By Tuuli Mäkinen
Harriet Rautio arrived to New York four years ago to study dance. Now she dances in the dance company of the acclaimed choreographer Laurie De Vito.
“I moved from home when I was 16 to study in Kulturama High School of Arts, in Stockholm, Sweden. During my studies I started to dance Salsa and Latin American dances, which later took me teaching at “Stockholm Salsa Dance” and performing in Latin Dance Festivals in Europe.”
Harriet is dipping a toe into choreographing as her short duet was presented in March at Salvatore Capezio Theater. Her duet “Pace Of The City” will again be shown as a part of “Art Ex” event by European Cultural Center in the end of April.
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Kerava, Finland.
What style of dance do you love at the moment?
I like all styles of dance. What I dance mostly at the moment is contemporary modern dance. I’ve had most of my training in jazz, ballet and modern dance but I’m also inspired by the groundedness and fluidity of Afro-Caribbean and African dances, and house dance. What appeals to me is a sequential movement that flows in space.
What are your thoughts of the dance scene in New York?
It’s very wide. You get exposed to many styles of dance and different ways of moving. It’s great as a point of reference for exploring your personal preferences and developing your sense of identity.
What new is it giving for you, comparing your dancing in Europe?
It has expanded my view of dance in general since the scene is bigger than in the Nordic Countries. Meeting Laurie was a turning point for me in many ways. I got very connected with her deep-rooted movement language that uses the torso with spirals and contractions. I also discovered an ease and a freedom in movement that I didn’t have before and that was a huge for me opening many doors. Dancing with her and the more seasoned dancers of the company has been an experience I have learned so much from and I know her influence will always carry in my dancing.
What does dance mean to you?
The meaning of it has been changing throughout the years. Dance is something I get to do and have with me every day and I’m very blessed.
What decision led you to end up in New York?
I came here initially to do training for two months. I noticed how much I was improving and learning just during that time and I wondered what if I could spend an entire year training intensively. I went back to Sweden, moved some of my belongings back to Finland and a month after I was back here.
What is your dream now?
To live a long life ha! Alongside with dancing, I want to study Kalevala bone-setting, which is a mobilization treatment based on old Finnish Traditional Healing. I’ve gotten a lot of help from it during my many overuse injuries in the past and I think it’s a brilliant method to use to help anyone, especially dancers dealing with pains or postural misalignment. Due to struggling with many overuse injuries during the years, I became interested in anatomy and the musculoskeletal system more profoundly, which took me to studying it alongside with dance. The treatment of Kalevala Bone Setting covers the whole body from the soles of the feet to skull and fingertips and I see it as a sort of a method “getting your instrument in tune”.
In the future I want to work together with musicians and bring live music and movement together. Also, one thing that jazz musicians have inspired me of is their free improvisation. Often dance that is seen on stage is something that has been rehearsed over a longer period of time and what I’d also like to explore is a concept where the performed movement is created in the moment. I have many ideas but funding is always something that can take some time to figure out.
Tell me your favorite things in New York City? What inspires you here?
Live music. It’s everywhere! On streets, subways, bars… I have three live music spots only few minutes of walk from home.
In general the arts and how accessible they are. There’s always ways to get affordable last minute tickets, and during summer time there’s summer stages where you can see dance, theater, music and film for free admission.
Also diversity. You meet so many people from all over the world and from different backgrounds. Everyone has a story. I would say that is also what is inspiring. Meeting people who are here to do what they believe in and creating the life they want.
What is the biggest cultural difference comparing Finnish and American mentality? What is your most Finnish quality?
There’s so many cultural differences, giving that the size of the countries, political systems and history are very different. America is a big country but between New York and Finland one thing you can easily tell is that in general people are way more extroverted here. Here you often see people pick up casual conversations with strangers and that rarely happens in Finland.
Also what my aunt who was visiting last week noticed was: “In Finland people will help you when you ask for help but here if you stand in corner with a map someone will right away come offer their help.”
I have learned during the 10 years away that I have the Finnish culture pretty deep-rooted in me many ways. One quality would be that I almost never leave food on my plate.
What do you miss in Finland the most? What are the best things in Finland that you like?
What I miss the most is my family, friends, nature and fresh air.
Best things in Finland would be the welfare system, nightless summers and sauna. And rye-bread!