Digital Duende

Jyrki Karttunen‘s beloved Digital Duende (1998) exudes deep emotion, and fascinates with its duality. A cool, Nordic interpretation of fiery Spanishness, and a flaunting display of wit, that made its choreographer an in-demand name at the turn of the millennium.

In June 2023 at Dance House Helsinki, Digital Duende was interpreted in turns by Samuli Emery, Mikko Lampinen, Mikko Makkonen and Jussi Ulkuniemi.

Jyrki Karttunen is one of Finland’s most internationally successful dancer-choreographers. In addition to his freelance career, Karttunen has worked as Artistic Director for Helsinki Dance Company and Karttunen Kollektiv among others.

It was Digital Duende, which premiered in 1998, that elevated the choreographer to prominence on the international circuit at the start of the millennium. The piece toured extensively in Europe as well as in Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America. In addition to more than a hundred performances by Karttunen’s own dance company, the duet has been included in the repertoire of the Bern Ballet for instance.


“[Digital Duende] suffused warmth and physical empathy –– organic but never predictable.“
– The Irish Times, Ireland (2000)

“Astonishing fluency, combining the softness of Romantic ballet with the sinewy edge of modern dance –– It was interesting to see a style of contemporary movement that is less assertive than usual, and admirably prepared in the finest detail.“
– The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia (2001)

“Our field has been distorted, so that we do not even really talk about past works, nor has it generally been possible to see them live anywhere. This can easily create the strange delusion that contemporary dance has no history. I see this as affecting the entire field and the respect it has. With Tero Saarinen Company’s programming we want to take responsibility for preserving and expanding the contemporary dance repertoire. Therefore our programme combines new premieres with classic works of contemporary dance, that have withstood the test of time.

Jyrki Karttunen‘s Digital Duende is an ode to dance, to the spiritual power of non-verbal movement. Together with the premiere of new generation dancemakers Imre and Marne van Opstal, it creates an interesting combination, the essence of which is passion, longing, desire, and the inner burning of the self.

Tero Saarinen, Artistic Director

Choreographer's notes

Digital Duende (1998) is a significant work for me in many ways. In its original casting, I also took on the role of dancer. I tend to go back to it as if to check where I started as a choreographer, and to remind myself of an unhurried and playful state of creation, where I give space and time for solutions to arise from the question at hand. The work was born on a clean slate, not from any previous work. At the same time, it was born from everything I had considered as a dancer up to that point.

In Digital Duende, the idea of including two parts in the work was already set in the title. The choreographic weaving, resembling the Windows operating system, is formed of simple chips of information, of ones and zeros. It is however only the duende, the spirit that the performer breathes into the situation, that transforms the empty form into a structure. The choreographer can attempt to direct interpretation along a desired path, but the final emphasis in the viewer’s experience is supplied by the performer.

Thanks to Digital Duende, I became more and more aware of the fact that the content of a dance piece is often just as vast as its presentation. In this sense, the performative situation and the work of the dancer have also become the cornerstones of my choreographic works.

– Jyrki Karttunen


Abridged from Hannele Jyrkkä’s collection of articles on Finnish choreographers, Tanssintekijät (2005).

“Astonishing fluency, combining the softness of Romantic ballet with the sinewy edge of modern dance –– a style of contemporary movement that is less assertive than usual, and admirably prepared in the finest detail“

The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia (2001)


“playfully serious, northerly elaboration on flamenco-based movements –– their dancing had a simple, smart, dry-humoured charm“

Dance Europe (2000)


“The star of Full Moon 2000 – and, indeed, of the present crop of Finnish dance-makers – was undoubtedly the unassuming but patently gifted Jyrki Karttunen. –– wigglingly playful fascination with Spanish dance seen in his international breakthrough, Digital Duende.“

Dance Theatre Journal, UK (2000)


suffused warmth and physical empathy –– organic but never predictable“

The Irish Times, Ireland (2000)


“a clever take on flamenco“

Sunday Tribune, Ireland (2000)


“Performed by choreographer Jyrki Karttunen and Teemu Kyytinen –– It goes deeper than merely performing the same movement in harmony for their inner reflections seem to coalesce as well.“

The Citizen, South Africa (2000)


“Karttunen has established his works with a twinkle in his eye before, so again, throughout the half- hour performance the audience shook with laughter due to his witty and humorous little ideas. It’s simply wonderful to have a choreographer, who takes his job in earnest, yet not at all without humour.“

Demari, Finland (1999)


“a Beckettian landscape as the unlikely backdrop for a finely crafted and energetic piece of physical celebration.“

Resolution! Reviews, UK (2000)

Digital Duende

Choreography Jyrki Karttunen
Lighting, set and sound designer Kimmo Karjunen

Rehearsal Director Henrikki Heikkilä

Samuli Emery, Mikko Lampinen (9–13 June)
Mikko Makkonen, Jussi Ulkuniemi (14–16 June)

Soundtrack by Kimmo Karjunen: Saint-Preux: Concerto pour une voix. Performed by The London Symphonic world, 1995 Pomme music. | C. Curet Alonso: Puro Teatro. Performed by La Lupe, 1969 Tico records. | Hugues Le Bars: Mets l ́ange. Performed by Hugues Le Bars, 1991 Nocturne. | Trad.: Se nos rompió el amor. Performed by Fernanda & Bernarda de Utrera, 1990 Pasarela S.A.Ch. | Navarro: Lo Dudo. Performed by Los Panchos, 1990 CBS Records 466808 2.
Photos: Kai Kuusisto | Video: Petrus Koskinen

30 minutes
20 November, 1998 Joensuu Art Museum, Finland
Nomadi Productions | Re-premiere in Tanssin talo 2023: Tero Saarinen Company