Side Step Festival was born in 1996. For the public, Side Step in 2023 is a window into the contemporary international dance and performance supply.

The role of Side Step is to reflect what is currently happening in international dance art in relation to our local dance and performance scene. The festival’s intention is to shake our experience of contemporary dance.

Side Step was born 20 years ago in a self-contained and penniless setting. At first arranged as a biyearly event, Side Step had its starting point in the local dance artists’ desire to create a discussion culture where artists themselves determine the directions and premises of dance. The festival was designed by a group of pioneers who founded Zodiak in the 80s; Soile Lahdenperä, Kirsi Monni, Liisa Pentti and Raija Ojala, and little later also Riikka Theresa Innanen.

During its first ten years Side Step concentrated on presenting the works of the 60s and 70s avant-garde and postmodern artists from the Judson Dance Theater. Since then and especially after the year when the festival presented works by Yvonne Rainer and The Forsythe Company, Side Step has grown into the meeting point of widely varied viewer backgrounds. In 2010 the festival’s founders passed the torch to the younger generation.

The festival’s current artistic directors have designed the programs by nurturing artists whose works are out-there in both strong visuality and unconditional artistic practice. It has brought together artists who have the courage to be uncompromising and anarchistic in their work. The guest artists are united by their strongly stylized artistic languages, in which they use familiar conventions in order to create something completely new. Side Step has sought after a challenging edge.

Year 2023 witnesses the 20th edition of the festival and Side Step is again on the doorstep of something new. With the stages of Dance House Helsinki, the festival can present the international diversity of contemporary dance in a more versatile way than before. Furthermore, the next festival in 2024 will be created under a new artistic leadership.