The golden age of open air dancing was back in the 1950s and 1960s when orchestras fronted by such singers as Henry Theel, Eino Grön and others invited Finns on to the dance floor at weekends.
Attending an open air dance was a traditional way of spending a summer Saturday night out in rural areas. Often the whole family would attend. No alcohol was sold. However, beverages were often brought along, but kept firmly away from the wary eyes of security personnel.
A decline in countryside dance pavilions took place in the late 1970s and 1980s coinciding with Finnish acceptance of the disco culture.
Currently, some 100 open air dance pavilions exist still often located in remote countryside areas but many are now close to major cities.
Joy of Traditional Dancing
At the Helsinki-Pavilla pavilion, dance courses now attract over 100 participants compared to just a few dozen people a couple of decades ago.
”One evening during a class for the mazurka, some 400 tickets were sold. Between 100 and 200 tickets tends to be the norm,” says dancing instructor Jorma Tulonen.
Open air dancing has returned to popularity thanks to TV dance shows and an enthusiasm for nostalgia in the city. But perhaps the real secret is the joy of traditional dancing.
”One keeps in good condition and with a clear head. It’s also a good chance to meet the ladies, for instance, during a samba course,” says course participant Jaakko Ulmanen.
Jaakko and Irmeli Korpi-Anttila agree. ”People can be close to each other and at the same time get good exercise,” they add.