The Kiikurit – A Little Magic with a Dash of Hope

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The Kiikurit – A Little Magic with a Dash of Hope

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Anneli Tolvanen, Chief Inspiration Officer, Kiikurit Folkdancing Group

What can you say about Finnish folk-dancing at a time like this!?

As members of the Kiikurit, we’ve always had a shared, unspoken feeling like we’re part of a mission to rescue something beautiful from the past and to not let it slip away to an unreachable distance – where only cold historians can unearth it for their academic purposes. Personally there’s always been a touch of magic about it, on a Thursday evening, in this historic Finnish hall (picture it) – this small, multi-generational group, holding hands in a circle, swinging arms and legs in rhythm to music that’s survived the ages and who’s lyrics only some of us can barely understand.

At our last practice, on March 12th, it was even more poignant, as we danced the Parisar Polka taught to us by one of our more experienced dancers, who remembered it from 30 years ago. On that Thursday evening, it was just the beginning of the new normal, governed by the spread of an unknown virus. Suddenly it was as though we were dancing with the band that played on, even as the Titanic sunk.

The Kiikurit at Suomi Koti, Oct. 10th, 2019
Photo credit Anneli Tolvanen

Sure enough, we haven’t had a practice since that night and our calendars have steadily filled with cancellations of performances that we were preparing for…. St. Urho’s, Folklore Festival, FinnFest in Sudbury. We’re still holding onto the hope that Nipigon’s Blueberry Blast in August will be a go, and that we’ll be able to dance on their central park’s stage and do a workshop in a church basement. This fall we did hold performances at Suomi Koti, at a Hilldale Lutheran Church coffee house, and at Southbridge Pinewood Long-term Care.

2021 will mark the 50th year of dancing for the Kiikurit. We honour Martti Vanhapelto as the creative spark and hardworking organizational leader that put Finnish folk dancing in motion here in Thunder Bay, just a few short years after immigrating to Port Arthur from Kuopio, Finland with his family. Martti’s tireless dedication and talents not only made this cultural expression possible in our city, but also provided important support for folk dancing groups in Vancouver, Sudbury, Sault St. Marie, Timmins and Toronto. For many groups across the country, he was the respected “maesteri”. His contribution was also felt with many groups throughout the US and he left a legacy of folk dancing in Kuopio, Finland where he started the Kuopio tanhujat in 1961.

Martti and Helli Vanhapelto, taken Mar. 3’20th, with the song “Muistojen Valssi” that was written for them in thanks for hosting the musical group Ratakadunpihasoitajat. Photo credit Anneli Tolvanen

Surely there’ll be a time when we can dance again ….. hold hands in a circle, or waltz, polka or schottische together. Think about joining us when that’s possible again.

Come be a part of our 50th year!

For more information about the Kiikurit, please contact Anneli Tolvanen at

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