Interview of Kirsi-Marja Vinberg
Interview of Kirsi-Marja Vinberg
I have to dance, too, not just teach. Dancing is a joy you must not forget.
Master of Arts, Entrepreneur, Dance Teacher, Line Dance Instructor, Choreographer, Asahi Health Instructor
Interview and translation by Sirpa Hammar, a childhood friend
Dancing has been part of your life since school days. Before beginning your career as a dance teacher you took lessons in social dancing, tap dance, carnival samba and flamenco.
Where did you get the inspiration to dance?
From our own dance productions, I suppose. The performances we made to our relatives and others.
It was such a fun! It was important to have a chance to use your imagination. And somehow dancing was the best way to do that. Further, we visited a dance course by Åke Blomqvist together.
Yes, we took some dance lessons first and then we started with our own ”dance theatre” performances for our relatives and also at Lions-club parties for example.
The dance courses inspired us. And when we went to see a gig of the Finnish singer Kirka (www.kirka.com), we danced almost the whole time. That was definitely the start; we tried to interpret the lyrics of the songs by dancing. Later we continued with our own stories.
We made for example the ”Traffic tango”, where we danced following several traffic signs that our assistants showed to us, and ”Mr. Moonlight”, that was more philosophical. And of course ”The Fairy tail Dance”, that was a fairy tale written and danced by us. We played about 10 different roles together. Wasn’t it so that we were both too shy to express us in words?
Yes. Somehow dancing brought freedom.
But I wrote also poems. I wonder if we ever used the poems in our performances, too?
We didn’t really use poems for the dance productions. However, they, too, prove that we were creative and that we tried to find a channel to express the creativity. You sang too, didn’t you?
I even took lessons in singing. And I was one of the first female participants in the yearly tango singing contest in Finland (http://www.tangomarkkinat.fi/english/etusivu.htm). At that time, there were no separate series for tango kings and tango queens. I have always loved the strong feeling of the Finnish tango. So, I sent a tape to the contest and got even to the semifinal.
You taught dancing already to your school friends.
We had a dance course at our place, in our living room. But at that time I didn’t understand the psychology of teaching at all. I was a demanding teacher then. As a precocious girl I noticed every fault and I blamed those who did not learn. However, teaching was really important already then.
You studied at the university the Finnish language, Theatre Research and Ethnomusicology,
When studying Theatre Research I also studied the dance. For my Master’s these I spent 5 weeks in India getting familiar with the Indian ballet. I saw many theatre performances and interviewed choreographers, particularly Manjusri Shaki-Sircar. She is a dancer-choreographer that has a lot of influence on the Indian ballet. And my Master’s these was based on her wonderful ballet performance.
What made you to change from the academic career to the career of a dance teacher?
Teaching and the dance itself. What people could experience through dancing was important to me. If the leader is good, it’s wonderful to follow. A wordless communication with help of movements enchanted me. The symbiosis of music and movement is a fantastic experience. I thought that it would be nice to teach. If I could give people something, a new thing for their life – especially to those who don’t know anything about dancing. Further, the physical exercise thrilled me, it always did. Already as a purposeful little girl I practised gymnastic and cycling plus run around our garden following the example of my hero Lasse Viren – a Finnish long-distance runner and gold medal winner at Olympic games. My father was interested in sports, too, and a good role model for me. I have worked in an office too, but that was not the job for me. I thought it would be much better if I had a profession where I did not have to sit in the office all day. I like to be in motion.
Where did you study and get the dance teacher diploma and when?
1997 at the Voionmaa Institute (http://www.voionmaanopisto.com/index_en.html)
Right after you graduated from the institute you set up your own firm?
My enterprise is called Aurinkorytmi. At the beginning I gave private lessons and organized courses for small groups. Teaching was just a side job. Later I got job at several adult education centres. I started by teaching social dances. Later line dance as well, after having had line dance as a hobby for many years. Now I teach about as much line dance as social dances.
Does an entrepreneur have time to develop professionally?
Not really, but I make choreographies, when I have some free time.
There I have improved. The more critical you become, the longer it takes to create a dance.
