Choreographer-Dancer Maija Nurmio: ‘Mentoring was an eye-opening, reassuring and delightful experience’

Choreographer-Dancer Maija Nurmio: ‘Mentoring was an eye-opening, reassuring and delightful experience’

Finnish Institute in the UK and Ireland partnered up with Circus & Dance Info Finland in 2023 and piloted a mentoring programme as part of the Performing HEL showcase that took place in Helsinki last August. Artists selected for the showcase could apply for the mentoring programme. Two artists were selected, circus artist Henri Kangas who was paired with Adrian Berry, Artistic Director of Jacksons Lane, and choreographer-dancer Maija Nurmio who is mentored by Reece McMahon, Director of Chisenhale Dance Space. We asked Maija a few questions about her work and the mentoring programme she is currently taking part in.

What made you decide to apply for the mentoring programme?

I did my BA at Laban a good while ago. After Laban, together with three colleagues we created a dance company and got a residency at Chisenhale Dance Space running over six months. Getting deeper into choreography was my long term plan. So, actually getting into MA Choreography in Helsinki was unexpected and sudden – moving back home left many things open in London. I felt like the mentoring programme would be a wonderful chance to see how the artistic field has shaped out to be in the UK and what is going on in the independent dance sector now.

What was the best thing about taking part in the mentoring programme?

Meeting regularly with Reece from August 2023 to now and organically exchanging whatever it was that each of us was concerned with workwise at that point and any questions either one of us had about each other’s work or working conditions in our countries. Through those conversations, I got a real sense of what was going on in the independent dance sector at Chisenhale, more broadly in London and the UK. Visiting London after nine years was wonderful. Each day I met old and/or new colleagues and saw a wide range of performances, spaces and audiences with Reece and Institute’s Arts Programme Director Karoliina. I think I got a fairly good sense of how it is to work as an independent dance artist in the UK today.

What was it like to work with a mentor?

Working with a mentor was a great learning experience; eye-opening, reassuring and delightful. I think we are both consumed with similar issues and agendas in somewhat totally different environments – it felt great to have peer support. I learned a lot from listening to Reece talk about how he navigates in the independent scene as Chisenhale’s executive director and found the connections he made with local artists and myself very informative and fascinating. I also appreciated that the time in London wasn’t too packed and rather that the conversations and connections continue afterwards as well.

What did you learn and improve as a result of being mentored?

I think I learned a fair bit about how the independent dance sector functions in the UK. I learned how Chisenhale’s role has changed and then changed again since I lived there. I also understood more about the differences in funding systems in the UK and Finland. Through Reece, I especially learned about the effortlessness of reaching out, contacting other artists and artistic directors, which I find so important on an individual and societal level.

What are your plans after the mentoring programme?

I will stay in contact with Reece, the artists and other connections I made whilst in London and hopefully we keep on learning from each other. I will also continue finding out whether my previous, present and future work translates and has lifespan in the UK as well as in Finland.


Maija Nurmio is a Helsinki-based choreographer and dancer, who has been freelancing for two decades. She has a BA from Laban in London and an MA in choreography from the Theatre Academy in Helsinki. At the heart of Nurmio’s artistic work is corporeality, accessing its knowledge and vastness. She is interested in beyond words corporeality, coherency and incoherency, allowing our inner life surface in motion.

Interview: Chelim Cherry Gong, photo: Johanna Tirronen

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