Choreographer Jaakko Toivonen to lead the Finnish Dance Theatre Raatikko

Sanna Kangasluoma, 8.6.2021

Jaakko Toivonen wants to make sure that there’ll be interesting dance pieces for young audiences also in the future. He takes his position as the company director in 2022.

The choreographer Jaakko Toivonen takes the reins of the famous Finnish dance theatre Raatikko in January 2022, as Marja Korhola, renowned dance artist who has run the theatre since 1988 will retire.

Dance Theatre Raatikko, founded 50 years ago (1972), is nowadays known for creating dance pieces for young audiences, often combining dance, theatre and circus. We asked Jaakko what he feels a couple of months before taking his new position.

“From where I stand, my new position as theatre director at Dance Theatre Raatikko is a perfect combination of giving leadership to company’s daily operations and creating artistic work. It really feels like I just landed at my dream job,” he says.

“The fact that Raatikko’s main focus point is presenting contemporary dance for children and youngsters was my biggest motivation to apply for the job in the first place. Producing performances for young audiences has played a significant role in my professional career and I’m looking forward to continuing on the same track within a more structural construction,” he explains, referring to Raatikkos’s status as one of the few government subsidised dance companies in Finland.

It really feels like I just landed at my dream job.

“There are some big changes happening at Raatikko. Not only does the company move to a fabulous new building but they also get a new director. On top of that, on a more personal level, I’m moving back to Finland after living 25 years in The Netherlands. I don’t yet grasp how big the change will be or not, but I’m anyhow looking forward to it. Variety is the spice of life.”

“And since I’ve been working in Finland on more regular basis for the last three years, I’m sure it will be pretty soft landing. The dance scene in Finland is vibrant and I get to lead one of the countries structurally subsidized companies – I really have nothing to complain!” Jaakko continues.

You are a choreographer, are you going to create works for Raatikko, too?

“I will create at least one new piece a year for the company. I see many great opportunities to engage in new collaboration and practices. It will also be my task to invite other choreographers to work with the company. To make sure that there’ll be interesting dance pieces for young audiences also in the future, we need to get young dance artists more interested in this target group.”

With your international background, are you planning to develop the international connections of Raatikko?

“I’m sure we all experience that the internationalism in performing arts is in transition. Everybody is looking for more personalised contacts and alliances between organisations. Not just going to some foreign place to do a show or two, but to have more meaningful encounters with local artists and audiences. And naturally not forgetting reciprocal visits. I like this development a lot and already have few ideas who could be interesting international partners for Raatikko.”

Next year, Raatikko will have a new venue at Silkkitehdas (Silk Factory) in Vantaa (in the Helsinki metropolitan area), and with a new director, the theatre looks ahead with confidence.

Jaakko Toivonen graduated from the Codarts Dance Academy in Rotterdam in 2001 and has since then been living mainly in The Netherlands. For the last three years, as artistic director of the Regional Dance Centre of Eastern Finland, he has also led the Lonely in the Rain – Joensuu Contemporary Dance Festival.