within other bodywork fields like yoga and pilates or start something totally different. For ten years I went to art school and would like to work more with fine arts.

Can you recommend a place in Berlin for people interested in dance?
Oh, well. That’s not so easy, because of the broad range of dance events and institutions. I can definitely recommend the works of Sasha Waltz. Further I will encourage you to be brave and try something new and get surprised,
either positively or negatively. Otherwise I recommend having a look at TanzRaumBerlin to get an overview about current events in Berlin. If you are looking for dance studios, I suggest doc 11, Marameo and Centre of dance.

Thank you, Nelly! To Find out more about her work check out her vimeo site here. Her website is coming later this year. Stay tuned!

Interview: Skadi Borchert
Editing:   Sean Kallsen-MacKenzie

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