A small step for a cosmologist, a giant leap for the circus

This year, the Helsinki-based dance troupe Hurjaruuth dances through the history of the universe in their annual winter circus. The script for the production was co-authored by cosmologist Syksy Räsänen.


Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth is tackling a cosmic challenge. It’s new show, Cosmos, sees the entire universe traipsing out on stage. Docent of Theoretical Physics and University Lecturer Syksy Räsänen was involved with the project from the very beginning to help the circus folk.

“Science often deals with highly abstracted things which can be better expressed in concrete terms through a non-verbal medium, such as theatre or circus”, Räsänen states.

The idea for the show began to take shape when the cosmologist collided with Swiss director Davide Giovanzana at a bookstore.
“I’d seen some of Davide’s work, and one of his productions used quantum physics as its thematic frame. I suggested that cosmology could also be a good match. Davide then contacted Hurjaruuth.”

A song about lonely galaxies

The script, written by Räsänen and Giovanzana, traces back throgh the six epochs of the universe from the present to its very beginning.
“The show opens with the expansion of the universe and harks back to its very beginnings via dark matter, cosmic microwave background radiation and nucleosynthesis.

However, our interpretation of cosmological events is, above all, a poetic one", notes Räsänen. For example, the audience will be treated to a song about the loneliness of galaxies, which move further away from each other as the universe expands.

“It’s easy to see cosmic events as metaphors for our lives. This is probably one of the reasons why the general public is so interested in cosmology."

Duty-bound to communicate clearly

“When I’m working on this popular stuff, I’m not so much describing the content of the physics as telling stories based on physics that communicate key features in research. The circus production is the same.”

Even though the gap between the mathematical terminology of physics and the language of popular science is huge, Räsänen is working to expand the reach of his field through speeches, blogs, and soon a children's book on cosmology.

“I consider the popularisation of science my duty. Since cosmology has thus far resulted in no practical everyday applications, its task is to illuminate our position in the universe.”