I want to develop as a teacher. That’s why I attend SCT’s (association of the Finnish country dance instructors) trainings
How important it is for a dance teacher to join the organisations and associations of the branch?
It is important. In the associations you can meet others that are interested in dancing. And you can find a channel for your ideas. On the other hand, it is fascinating to be independent of the associations. If you are independent you can follow your own ideals. Talking about dance organisations I hope that the social dance department would get more attention and would not be trampled by the dance sport department.
Teaching needs also social skills. You have surely developed as a teacher from the time you taught your school friends how to dance?
Yes and yes. It is fun and it is really demanding to think how to express things in a different way, to teach in a different way. I work on new methods; particularly in line dance my teaching methods depend on the dance.
Teaching – dancing– making choreographies. Which is the most important for you?
They are all important. I love teaching and it’s lovely to make choreographies.
But sometimes I have to dance. That is a joy you most not forget!
If you have a good leading partner, that is just wonderful. Your body produces endorphins the same way than after a jogging tour. One of my dance students said once: ”I come to the line dance lesson Saturday mornings at 9.30 because after that I have just a wonderful feeling the whole day long.”
Your creativity is shown in the fact that you plan new kind of courses.
I have had a special waltz course and a special tango course (international, American and Finnish tango) at least. And I teach latin dancing in addition to social dancing.
Further, I have given private lessons in wedding waltz. You can even make some choreography for the wedding waltz. It would be enchanting to do more social dancing choreographies, for sure, if I would take part in dance sport competitions. But when teaching people, how to dance the joy of dancing is the most important aspect. If there is no competition, the joy of dance is more real.
You teach not only social dancing but line dance as well. How did you become inspired by line dance?
A friend of mine took me to a club where they had a line dance course once a week. Line dance was a new experience. You didn’t need a partner but could concentrate on your own performance.
Why is line dance so popular, why is it so enchanting?
Line dance has found more and more enthusiastic dancers. But you can’t say how long it will be so popular. As a dance form it will probably live long like social dancing, because there are dancers of different ages taking part in the courses and because line dancing is good for your health in so many ways. Line dance gives exercise to your brain: it is important, in which order to do the movements and there are so many dances, thousands, that memorizing becomes more difficult. Line dancing is good for the motor skill and helps to control your body much better. In couples dancing the partner is part of the balance for example when turning and spinning. So, line dancing could be important especially to the elderly people.
Line dances for elderly people are less difficult. However, they help to train the sense of balance. And it’s easier to move, if you have been training the sense balance. Teaching elderly people is demanding, you have to invent many new ways of teaching. However, their enthusiasm is encouraging.
Line dance is not dancing to the country music, only?
Line dance doesn’t mean only dancing to the country music. There are also many Irish line dances: you dance to Irish music. As a matter of fact you can dance to any kind of music: cha-cha, samba, rumba, jive. If you dance to rumba music, the movements of the line dance are based on rumba dance and so on. So, you learn to know different dances. However, line dance is originally based on country music, and dances made to country music are usually less difficult. That’s why I usually use dances based on country music in the basic courses.
You have made line dances for example for tango music.
I’ve made even two line dance tangos. ”La Cumparsita” had success even in the Finnish Championship Competition.
Is it very different to make choreography and to plan how to teach?
They are different things in many ways. On the other hand when making choreography you have to know to whom you do the dance. The movements should be easy and the continuity of the movements is important, that means there should be a smooth change from one movement to another.
You have to take the dancer into consideration. You can make such a choreography for a dance that it is easy to teach it. Actually, my competition choreographies have been quite demanding.
How many choreographies have you done?
My estimation is from 30 to 50 choreographies.
You have taken part in line dance competitions as a choreographer and had quite a lot of success. What kind of prices have you won?
