History and stories

Full Moon Dance history

The Full Moon Dance Festival was created to fill the need for performance opportunities especially for young dancers and choreographers at the beginning of their careers. In the 1990’s the exponential growth of contemporary dance created the need for a festival where the artists views were considered, and development happened on the terms of dance art. It was also important to create a forum where you could do different experiments as well as give feedback and create discussion between the audience and performers.


Pyhäjärvi city was a logical birthplace of the festival as the town had been a lively centre of dance and gymnastics for over twenty years. The idea of a festival was invented in 1991 by its’ energetic founding members Marjo Kuusela, Marketta Viitala and Tommi Kitti. They let fly and so the first Full Moon Dance Festival was held in summer 1992.

The especially active dance scene of the under seven thousand inhabitant city was known after its’ centre of population as the “Pyhäsalmi miracle”. Pyhäjärvi city has had the honour of seeing most Finnish dance artist perform and teach in the city. The festival was accepted as a member of Finland Festivals in 1998 and has maintained its membership ever since. In 1999 Finland Festivals nominated the Full Moon Dance Festival as festival of the year.


Katariina McAlester, Pirjo Yli-Maunula, Harri Kuorelahti, Liisa Pentti, Kirsi Törmi and Alpo Aaltokoski have each performed as visiting artistic directors.

Image: The first Full Moon Dance Festival poster from 1992. Pictured is dancer Tommi Kitti, author Yrjö Kitti and Marketta Viitala.

Prospects for the future

The Full Moon Dance Festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2021 and has wanted to build the anniversary festival with national artists. Over the past three decades, artistic directors have brought with them new artistic goals, which the festival has been flexible in adapting.


At the start of the fourth decade, we would like to help lengthen the life span of dance pieces. In our opinion far too many magnificent works of dance art get forgotten too quickly after their first performances. Dance pieces are not disposable articles. Of course, the festival’s aim is still to open the stage to new national dance works and performances staying true to the founder’s vision. The festival will always welcome premiers.


We consider it important to give the stage to dance artists of all ages so as to cater for viewers of all ages. How you see different themes in art varies throughout the stages of life. This makes encounters between different generations of artists and viewers at the festival especially interesting.

As the society continues to polarize, dialog between different cultures becomes more and more important. What is a better means for this than dance? Full Moon Dance Festival is definitely an intriguing location to preform dance art to viewers from all over the world – and to show of Pyhäjärvi to international dance artists. As we are situated in the heart of central Finland, we feel it is important to boldly reach out both nationally and internationally.


The Full Moon Dance Festival is a dance festival. All dance that is performed in this time, that has its basis in the current global situation is contemporary to us. Dance artists with stories they want to tell here and now will always be at the heart of the festival. As will dance art that delights, amazes, infuriates, bores, troubles, arouses, talks to and touches its viewers.