Hurjaruuth was founded in 1981 in Helsinki. The founding members included Soile Lahdenperä, Tuula Lento, Hannele Niiranen, Arja Pettersson and Riku Virtanen.
Hurjaruuth has produced over 100 premieres since 1981.
The company began as a touring theatre in 1981-93. They put on a lot of shows in the early years, an average of 150-200 shows per year. The most amount of touring was at the beginning of the 1990s when it made international tours to Great Britain, Germany, Tanzania, the USA and Taiwan. The principle of the theatre was to go where the audience was. Street theatre played a big role in these days with performances on pavements, railway stations and art museums, galleries and libraries. The immediate feedback from the audience influenced the development of the theatre and created a base for Hurjaruuth’s attempts to renew theatre for children and youths and to broaden the audience base of theatre.
Hurjaruuth’s kind of theatre did not have a ready blueprint. The productions combined modern dance with visual arts and circus with music. Most of the works had specially-composed music. Hurjaruuth’s dancers became known for their diversity: they are musical, acting, acrobatic dancers who seamlessly cooperate on the stage with musicians, actors and circus artists.
Most of the theatre works that were made in 1981-1995 were aimed at adults. Since 1995 Hurjaruuth has made most of its works for children, although the proportion of adults in the Winter Circus audience is continually growing. In 2003 the theatre had a total of 50,765 spectators.
Hurjaruuth got its own compact venue in the Cable Factory in 1993, after which they concentrated on making a programme that would fit their own stage. In the 1990s Hurjaruuth established its status as a Helsinki Theatre, although regular touring continued all across the country.
Hurjaruuth began to cooperate with Finnish circus artists in 1994. Since then the contemporary circus works that it makes each year have come to form an important part of the theatre’s activity. In 2011 Winter Circus turned 18 years old and it has become a Christmas tradition for Helsinki children and families.
In 2011 Winter Circus Nose was seen by 22,500 spectators. Each year Hurjaruuth employs around 10 permanent members of staff and around 100 freelancers.
Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth has arranged a number of different kinds of workshop projects with day-care centres, schools and different communities: Hurjaruuth offers these groups the opportunity to follow the rehearsal process and receive education and lectures on theatre, dance and circus art. Every project offers the group the opportunity to view Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth’s performance, take part in a meet-the-artist session and get to know the different components that are needed to make theatre.
Apart from its own performances, Hurjaruuth has produced different festivals, including Ruutia! dance festival for children and youths which has been in the programme since 1997 and began as a collaboration with the Finnish Theatre Centre . The new and experimental juggling festival 5-3-1 was produced in association with the association of new and experimental juggling in 2001 and 2002. The Indie Evening event in 2003 was a forum for independent, experimental and small-scale performances and was a melting pot for different fields, styles and cultures of art. Hurjaruuth is also a venue where young experimental groups can visit with their performances and it tries to develop new cooperation models with different producers, festivals and freelance artists.
Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth
Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth began life as a small touring theatre but has evolved into a purveyor of spectacular winter circus over the last 30 years. In that time it has given over 100 premieres, completed dozens of foreign tours from Tanzania to Taiwan and provided work for an astonishing number of theatre, dance and circus professionals. Hurjaruuth has established a permanent home in the north wing of Helsinki’s Cable Factory, which used to make phone lines and electricity cable.
Since 1995 Hurjaruuth has mainly concentrated on children’s theatre but 2011 saw some adult-orientated performances enter our repertoire too with Jenni Kallo’s Miss Olga, Thom Monckton’s Moving Stationery and Taina Mäki-Iso’s Towards the Horizon. The same trend continued in February 2012 with our Red Pearl women’s clown festival which was organized in cooperation with Espoo City Theatre and Regina Theatre in Uppsala.
The name is not a particularly easy one even for Finns, and in an international context it is sometimes impossible! It has certainly led to some funny mis-spellings over the years.
The legendary transit van with the red Hurjaruuth tape fell apart in the Cable Factory yard a couple of years ago. Back in the old days the van held all the props we needed and the dancers too. Now the theatre has its own space: an office, foyer, stage, dressing room, workshop and rehearsal space too. Although Hurjaruuth moved into the Cable Factory in 1993, the touring life didn’t end. In recent years it has performed at festivals and events both at home and abroad including India, the USA, Tunisia and Russia.
Hurjaruuth is known for its multi-skilled nature: its dynamic, courageous and fast-moving theatre performances have combined music, visual arts, circus, dance and theatre without prejudice. Among other things it has won the Finnish State Prize for Children’s Culture and an International ASSITEJ honorary mention – and the group continues to thrive, as vibrant and multi-skilled as ever.
Winter circus has come of age
Hurjaruuth has become familiar with a large audience thanks to its Winter Circus, which is now 18 years old. Fun-filled pigs and French-fry-bearded elves and a number of other characters have become much loved to children and adults alike.
Hurjaruuth’s founding member and current theatre director Arja Pettersson made new circus a permanent feature on Finland through the Winter Circus, which is still one of the largest employers of circus artists in the country. Many of the field’s Finnish professionals have begun their careers by performing in the Winter Circus. The annual winter circus prize at Germany’s SOLyCIRCO festival, which is highly regarded in the field, has increased international interest in Winter circus.
From the audience’s point of view, internationally high-class circus means quality performances, and the spectators include children, parents and grandparents too. For many families the Winter Circus has become a Christmas tradition which includes cousins and godparents and which has become an un-missable event. Names from the Winter Circuses can easily bring up a lot of nostalgia: Vega, Star, Magic, Spruce, Sirius, Laughter, Snow, Time, Reindeer, Light, Pig, Nose…
Faithful fans begin to reserve their tickets in June already for the Christmas performances and it is a chance to swap news as well. Many callers say that they have been going to the Winter Circus since the very beginning.
Kirsi Manninen, who creates the pigs and other animals, has been part of Winter Circus since the beginning too. Her handiwork caused amazement and astonishment when Winter Circus Nose was premiered last November.
Collaboration brings new work and a fresh audience
Already since the first performances workshops have been part of Hurjaruuth’s programme. In the 1980s nobody was yet talking about “working with the audience”, but that is exactly what the touring company did when they worked in close with the spectators.
Street theatre played a big role in these days and was performed at railway stations and in galleries and libraries. The feedback from the audience is immediate and influenced the development of the theatre and created a foundation for Hurjaruuth’s aim to renew theatre for children and youths and broaden the theatre’s audience base.
Nowadays Hurjaruuth has one hundred square metres of rehearsal space for collaboration, but workshops, discussions and meet-the-artist events are also arranged on the stage, in the foyer, in the wings, in schools and day-care centres. Hurjaruuth also has its own circus school (Elf school) and several projects in cooperation with day-care centres, youth clubs and schools, which give Hurjaruuth a broad contact with its audience.
Every spring Hurjaruuth hosts the international Ruutia! Dance festival, which is now 15 years old. This is well known as a place for dance and movement theatre to meet and it is held in the Cable Factory every year with performances from Finland and abroad.
Cooperation with the Cable Factory’s other cultural actors has been developed all the time, for example through collaborative workshops with the Theatre Museum which have attracted a lot of enthusiastic school groups to make and study theatre, dance and circus.
There was also cooperation with the Theatre Museum in 2006 when Polar Bears, Pigs, Rats and Dust-dogs marched into the museum area as part of Hurjaruuth’s 25th anniversary. The book on Hurjaruuth’s history that was published in connection with the anniversary is still relevant, and Hurjaruuth’s amazing trajectory from its humble beginnings to the company it is today with such rapidly growing activities is crystallised in the book’s title: truth or tail?