We sat together beside the dance floor

Selection of images from ongoing project on Finland’s
dance pavilions

The Images here are a selection from the start of my project from 2017 taken at numerous dance venues in South Savonia, Paijanne Tavastia and Kymenlaakso in Finland. I wanted to understand the popularity of this dance tradition, which has been said to have helped the Finnish population to spread out from its isolation in small farming communities. Rather than focus on the activity of dancing itself, I wanted to document the people, the landscape and the venues, in order to explore diverse ideas of ‘Finnish-ness’ in the cultural changes of the European landscape.

Dances such as the Finnish tango, polka and jenkka were popular throughout the 20th century though the popularisation of rock ‘n’ roll youth culture in the 1960s and disco in the 1970s brought some decline in dance pavilion popularity which has meant that many dancers are of an older generation. But a revival from younger dance hobbyists is taking place not only in rural areas but also in the big cities.

Dances are still advertised locally and are relatively easy to find if you know where to look; some venues are hidden down dirt tracks surrounded by lakes and woodland, or on the outskirts of towns on the edge of industrial estates. Musicians travel the country performing up to five nights a week and the annual Tangomarkkinat, a tango festival held in Seinäjoki, ensures the competition for gigs is high.

I hope to continue the project this coming summer, exploring the pavilions of the north-east of the country, recording personal stories and gaining a greater understanding of how dance culture forms a portrait of a nation.