”Icy phoenix rises” – The Snow Queen ice ballet is a joint effort of 500 professionals and a tribute to the Finnish ‘sisu’
A year ago, the disappointment was palpable when The Snow Queen ice ballet had to be postponed at the last minute due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now, drawing from the Finnish ‘sisu’ and courage, Finland’s biggest performing arts production of all time will finally see the light of day in Tampere. Negotiations for an international arena tour are also underway.
Finland’s biggest performing arts production of all time, The Snow Queen, will premiere at Tampere’s Nokia Arena on Friday the 30th of December 2022. Postponed a year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ice ballet for the whole family tells, in a warm and humorous way, about helping those in need and the healing power of friendship.
The Snow Queen is based on the Danish H.C. Andersen’s 1844 fairy tale of the same name. Andersen set his classic story in the mythical Finnish Lapland, and at the heart of the new version is Finnishness, viewed from the outside like Andersen. The ice ballet was conceptualized and scripted by Canadian Melissa A. Thompson, who has previously worked as a creative lead of the Cirque du Soleil circus. Thompson is proud to be called something of a Finnophile.
“The Snow Queen is really a tribute to the famous Finnish ‘sisu’ in every sense. Last year, we received the news about the postponement six days before the world premiere. We were deep into the final dress rehearsals up north. As you might expect, the news was a hard blow to the performers and the rest of the team. But with determination and courage, this icy phoenix rises from the ashes stronger than ever. The piece is very important to me personally, because this is such a resilient team that has lived through so much together, and because it brought me to Finland, this country that I love. As an art form with very little spoken dialogue, I believe The Snow Queen proposes a truly unique form of visual storytelling that will allow it to reach a wide audience in a super compelling way”, says Thompson.
The artistic team, which in addition to Thompson includes composer Tuomas Kantelinen, director and choreographer Reija Wäre, visualist and lighting designer Mikki Kunttu and costume designer Erika Turunen, was determined from the beginning to produce a high-end, novel art form and reach for new audiences both in Finland and around the world. The production has gained significant international partners and aroused wide interest in Europe, where it is sold by the English Angus Baskerville, who is known as the agent of top artists such as Radiohead, Duffy, Jamiroquai, and A-ha.
“Visually, artistically, and content-wise, The Snow Queen is one of the most ambitious projects that I have encountered in my career. We feel the show has huge potential in terms of international touring particularly as the performance is built in an arena environment and there is currently nothing like it in the market. Finnishness is trending in the world, and the show’s themes of helping those in need, demonstrating the Nordic value base, are more topical than ever. We´ve had extremely promising discussions with the biggest arenas in Great Britain and Europe already,” Baskerville reveals.
The result of the cooperation of almost 500 professionals
From 2019 until today, 498 professionals from all walks of life, from seamstresses to video producers and from skaters to ice hockey players, have been involved in making this domestic arena production come to life. In addition to skating, the show features plenty of different dance styles and top dancers equipped with special ice shoes. Sofia Ruija, who is only 20 years old, graduated as a dancer from the Ballet School of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet in the spring of 2021. Despite her young age, Ruija is familiar to many from the most popular programs on television (e.g. UMK, Emma Gaala) and arena-level performances (e.g. Mestarit tour).
“Participating in The Snow Queen ice ballet has offered me the opportunity to examine and understand the meanings of the blurring of interfaces. In a large-scale production that combines many different ways of moving, there are a number of factors that need to be taken in in order to understand how the movement speed and location in space are different from one another. As a dancer, I am challenged by the visualization of the 360-degree arena, both among the performers on the ice and in relation to the audience,” Ruija says.
Among Finland’s most famous ice hockey players, Niklas Hagman, who had a long NHL career, Tappara icon Pekka Saravo, and Finnish national team captains Jenni Hiirikoski and Marko Anttila are participating. The role of the Snow Queen is skated by Laura Lepistö, Finland’s most successful solo figure skater of all time, who makes her long-awaited return to the ice with the role. The Snow Queen of the fairy tale is an icy witch who is vulnerable and lonely under her blunt shell. For Lepistö, the production’s themes of friendship and the fact that no one is left alone are important.
“Friendship is always an important theme and at the moment, reflecting the situation in the world, it is very topical. During last year’s rehearsal period, we, the performers and the working group, became a close-knit, multicultural community, and I think it’s great that through this work we can bring joy to children and adults and be part of doing something valuable together,” says Lepistö.
Before The Snow Queen’s premiere in December, Lepistö jumps into the skates of her icy character and performs an excerpt from the ice ballet in the opening program of the figure skating competition Grand Prix Espoo on Friday the 25th of November. The opening program starts at Espoo’s Metro Arena at 2:20 pm. The competition can also be seen live on the Elisa Viihde Viaplay streaming service.
The Snow Queen
Performances at Nokia Arena, Tampere
Friday 30 December 2022 at 7 pm (premiere, Finnish narration)
Saturday 31 December 2022 at 2 pm (Swedish narration)
Saturday 31 December 2022 at 7 pm (Finnish narration)
Sunday 1 January 2023 at 2 pm (Finnish narration)
Sunday 1 January 2023 at 7 pm (Finnish narration)
The performance is approximately two hours long and includes one intermission. The performance is recommended for ages 6 and up. The Snow Queen is Tampere Hall and Kantelinen Company’s joint production.