How do we interpret the world through our senses, particularly through sight? A mesmerically beautiful triptych of two solos and one duet, choreographed by Finnish Johanna Nuutinen, Opia explores the sense of sight primarily through the polarities of white and black, whether costume, stage or lighting design. Like the white nights of Finnish summer or the long dark nights of the winter, the lighting designed by Joonas Tikkanen plays with stark contrasts. This sensitive piece is at times elusive and minimalist, at other times suggesting more literal and realistic detail.

Like the white nights of Finnish summer or the long dark nights of the winter...

Lying on a white floor against a white background, the dancer Mia Jaatinen is all in white, a white singlet and baggy trousers, tight at the ankle reminiscent of Indian or Arabian costume. Slow stretches develop until she stands, her moves also reminiscent of Tai Chi, but more fluid. These are my associations, other members of the audience will bring their own interpretation. The lighting creates shadows, or she is silhouetted against the background, leading to an imaginative sequence when her face is spotlit in the dark and shadows play over it like the phases of the moon.

The second part is largely in the dark and we only get glimpses of the dancer in a black, hooded costume as both light changes and moves become more and more frenetic. Different coloured lights flash at times: our perception is unclear, and our sense of perspective is distorted.

In the third section where the two dancers meet – the black costumed one takes off the hood and is revealed as Jenna Broas, a woman, somewhat of a surprise as her movements in the previous section were quite masculine. As the two women explore each other, tracing lines along each other's arms and bodies this could be a love duet and the movements are the most realistic in the piece.

Another issue explored is how the environment affects our perception and for me this was suggested here as the lighting divides the stage into two, one half lit with green light to sounds of birds and jungle noises; blue to hisses (the ocean?), yellow to the sound of rain and lastly pale blue to I don’t know what. It’s up to the audience to interpret this emotional journey for themselves. It requires total involvement and will not be for everyone. A warning: there are also laser lights.

I am looking forward to the two other pieces Nuutinen is working on as part of her three-year project on the senses of hearing and touch.

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Reviews by Stephanie Green

Multiple Venues

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Sadler's Wells

Navy Blue

Festival Theatre

Jungle Book reimagined

Festival Theatre


King's Theatre



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The Blurb

How does environmental stimuli guide our gaze and spatial orientation? How do we construct images in our visual cortex out of stimuli generated by sensory organs other than the eyes? Why do we build meanings through our gaze where there previously were none? Choreographer Johanna Nuutinen’s new creation Opia dives eyes first in the middle of these ever-present questions relating to looking, being looked at, and how do we form meaning between things we see. OPIA explores its topic through movement language spiralling into the world behind the gaze, perspective-questioning visual design and captivating soundscape.

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