Dancing in the sun

On Helsinki Day, Stoa Square in Itäkeskus will be full of dancing and workshops, food, drinks and live music.

Located by Cultural Centre Stoa in Itäkeskus, Stoa Square is the beating heart of eastern Helsinki. It is open for all and easily accessible even from afar.

“Helsinki Day is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase Stoa’s diverse activities”, says Antti Sarpo, Director of Cultural Centre Stoa.

The Helsinki Day events will be spread out all over the city streets, squares and parks. The central location of the Stoa Square, right by the Itäkeskus metro station, makes it an easy place to reach, even for a spontaneous visit. “The square will host all kinds of activities during the summer, so it is definitely worth it to take the metro or jump on your bike and come to eastern Helsinki to have a good time”, Sarpo remarks.

Stoa Square is well-suited as a venue for all sorts of things. It provides a location for encounters, play and various events. Anyone can design a small-scale show for the square’s stage, hang up works of art and handicrafts on the art wall or organise a participatory art project.

Small and even bigger events are welcome to the square in all seasons, but summer is the time the square really blossoms. “Everyone can visit on Helsinki Day and see for themselves how the square might work as a possible venue for their own future event”, suggests Monika Silander-Stolt, Cultural Producer at Stoa. “When we, the city residents, occupy public spaces and create positive events in them, there are fewer opportunities to fill the spaces with negative events”, she reminds us.

City within the City

Stoa’s Helsinki Day programme has been created with different target audiences in mind.“Our centre hosts all kinds of events throughout the year, but above all else, Stoa is known for its dance events”, Sarpo says. “This is already the second time that we built our Helsinki Day programme with a dance theme, following the success of the previous time”, he continues.

Dance and music are universal things – and so is the east Helsinki spirit. “East Helsinki is like an entire small city. People come here even from afar for our dance programme. Our Helsinki Day dances will include performances by three very different artists, precisely because we want to welcome all friends of live music and dance”, Sarpo explains.

The dance evening will be opened by the soulful tones of dance pavilion favourite Kyösti Mäkimattila and his Varjokuva band. Bomba Buena’s eight-person ensemble will bring Cuban rhythms from Havana to Stoa Square. The evening will end with the smooth waves of rap and R&B by Emma award-winner F.

Silander-Stolt emphasises the fact that everyone is welcome: it does not matter if you are a master of the dancefloor or just learning your first dance steps. “You should come out even if you do not plan on dancing at all. We will hand out buttons that you can wear to indicate your willingness to dance. There will be plenty of other aspects of the programme, and everything is voluntary. You can just watch and enjoy the atmosphere”, she encourages.

The host of the event, actor Dennis Nylund, rose to national fame upon winning the Putous character competition as disco dance teacher Folke Rundqvist. Nylund is known for his work at Helsinki’s Svenska Teatern and in film and television. He has been a judge on the Pakko tanssia show and won the breakdance world championship.

“It is going to be a positive, feel-good day! I am thrilled to be part of providing a joint arena for people to showcase their talents and come together to spend time, enjoy music, dance and other programme offerings”, Sarpo beams.

For several summers, Stoa Square has been enlivened by plant installations, and this summer is no exception. The square holds an oak grove designed by Antti Annanpalo, and Kasper Laine’s sound installation plays the songs of extinct birds. The oak grove, greenhouse and sound installation will remain there throughout the summer, so you can catch your breath there on Helsinki Day as well. On Helsinki Day, the square will host several different workshops, and if you get hungry, help is very close: Stoa’s Restaurant Skutta provides food and cultural events and keeps the grill hot and drinks cold.

There will be no special decorations in addition to the green oasis. “People make the space what it is, not the decorations!” Sarpo summarises.

Text: Saija Holm