Javier Torres: I want to take the identity of the Finnish National Ballet to new heights

Emma Vainio, 23.1.2023

The artistic director of the Finnish National Ballet, Javier Torres wants to create an encouraging atmosphere amongst dancers.

Javier Torres © yebophotography

“I want it to be a place where dancers can express their opinions much more boldly and raise matters in the training room and during stage rehearsals,” says the artistic director of the Finnish National Ballet, Mexican-Finnish Javier Torres.

“The traditional ballet education system, where students have someone correcting them and telling them what to do all the time, can create a childlike attitude in dancers. This can lead to them being dependent on receiving constant feedback, avoiding deeper reflection and not learning how to take hold of their own responsibilities.”

“On the other hand, the whole ballet world has a history of fear that permeates its general structure, and I am totally convinced that this is unnecessary,” Torres explains.

“I want to create an encouraging atmosphere amongst dancers.”

Torres was a dancer of National Ballet – came back to Finland after 14 years

Javier Torres joined the Finnish National Ballet as its artistic director in August 2022. Even before this, he had close ties to Finland. “It felt like coming home after 14 years.”

Torres moved to Finland in 1989, after graduating as a ballet dancer and dance teacher in the Cuban Method from the National School of Ballet in Mexico City. Initially, he worked as a dancer in Helsinki Dance Company, led by choreographer Jorma Uotinen. He transferred to the Finnish National Ballet in 1991, and danced there until 2008 – almost his entire career as a dancer.

“The group’s level has risen wildly since those years,” the artistic director says.

Javier Torres has worked for more than 30 years as a teacher and choreographer with countless groups, including Lyon Opera Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Stuttgart Ballet and West Australian Ballet. He has also spoken at numerous international dance medicine conferences on ballet pedagogy.

There has been discussion in the ballet world and media recently about how many national ballets are losing their own style and identity.

“If a group pays a good choreographer to create a piece and it proves successful, after just a few months some other group will be dancing that same piece,” Torres explains. According to the artistic director, this system is to the detriment of the groups’ identities, as the handprint of the same choreographer and same piece will eventually be available to audiences anywhere.

“I would like to change this and construct a repertoire that is exclusively ours, as much as is possible.”

The Finnish National Ballet’s company has become more international: nowadays, only around 30% of its dancers are Finnish.

The identity is based on the high standards in the way we perform, the high level of theatricality, and the openness and respect towards others

“I would happily accept more Finnish dancers into the National Ballet, but I’m not going to compromise on the company’s level. Finland is a small country, and the problem is that we don’t have enough high-level dancers undertaking ballet training,” states Torres.

“What makes the Finnish National Ballet what it is are the high standards in the way we perform, the high level of theatricality, and the openness and respect towards others, welcoming dancers from all over the world – I think that’s our identity.”

Javier Torres has been the artistic director of the Finnish National Ballet since August 2022.