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Tove Jansson’s Moomins transformed into ballet

There is probably no person in this world, who did not come across friendly, white trolls – Moomins. Creatures created by the Finnish writer Tove Jansson. Well, I did of course, and I have to be honest – I did not really like them, as I was afraid of Groke. That’s why I actually barely read or watched anything connected with the Moomins, after my first ‘meeting’ with them. But since I’m in Finland (for around 9 months that will be), I learned to love Moomins and look at them not only from the perspective of the terrifying, lonely Groke.

I always thought, that getting your children familiar with art is an absolute duty, if you want them to grow up to be people with interests. However, taking little kids to museums, art galleries, operas, ballets etc. and force them to spend a few hours watching that, is not a good idea. They will later associate it with boredom and suffering. What is that you should do then? Well, Finnish National Opera came with an idea, which in my opinion worked perfectly. They decided to transform  Comet in Moominland into a ballet. With the choreography by Anandah Kononen and Panu Aaltio’s music they managed to do it absolutely flawless.

© 2015 Mirka Kleemola

Let’s get to the great cast, that made that difficult art of a ballet accessible for the numerous  children audience. It all started with two old professors (Ville Mäki, Thibault Monnier), observing the sky through telescope. They did not dance. They were just showing something to each other, pointing the dark sky displayed on the big screen. Then they left the stage and there came the time for the dancers. My first experience with that thing took place when I was around 7 and went to see Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and sometime later, the Nutcracker. I was left speechless and was watching the stage and what was happening on that with an open mouth. Since then, I became the ballet lover. Coming back to Comet in the Moominland, it must be a really difficult task to dance, while wearing a Moomin or a Sniff suit. Well, I have to say that, Ilja Bolotov (Sniff), Jani Talo (Moomin Boy), Tiina Myllymäki (Snorkmaiden Girl) did their job really excellent. Of course it looked hilarious, especially during the dance of Moomin Boy and Snorkmaiden Girl, when the first one was lifting the second one – big white things trying to be gracious. There was also a part, when they performed without Moomin suits, and it was one of the most beautiful moments of this whole spectacle. With big smiles they did the stunning dance of love. When they came back dressed as Moomins again, I was absolutely fascinated, how they managed to dance in those thick, fuzzy outfits with tails dragging along behind them. Also Evaldas Bielinis did not have an easy task – try to do ballet moves being dressed as Snufkin, in those shoes and green clothes. Kaarina Nieminen (Moomin Mama), Aki Pakarinen (Moomin Papa), Johan Pakkanen (Muskrat) and Linas Kavaliauskas (Hemulen) did not do any dancing actually, but they acted great with their gesticulation – we still have to remember they had heavy and warm suits on them. Johan Pakkanen had such a fancy, fluffy outfit and he was moving the way, that made everybody laugh. Now, let’s write something the soloists. The first person I should mention is Mai Komori, who played the Comet. Dressed in a lovely, red dress and with something-like-a-crown on her head, she would amaze with the ease of her moves. With the dark, starry universe displayed on the big screen placed at the back of the stage, her dance looked incredible. The other soloist was Pietia Ilieva, who played both the lizard and the tern. While being a lizard, she looked like if she could sneak into the smallest hole, allowed to do so by her flexibility. It also looked interesting, when while spinning, she was catching her tail. As a tern, she was dressed in white outfit. With the sea displayed on the screen behind her, she presented a beautiful dance of a bird, which looked absolutely overwhelming. The great thing was done by the person I have already mentioned – Kaarina Nieminen, who personated Trade Aunt Seller. Now came the time for the gentleman, and here I will start with Giuseppe Martino, who played the condor. With wings and feathers placed on his hands and a tight suit he definitely looked like the flying, majestic and a bit scary condor. I absolutely loved the dance of the crocodiles – big congratulations to Ville Mäki and Thibault Monnier. These guys also played the male water spirits and the black bugs and were brilliant in all roles. Huge respect to Ruan Crighton, Hasan Topcuoglu and Samuel  Števik, who played the beetles – tough task, dancing with a big carapaces on the back. Also John Powers, Christopher Warhuus, Maksim Tsukarjov, Cauě Frias – who played professors in observatory – were brilliant. It looked a bit hilarious – four scientists in white dusters doing ballet moves. Parts, where there was a group dancing, were mostly done by Charlotte Schauman-Mäki, Maria Beseghi, Emilia Karmitsa, Victoria Johansson, Pauline Simon, Valeria Quintana, Jevgenija Plešková, Anni Jokimes, Coralie Grand, Marijana Dominis. I couldn’t resist smiling and silently laughing, when Hattifateners appeared on stage, I was overwhelmed by the dance of the stars, grasshoppers and waterspirits. It all looked incredibly beautiful, they were so fluent and fitted together. There were scary moments as well – Maria Beseghi, Anni Jokimes, Malla Ylöniemi and Victoria Johansson dressed as angora plants were abusing Moomin Boy and Snorkamaiden Girl. It would all not look like that, if not the amazing costumes. I was smitten especially by the dresses, that stars had – white with a little bit of silver. The person that stands behind this, is Anna Kontek. We should not forget about such people as Samuli Juopperi (scenographer), Mikka Haaranen (light designer), Ingrid Nemeckova and Ophelie Rodighiero (ballet masters).

Summing the whole event up, Finnish National Opera did not fail me – as usual, in this institution case. Dancers were unmistakable, scenography fitted perfectly and the images displayed on the big screen made you feel, like if you really were in the Moominland. The music was beautiful and the choreography was stunning. It definitely was a great fun for both parents and their children and a great education for the second ones. I suppose, that having such a memory from the childhood, the young audience will be happy to see a serious ballet in the future.

Agata Podbielkowska