COVID-19 cancelled performances and moved them online – restrictions continue widely until mid-April

Emma Vainio, 6.4.2021

As in many countries worldwide, also Finnish field of dance is fighting to survive
COVID-19 impact. The challenging times have forced many artists and companies to stream their performances online – and find new audiences in alternative ways.

© ktphotography / Pixabay

© ktphotography / Pixabay

To prevent coronavirus infections, all indoor and outdoor public events and gatherings are prohibited at the moment in most parts of Finland. This means that the bulk of live performances are cancelled. The restrictions continue at least until mid-April – and probably longer.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education and Culture has published a three-step proposal for how to start organising live venues safely again – as soon as the COVID-19 conditions allow this to happen.

In the first supplementary budget of 2021, EUR 15 million was proposed for the operating costs of the Arts Promotion Centre. The additional appropriation aims to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on individuals and others in the arts and culture sector. The appropriation will be allocated in the form of grants. In 2020, the additional funding for culture and arts – aiming to diminish the effects of COVID-19 – was altogether EUR 110 million.

Numerous artists, groups, producers as well as theatre directors have pointed out that the actual loss is far more than the proposed appropriations. Cultural sector employs approximately 110 000 people in Finland.

In March, The Finnish National Theatre and The Swedish Theatre in Helsinki arranged a livestreamed discussion Kulttuuri kantaa (The Culture Carries) concerning the unbearable circumstances of the culture field – and especially freelance artists. What will follow after all this? What should be done now, before it’s too late?

Dance went online – will the situation bring new audiences?

According to a survey recently made for Finnish culture professionals by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the impacts of the COVID crisis for culture are severe and long-lasting.

However, almost two thirds of artists, art groups and other professionals who completed the survey, have started to develop new ways to work. According to the survey, almost half of the culture professionals have started using digital services to be able to reach audiences.

For example, The Finnish National Opera and Ballet announced that in 2020 the two companies reached more spectators than ever before. Despite COVID-19, National Opera and Ballet had 3,5 million audience contacts during 2020. In addition to live performances, this statistics includes streamings, recordings and digital learning materials for schoolchildren.

In addition, many other Finnish companies and artists – e.g. Helsinki-based Raekallio Corp. – have streamed performances, conversations and rehearsal videos on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Choreographer Valtteri Raekallio has pointed out that uploading video clips from the rehearsals and organising live conversations online has reached new, younger audiences.

“It seems that social media usage has increased enormously. People spend more time home, bored – and using smart devices”, Raekallio states. “It will be interesting to see if these people will find their ways to live performances, when these exceptional times are some day over.”