2002 Line Dance Finnish Championship, serie: choreography, no-country music
1. place with the dance ”Nieve” (rumba)
2003 Line Dance Finnish Championship, serie: choreography, no-country music
3. place with the dance ”La Cumbarsita” (tango)
2004 Line Dance Finnish Championship, serie: choreography, no-country music
2. place with the dance ”Everybody Cha-cha” (cha-cha)
2004 Line Dance Finnish Championship, serie: ABC
3. place with the dance ”Dream Story Cha-cha (cha-cha)
2005 Line Dance Finnish Championship, serie: choreography, country music
1. place with the dance ”Burning Polka”
2005 Line Dance Finnish Championship, serie: ABC
1. place with the dance ”Tyttö tuollainen”
2005 Line Dance Finnish Championship, serie: choreography, no-country music
2. place with the dance ”Orfeo Negro” (rumba)
2007 The Instructor of the Year, SCT (Association of the Finnish Country Dance Instructors)
2009 The 1.place in choreography contest in Line dance Showdown: El Choclo(tango)
2012 WDM: 2. place in choreography contest in World Dance Masters: Eskimo Tango
Further I have taken part in two international competitions with some success.
Have dancers abroad found your line dances?
Yes, quite many dancers abroad have found them. For example the judge Max Perry was enchanted by ”Nieve” and he has taught it around the world. Autumn 2005 I took part in an International competition in Finland with international judges. Through these judges some of my dances surely have been found by a bigger audience.
Internet is a good media also. Line dancers search for dances on net.
To get a bigger audience for your dances you should have time to teach in other places in Finland and other teachers should teach them as well.
You take part not only in line dance competitions but to other line dance events as well, even abroad.
I have visited two World Championship competitions in order to learn something new from the top class instructors and to see how the competition has been organized: different series and their content. In connection with the competition events they also organize many courses. The best instructors teach their own dances and dance technique. I also took part in the international line dance competition in Oslo 2004.
In Pärnu-Estonia they have a line dance event every year. And in Finland we have for example a dance week-end in Lohja with good Finnish instructors.
How do you keep yourself going as teacher and as choreograph?
I try to vary the course content and teaching methods.
Plus I try and make my job more interesting by doing new things, for example by making dance videos and by planning new courses.
Do you have time for other hobbies?
Not much. I like reading. And then I spend time with my cats Shakira and Uula. I plan to open their own page on net later. These Russian blue cats take part in cat shows.
I’ve always been fascinated by cats. The smoothness of their movements is like dance.
In one of our dance theatre performances I played the role of a panther.
Can everyone dance? Can anyone learn to dance?
Yes. Everyone can dance in his own way. The most important thing is to find the channels, through which you want to express yourself. But if you have the will to express yourself by dancing, you can do it. And you can always improve in dancing. For example there are many different forms of exercise that can be mixed together with the dance, they give new nuances to the dance. The Tibetan rites give strength to the body and improve the posture. Pilates helps you to find new muscles and to use them. Pilates, too, improve the posture. All in all, everything depends on will and motivation.
Further, if you have listened to the music a lot, it is easier to follow the music. Otherwise it might be more difficult.
Do you mean that dancing is listening?
Yes, greatly. Many times people pay attention to different things in music. Some people listen to the melody others pay attention to guitar solos or to the drums.
In your dance you can express the song lyrics or you can follow an instrument.
What is the most important thing when dancing and when learning how to dance?
The most important is to enjoy and to relax! The Finns often don’t know how to use hands, but it is easier to use hands when you relax and enjoy the music. If you enjoy the music, the feeling goes to your feet, to your legs, to the whole body.
The sense of rhythm is also important. When dancing social dances the sense of rhythm is very important, because it’s easier to dance together when both follow the rhythm. On the other hand when disco dancing the feeling is the most important thing. Just let it swing!
You can also develop your sense of rhythm. Anyway, the most important is the joy of dance.
What else does the dance give to dancers?
Dancing is one way to get more contact to people. The participants on the line dance courses often have livid conversations and sometimes they go to line dance events together. Social dancing courses are different, because you usually visit the course with your own partner. So, you don’t necessarily get so much contact to the others.
Are there enough places where to dance?
It seems there always is a lack of dancing places in Helsinki and in the surrounding area.
At the dance restaurants the dance floor is too small and the audience is there more to drink than to dance.
Your favorite dance?
Thought for the day?
”Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that´s where you renew your springs that never dry up.”
-Pearl S. Buck