Dragon Dance Theatre
building mammoths in Finland
Summer 2022 residency program:
The theme: our latest theatre project, took place in northern Finland, was related to Mammoths. Our intention was to speak about the extinction of species and the ecological circumstances that have led to species extinction in the past. We bridged with the current state of environmental climate change. Performances were presented August 6-7 at Kierikki Stone Age Center as well as in the city of Ii, August 13 and 14, 2022.
Workshop and Performance - a collective creation project
The international Dragon Dance company
Sam Kerson - Founder of Dragon Dance Theatre
Artist director since 1976
Katah - International project coordinator, artist
Bernardo Olmedo - writer, cook, actor and artist engagé
Patricia Elisabeth Torres - social anthropologist and specialist in shamanic healing dances
Our path to building Mammoths
at the Kierikki Stone Age Village in Lapland
In 2000, when we as Dragon Dance Theatre were organizing a production for Queretaro, Mexico related to Dia de Los Muertos and thinking of the end of species we imagined and discussed making a small herd of Mammoths and simply walking them through the city of Queretaro. At that time we were not able to build them but one of our collaborators is from Zacatecas and we did send feelers out that way to see if we might be able to realize this idea there along the northern desert. Our connection in Zacatecas, Victor Huizar will join us for the creation of the mammoths we have scheduled for Kierikki in Finland- June July 2022.
Dragon Dance Theatre has been approaching the mammoth idea for a number of years our first related construction was in Tantima, Vera Cruz, Mexico where we built a nearly full sized elephant. But in a theatrical way so we needed only the head, the ears , the front legs, and the flexible trunk. Also the elephant was blue. None the less a first draft of the Mammoth idea.
Next, using our international company in the south of France in 2019 with members from Finland and Mexico and France we did make a theatre and dance piece describing the moment of extinction. Our show was called The Cry of the Bird, in which we saw a figure reminiscent of the Mammoth, with Mammoth tusks, buried by the oncoming ice-age.
Sam Kerson and Roxana Lopez Corona, 2019
La Muse en Goguette, Launaguet, France
Dragon Dance Theatre performing in Tampico, Mexico,
thanks to Arturo Castillo Tristan and Amparo Berumen
All quite imaginative as we were playing out of doors in the south of France in August. But the performances were at night and we had an element of magic on our side.
It was when we were first evolving the show Cry of the Bird, which was suggested by Anna Kaisa Jarvi in Ii, that we made our visit to Kierikki and talked with the director about the possibility of making two nearly life sized, mobile mammoths, giant puppets, for a show about the end of species at the waterside-site of their stone-age village.
Once we had that idea we found ourselves in Covid and Sam and Katah were, we might say, stranded in Quebec. None the less we wanted to advance our planning and design ideas related to the Mammoths for Kierikki. We were also Isolated, but we thought we could make miniatures, three of them, which photographed very well in the winter weather.
Then, we went on to make a Mammoth, one-half size, perhaps an adolescent. This creature was all papier-mache, mounted on a cart for mobility. He had a coat of old recycled wool-sweaters that looked a lot like the wooliness of the ancient Mammoths
So currently the plastic arts part of the project is on the edge of accomplishing what we have proposed. Two almost full-sized mobile mammoths with full bodies and articulated trunks, on carts. These figures will be part of the drama we intend to perform at Kierikki. This is only possible thanks to Ii’s considerable culture activity related to Anna-Kaisa Jarvi and her center at Birch Wood farm that can receive us, artist from the Americas including our ally from Zacatecas and also our French producer an artist from the south of France. Being in Ii will put us into collaboration with the local music school and Iipaja the local work-group for young artists. We have collaborated with both of these groups before.
Meanwhile, and this is normally how our Dragon Dance creative process works, we are studying the history of the mammoth’s extinction and we are looking at what information we can find about the mammoth’s integration into early cultures. For example we have read about the goddess of the Mammoth; consider the thirteen mammoth skulls found in a circle at the site of Our Lady of the Mammoth found in Yeliseyevich, Siberia. Simultaneously, we are looking at current times and seeing how the extinction of species is happening today and seeing how many species are disappearing and under what circumstances.
We will transpose and recombine some of these elements; the early people, the goddess, the great mammoths, the current debate about climate change and the end of species and the nexus of those historical and current events, which we will make into a presentable drama.
Much of this work will go on at Kierikki. We will perform our drama at the Stone-age center at the beginning of August 2022. We will also be performing in the town of Ii, as well as parading in the streets of the city of Oulu. Our performances will leave our audiences asking the question, what can I do?
Our plan will be to take the show to France in 2023 to our regular site near Toulouse. Further we hope to take the show to Zacatecas, Mexico as the show becomes clearer, better documented and more easily demonstrated.
There is much more to be said on the subject but for the sake of brevity we will leave our statement of intent, as is.