50 years old | Whatever dance artist Ninni Perko tries to do, she always finds herself ending up saving the world

From the beginning of her career, Ninni Perko has wanted to take dance to hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

Dance artist Ninni Perkon the challenges as a dancer already started at the maternity hospital. The entire hospital ward was infected with salmonella by one of the nurses, and during the long isolation she was treated with colibacter, which left her mark in the form of hypermobility of the joints.

“My father worked in the record industry and immersed me in music, and my mother drove me to various cultural activities. With my mother’s family daycare children, I learned to share everything, and my mother’s later booming career in the insurance industry was a strong model for my daughter,” says Perko.

He remembers himself as a child who loved nature and ran, climbed and threw a cartwheel with his tights always torn. His restoration studies opened up the world of visual arts for him, and his studies at the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, led him to a career as a dancer, until his back gave out in the middle of the performance and he fell to the floor right after.

Freak continued dancing, but also went to Savonia University of Applied Sciences to study as a dance teacher. When his knee later gave out and he had to walk with crutches for a year, he began his studies as a director of theater expression at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. And kept dancing.

From the beginning of his career, Perko has wanted to take dance to people who cannot see it themselves: to hospitals, nursing homes, schools. The performances have grown into community art, where issues such as memory illness, diversity or loneliness have been discussed together with the audience.

“I have always had a strong sense of justice and a desire to save the world, especially in human rights and environmental issues. I thought for a long time whether I would go into the art or social sector. But I feel like dance is my language, through which I can interact with other people, other artists and this world,” he says.

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Freak admits now that his choreography and direction, which premiered in Zodiak in Helsinki in 2011, and which dealt with intimate partner violence Trace-duet was based on his own experiences of two violent relationships.

“It happens little by little, physical, mental, financial, sexual and religious human rights are taken away from you in everyday life. You are wrong and you do everything wrong, and that is why you need to be helped. I fell in love with men who were charming and talented, and I couldn’t let go of them anymore,” she describes.

“However, you always want to believe the best. And roller-coaster relationships also have their moments of happiness produced by regret and atonement.”

Happy relationship and closest colleague Perko found in her current husband, a composer-musician whom she has known since childhood Jarmo from Saari. Spouse is also involved in the cross-artistic Dance Theater Sivuuu Ensemble, which he founded in 2011.

“We support each other in everything, but we also both need our own space. The only problem is separating free time and work. But when the vacation starts, there is no talk of work. We haven’t managed to draw that line for the bedroom door yet, since the last of the three children moved out of the house in the summer,” he says.

In the work Murros, a three-generation chain of women dealt with women’s means of intergenerational survival. The main performance was at Tehdasfestivali Manifest 2021. Pictured are choreographer, dancer and academician Marjo Kuusela (left), dancer Krista Julia Arppo and Ninni Perko. Perko, who acted as choreographer and director, was partnered with Anna Maria Isola, Ph.D. in political science, and the piece was part of the Juuret research project for the University of Turku.

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Last In the years Perko has applied as a choreographer, director and project manager to collaborate with researchers. Premiered at the April Jazz festival in Espoo’s city theater last April Silentopia-work and project dealt with the environmental crisis ritualistically from the perspective of hope. Two of the four researchers were also on stage, and a science blog series was attached to the work.

A location-bound duet planned for the premiere next August The feeling of water is a work about man and the sea. It dances Beware of Shiwanand as researchers, two marine biologists from the Finnish Environment Institute are involved in awakening people’s caring attitude towards the Baltic Sea.

When from Perko asks about her hopes for the future, she hopes for peace in the world, tackling the environmental crisis and improving the status of women. He wishes good working opportunities and health for himself and his loved ones, as well as for all those working in the field of art.

“Now it looks wonderful. I call my story a cinderella story, the footprints didn’t look like this when I was a baby. Injuries remind parents of themselves, and I can no longer just shrug and go, but I’ve learned to take care of my body,” he says.

“Everything goes into my body. If someone manages to piss me off badly, I get a cold. And when you’re still as intense as I am, you don’t always even remember that the body needs nourishment and rest. Now I’m trying to find peace between the world and my own body.”

  • Born 1972 in Helsinki.

  • Graduated as a restorer from the Helsinki School of Painting in 1992.

  • Studied dance at the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands 1995–1996, completed a dance teacher, AMK degree in Savonia in 2003 and graduated as a director of theater expression, AMK from Metropolia in 2011. Most recently, the study package of physical theater work at the Theater Academy and the Open University 2018–2019.

  • Worked as a choreographer, director, dancer and performer in dozens of different dance performances and cross-art projects since 2000.

  • Founded Tanssiteatteri Sivuuu Ensemble in 2011, where he works as artistic director.

  • Made community art by participating in community projects combining science, art and social activities.

  • Taught dance and visual dance, wrote publications and worked in cultural organizations. Among other things, one of the founding members and leaders of the ArkiPoikki culture club that operated from 2009–2011. The club was chosen Oulu Villager of the Year 2010.

  • Suomen mniustisantijat ry’s 2019 memory-making recognition award and Helsinki city’s Artist of the Year award 2017.

  • Currently working on a three-year artist grant from the Center for the Promotion of the Arts until 2024.

  • Lives in Veräjämä in Helsinki with her husband, composer-musician Jarmo Saare, on the top floor of a hundred-year-old villa. The new family includes three adult children.

  • Enjoys being in nature, water running, kayaking and many kinds of culture.

  • Turns 50 on Monday, December 12th.

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