Vanhojentanssi is a tradition in Finland that I really like. Translated it means something like “the dance of the oldest”. When the third grade in high school has finished their “ylioppilastutkinto” = final exams, those who are now the oldest in high school have a special dance event. They dance so to speak into their new role as the oldest in their school.

Girls often tailor their own dresses or get them especially tailored and they all look very grown up and beautiful. Boys are penguins with tail coats or at least  suits. This year, my daughter had the pleasure of celebrating her own vanhojentanssi, so I got to experience the whole process  “like a local”, playing chambermaid, chauffeur and camera team over two days.

On the first day, each school has a dance performance for the parents. On the next day, the eldest visit their school in their gowns and bows are performed on both sides in the classes. At last, several schools  gather up in large events and perform their dance program together. Here in Helsinki one of the big events happens at the ice hall, this year with 9 schools.

Now, it’s impressive to see so many beautiful young people dance anything from tango to rag or waltz and minuet from a live orchestra. But each year I am wondering, how much more impressive it would be, if the venues matched the occasion a little better.

Somehow, the atmosphere doesn’t fit, like the ice hall of Helsinki. On the other hand, this contrast is so very Finnish, as the emphasis in Finland is on “functionality”, not atmosphere.  I still remember my first Christmas market in Joensuu, oh boy. Being used, as a German, to these cute, buzzing Christmas markets with lights and candles an the like, it felt like a factory outlet for cheap bargains.

So, the ice hall is sure big enough, as was the Arena sporting hall in Joensuu. The black polystyrene squares covering the ice help the dancers find their positions just as well as the field marks in other sporting halls.

It’s not that Helsinki wouldn’t have enough venues for events like this with more Charisma.  Just imagine a venue like beautiful Säätytalo below.

But then, Finns are price-conscious. The advertising beneath the score board of the Ice Hall, as can be seen on the following picture, cuts right to the chase. It says:

“Now, it’s just stupid to pay too much.”

_G202877smallAnyway. Should you happen to be in Helsinki in Mid-February, it still might be nice to drop in, next year. It’s free. And genuinely Finnish.

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