Marketta Viitala: PYHÄJÄRVI ON THE MAP OF DANCE FINLAND – yesterday, today, tomorrow …

Marketta Viitala: PYHÄJÄRVI ON THE MAP OF DANCE FINLAND – yesterday, today, tomorrow …

An important moment affecting the whole concept of the festival happened during the episcopal visitation with Reijo Kela as special guest. When planning the first steps Reijo simply advised to:” Organize something that no one else has on offer!”


As part-time occupant of Pyhäjärvi, international star Tommi Kitti, who for varying reasons taught nowhere, spent his summers in Pyhäjärvi. He would both perform and teach – together with his multi-talented capable wife Marjo Kuusela, known for her knowledge of dancers.


The slightly reckless plan for The Full Moon Dance Festival was ready to be carried out in 1992 with Tommi Kitti and Marjo Kuusela as artistic directors, and Marketta Viitala together with a range of Pyhäjärvi town officials acting as organizing director. The support of former culture minister and county dance scene supporter Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa with her well-timed insight and visit was momentous.


In addition to the well-established professional visiting dance performances, pieces could be proposed also by artist at the beginning of their careers. A public discussion directed by a panel of professionals always succeeded these performances. Nearly all Finnish dance groups visited Pyhäjärvi at the time. Only at the end of the decade there started to be actual choice.


In those first years the busy feel of the festival was guaranteed by the local groups of young dancers and a well picked visiting production, for which the criteria was “anyone will be brave enough to come and watch”. The successful first visiting production was “Työmiehen vaimo” / “The workmans wife” by Marjo Kuusela and praised dance group Rimpparemmi. In hindsight it feels great that one of Alpos’ most powerful pieces “Yövartija” /”The night watchman” was also performed at the time. Not one of the later productions has stayed so vividly in my memory – without any need for explanations.


Choosing the artistic director for the festival must be one of the most vaguely specified tasks. Knowing and understanding this fact, respecting the struggles of each director I am writing these partly even critical rows. The aim of the festival is genuinely to make versatile dance art better known in the whole country, to offer all kinds of groups the opportunity to perform and most importantly, achieving this while staying true to the elements of dance – enabling talented young artists to become aware of their talent. It is crystal clear, that peculiarities and whims of a single artist are not where the sparce festival budget should be spent.


After the initial threesome, the natural successor in 1996 was Alpo Aaltokoski from Hiidenkylä in Pyhäjävi. Being in the rise of his career gave him the confidence to be critical about urbanizing the festival. This style gradually drove away the groups of young dances and over the years also the praised outdoor performances. Katarina McAlister, known as a child-minded dancer, managed in her turn to bring back the children’s program ordering a dance round-up for Kaislaranta. “Almost a master course for artist to come” produced by Tanssiaitat in 2016 managed to start a new tradition.


A specialty of the first years of the festival were demonstration lectures where Tommi Kitti and composer, colorful wordsmith Eero Hämeenniemi, discussed the connections between music and dance. Fine art has been a welcome addition at the festival venues. Exhibitions put together of posters, photographs, and costumes from the Kurjenpolvet – collection, colored by tales, have been praised over the years. Collaboration with “Jokilaaksojen Nuori Tanssi” enabled dance camps, offering specialties, to be organized several years running.


The COVID -19 era has treated the festival scene harshly and may have softened off the roughest edges. I believe both the general public, and the radicals will get attention. Dance of the young will return in many ways. Visits will be explored. Alpo will continue his work, this time having a much easier task, as director-producer Taina will help steer fine ideas into good products.




Greatfull for so much
Marketta Viitala

Joutsenet (1982) © Photo: Douglas Sivén, Kotiliesi
Marketta Viitala / Vaakalinnut ”Joutsenet” (1982) - Otto Mannisen säkeet, voimistelijan keho ja tanssijanmieli tanssivat Pyhäjärveä Suomen kartalle v. 1977-89. Kuva: Douglas Sivén, Kotiliesi
Seinäkukkia (1989) © Photo: Tapio Maikkola
Marjo Kuusela / Vaakalinnut & Jouko ja Paavo ”Seinäkukkia” (1989) Arktiset askeleet -pääpalkinto, Marjon armoitettua tanssihuumoria Tyttölyseon tansseista menestyneen ryhmän kestosuosikkina. Kuva: Tapio Maikkola
Yönvartija (1992) © Photo: Ninna Lindström
Alpo Aaltokoski / teoskohtainen ryhmä ”Yönvartija” (1992) – Ikosen sali, nouseva katsomo näyttämöllä ja sali taustaikkunoiden valoineen häipyivät uudenlaisen alkuvoiman purkautuessa. Kuva: Ninna Lindström
Kuuhullut morsiamet (1993) © Photo: Pekka Ala-aho, Kaleva
Leenamari Unho ”Kuuhullut morsiamet” (1993) – Pyhäjärven Isohiekalla kuutamoloisteessa, Antti Riikonen lyömäsoittimineen järvellä, tarinan muina tulkkeina Kansallisbaletin opiskelijapojat, Kurjenpolvet-ryhmä ym. Kuva: Pekka Ala-aho, Kaleva
Marjo Kuusela & Tommi Kitti © Photo: Tomi Hirvinen, Keskipohjanmaa
Marjo Kuusela & Tommi Kitti, taiteelliset johtajat v. 1992-95, sitä ennen ja jälkeen ideoinnin sieluna jaPyhäjärven sekä Jokilaaksojen toivottuina tanssivierailijoina yksin, kaksin tai Tanssiteatteri Raatikkona. Kuva: Tomi Hirvinen, Keskipohjanmaa