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Celebrating traditions – over 2,000 gymnasts same time on the field

Media release.
Published: 15-Jul-2015 01:26 pm
Publisher: Gymnaestrada

In celebration of the roots of Finnish gymnastics, the World Gymnaestrada Helsinki brings its “crown jewels”, large group performances, to greater focus than ever before. For more than a century, large group performances have been a prominent part of the Finnish gymnastics tradition. These large-scale performances with hundreds or even thousands performers have always been the highlight of Finnish gymnastics celebrations, often repeated in the following year’s Gymnaestrada.

Finland's history in organising large-scale gymnastic group performances goes back to the Finnish Festival Games held in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The performances held at these games were typically repeated in the next World Gymnaextrada, examples being the programme choreographed by Mirjam Viippola and Tuula Luhtanen performed in Berlin (1975), the Finnish Summer programme by Raija Riikkala in Zürich (1982) and the When the Sun Comes Up programme by Hannele Ahlqvist and Pirkko Paara in Amsterdam (1991). (Source: Virkkunen 2015, Esittävän voimistelun juhlaa)

In Finnish gymnastics, large-scale group performances have remained popular to this day. Almost 70 percent of the Finnish athletes in the Helsinki World Gymnaestrada will participate in a total of 11 Finnish large group performances.

- Many of the participants do not perform gymnastics all that actively, but find large events and group choreographies inspiring enough to faithfully attend weekly practice sessions at their local gymnastics hall. These performances provide goals both for the individual as well as the gymnastics clubs, motivating people to participate. Once on-stage, performing gymnastics with hundreds of like-minded people creates strong feelings of solidarity and offers unforgettable experiences. These are the moments Finnish gymnasts want to experience, answered Hannele Ahlqvist and Marja Kallioniemi when asked about the popularity of large group performances.

They work as the choreographers of the international World Team Large Group Programme, which will ne performed in Helsinki. For the first time in its history, Gymnaestrada features an international large group performance programme, allowing gymnasts from countries without such a tradition to partake in the unique experiences the Finns find so engaging. The popularity of the programme came as a surprise to the organisers: more than 2,000 athletes from more than 30 countries joined the World Team Programme.

Premiering on Wednesday in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, the International World Team Programme will be one of the highlights of the Midnight Sun Special evening. The evening will also make World Gymnaestrada history in another way: it will be the first time large group performances have their own evening showing. The Midnight Sun Special entices visitors to enjoy the Finnish nightless night as well as superb group performances with up to thousands of performers.

In addition to this cavalcade of large group performances above, there will be more to come at the Sonera Stadium from Tuesday to Friday.

Based on a military exercise form performed to the beat of a drum, the discipline has evolved throughout the years and generated performances both narratively powerful and rich in sound. The group performance gymnastics originally based on organising large masses of people in tight rows has broken its bonds and become an arena of experiences full of creativity and joy for gymnasts of all ages. These days we often see traditional implements, such as clubs and hoops, replaced with novel objects such as CDs and buckets. However, what sill probably remains one of the most engaging elements for the viewer is the patterns generated when rows of hundreds of gymnasts move and transform the scene to a flower, boat or, for example, a hourglass.


Additional information

Sanna Yli-Patola, Communication Manager at Gymnaestrada, tel. +358 40 540 0041, sanna.yli-patola@wg-2015.com

Marja Kallioniemi, Choreographer of the International World Team Large Group Programme, tel. +358 50 565 8777

The World Gymnaestrada 2015 Helsinki is a seven day lasting non-competitive gymnastics festival which will gather together 21,000 participants from more than 50 different countries in Helsinki. The event will start on July 12th and end on July 18th and is in terms of international participants the biggest event ever held in Finland. This worldwide Gymnastics for All event authorised by International Gymnastics Federation is a organised every four years and attracts the largest number of active participants of any FIG event. The President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and the First Lady Jenni Haukio act as the patrons of the World Gymnaestrada 2015 Helsinki. The 15th World Gymnaestrada is organised by the Finnish Gymnastics Federation with the cooperation of the City of Helsinki and the Ministry of Education and Culture.

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