By Satu Ryynänen, June 2013
How did the Kuopio Dance Festival, held 400 kilometres northeast of the capital, become one of the longest-running, most popular dance events in Europe?
Kuopio, a town in the middle of Finland has been attracting the world’s top dancers to its forested surroundings every summer for more than 40 years now.
“I think that I starting this festival here ‘in the middle of nowhere’ in 1970 was a very brave initiative, risky and courageous,” says artistic director Jorma Uotinen, who is himself one of the great names of the Finnish dance world. “The festival has been able to find the most prominent people of each era. All our performers represent the top of their genres.”
Summer 2013 includes the Paris Opera Ballet. “I consider it number one among the world’s big dance groups,” says Uotinen. “It has been my dream since the very beginning to have them here, and I am very proud to have succeeded.”
Another interesting performance in the festival will be the Italian troupe Il Posto’s vertical dance show. Yes, vertical.
It’s based on “interaction between dance, music and architecture,” and will take place on the sides of the Puijo Tower, a lookout tower in Kuopio. The group has previously performed on the façades of buildings, bridges, lighthouses, cloisters and palaces, supported by ropes attached to the top of the buildings.
Kuopio is considered one of the most charming cities in Finland, and the exotic location helps attract international guests. “Coming to Kuopio is often a memorable experience for foreign dancers,” says Uotinen. “Many of them see the white, nightless nights for the first time here.”
“I’ve led the festival towards European contemporary dance with a hint of exotic influence, with representatives from distinctive cultures,” he says. “Dance is one of the best ways of learning to understand difference. And this kind of cultural understanding can be extended to other aspects of life as well. Art truly can have an impact on your life.”
The Kuopio Dance Festival is impressively popular among international dance professionals, as well as audiences. “The scale of the festival adds value to it. We have around 8,000 to 9,000 paid visitors annually. Additionally, some of our performances are free of charge and the total number of spectators for them can reach up to 20,000.” The festival audience generally fills the seating capacity to 90 percent.
There’s always room for one more. “We welcome more international visitors,” Uotinen says. Maybe at the next festival, that one more will be you.
See also on thisisFINLAND
Kuopio Dance Festival, June 13–19, 2013
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