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Interview with Pirkko Ahjo

Interview with Pirkko Ahjo

Who are you?

I am Pirkko Ahjo, dance artist, dancer, teacher and choreographer. By education I am a Master of Arts (Dance) and a Bachelor of Humanities, majoring in pedagogy. In addition, I have studied dance teaching at Stockholm University of the Arts. I have studied dance also in Paris and London, where I became familiar with Pilates and fell in love with it in 1986. I teach all age groups from 6-year-olds to seniors. I now teach at the Institute of Adult education in Helsinki, Free Art School (which continues with the dance department from East Helsinki Music Institute) and the Helsinki Summer University, where I teach specializing studies in dance pedagogy. I also mentor student teachers, and I am active in various dance related committees and workgroups, for example at the board of the Trade Union for Theatre and Media.

For how long have you taught at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki, and what do you teach?

I have taught at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki from 1994. Currently I teach Pilates courses for adults and seniors.

What made you become a teacher?

When I started working as a dancer, dancers often worked also as teachers and choreographers. At that time there was no dance teacher training in Finland. The training was aquired by working as a dance teacher and from abroad. Teaching came to me naturally, also because I studied pedagogy at the University of Helsinki. I was a part of the Praesens group, which promoted dance all around Finland by performing and teaching.

What would you like to give to the students?

As a dance teacher I want to share the experience and joy of dance, and help and encourage everyone to find their own dance. I have learned over the years that the saying ”The most important job of the dance teacher is make her/himself obsolete” is accurate. That doesn’t mean that the teacher becomes obsolete at the end of a certain course. My job is to open possibilities, guide and lead the dancer to the intelligence of the body and simultaneously make myself obsolete. I have the same job as a Pilates teacher.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is both body and mind maintenance. Pilates utilizes breath and in the beginning motions are few, slow, exact and focused. On top of the slow we can later build faster and more challenging things. Pilates always aims at making a change. The body always uses the strongest muscle and the most mobile joint first. The purpose of the Pilates method is to balance the body’s functions by building new, appropriate models in one’s motion memory. Finding a functioning whole can take some time, because the body easily goes back to the old model. Pilates is also maintenance for the mind, because breath and movement calms the mind. The aim is to apply the body usage learned at Pilates class to one’s whole life (to support well-being).

Why is it a good thing to study at an institute of adult education?

The Institute has a very good quality-price ratio. The teachers are qualified and studying in course form guarantees that the teaching proceeds from start to finish, and it is possible to continue from one level to the next. Also the Institute’s atmosphere is great.

What would you like to say to the students?

Come to courses openly and with joy. The students I have met during the years usually have a positive attitude towards teaching and learning. We will not practise with a frown!

What is your motto in life?
”What you focus on, you get more of.” (principles of NLP)
”Mind what you wish for, ’cos you gonna get it.” (Andy McCoy)

Pirkko Ahjo

dance artist, dancer, teacher and choreographer

Photo: Junseong Lee, Unsplash