The new Festival Director of Kuopio Dance Festival is Johanna Rajamäki


The personnel change will take place in August 2021 when Anna Pitkänen, Festival Director since 1996, leaves the Festival. But who is the new Festival Director and how does the festival look to the future?

Johanna Rajamäki © Kalle Saarela

Johanna Rajamäki © Kalle Saarela

Widely experienced Johanna Rajamäki has been dancing since she was a child. This is how Rajamäki introduces herself:

“At school I had a brilliant PE teacher who gave us free dance classes. We did all kinds of choreographies and performances through the years.

Then, still at school, I was a chorus member at Seinäjoki City Theatre, where we did musicals. And later I worked there as a production intern. That was when I realized how I loved working on the admin side.

I studied Arts Management in Turku and, while still studying there, I started working in Helsinki. While working as dance producer at the Theatre Academy I really found contemporary dance. I started producing performances for the students of the Theatre Academy. Then I had this sort of epiphany. I’d always been interested in international projects and affairs and theatre was very much bound to language. I realized that dance basically combines all of my interests!

I went to London to study my MA degree and stayed in London for work. Contemporary dance scene was very strong there. First, I worked at Shape Arts, a company that works with accessibility. My second employer was Dancer’s Career Development, a career service for pro dancers.

I also did freelance projects with choreographer Satu Tuomisto, who was also based in London at the time. Then I worked at IMG Artists Agency for three years, bringing mainly American dance companies to Europe. I worked for, for example, Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, LA Dance Project, Gallim Dance, Ballet Hispanico, Ballet Black and Colin Dunne. Then, choreographer Tero Saarinen, whom I previously knew, reached out and tempted me to return to Finland and come work with his company. And here I am, eight years later.

Outside work, I like exercising, I still dance as a hobby. I love all kinds of culture, arts and music. I also love nature, walking in forest, ice swimming and practicing yoga.”

Looking to the future

Mika Sutinen, Chairman of the Board:

“Johanna’s qualities will complement our team excellently. Her positive and optimistic, forward-looking personality made an impression on us. Her attitude towards dance is that of a passionate facilitator that affords artistic direction the space and freedom it needs.”

Riku Lehtopolku, Artistic director:

“I am looking forward to working with Johanna and bouncing new ideas off her. She knows the field of international dance well, she has a wide network, and she is open-minded – I see these as fantastic points of departure for developing the Festival.”

Johanna Rajamäki:

“I am really pleased and excited about this unique opportunity to work at Kuopio Dance Festival and contribute to the Finnish dance scene following years of focusing on export. I am looking forward to working with the Festival’s core team.”

Kuopio Dance Festival 2021 will be held during autumn

The festival board has made the decision to postpone the traditional June festival week in 2021. Festival events will be organized during the autumn season. The program will be arranged during several months.

– We had prepared the 52nd festival program for June, just waiting to be released. The pandemic-caused risks and the atmosphere of uncertainty ultimately led us in a situation where we were forced to postpone the festival to autumn season, states current festival director Anna Pitkänen.

The season begins in August with Gala evenings at the Kuopio Music Centre, presenting both domestic and international artists. From October, the season continues at the Kuopio City Theatre and Kulttuuriareena 44. The festival atmosphere will be created through a diverse program, e.g. courses, dance films and other events.