The tradition of the Speak Easy (’salakapakka’) continued for it’s 5th time in great fashion at the Fennia Salon of the Casino in downtown Helsinki again this year. The venue has been a favorite for live entertainment with the golden touch, providing an elegant lounge with top shelf cocktails as well as a stage and dance floor for an intimate party of 300. The original décor from beginning of the 19th Century has been re-installed in the Fennia Salon, enhancing the authenticity of the mood. Event organizer, Paula Ranta, started the occasion 4 years ago in Ravintola Lämpo in Suvilahti, just for the chance to get dolled up and dance some swing in a great atmosphere. The event was so popular, that it has grown in size and spectacle since then.
The guests attended with their best 1920’s attire, including flapper dresses, waist coats and cloche hats, prepared to dance the night away in swinging style. A majority of whom are active in the swing and lindyhop scene in Helsinki, which regularly rehearse their moves in Töölölahti (Lindy in the Park) throughout the warmer months of the year and Tuesday Night Hop when the temperatures drop.
The featured entertainment was a swing and gypsy jazz band known as Kallion Karavaani, hailed in local Kallio as the swingingest band around. The band was created over 2 years ago, featuring permanent band members Tade Priklopil, Eljas Toepfer, Ilari Heinäaho, Tapio Ollikainen and often hosting various guest artists. The guests this Saturday included Joose Ojala on accordion, Aki Himanen on trumpet and on vocals and harmonica, artist Don Kong. The band has toured Finland and one of their hit studio singles appears on the CD compilation KU – Volume One, for which proceeds went to homelessness and childrens’ charities in the area (VVA & Pelastakaa Lapset). Their repertoire has been influenced by the 1930's Paris jazz scene, with their own spin, creating original songs, some of which were debuted for the first time in Salakapakka.
The band was joined by entertainment and vintage dance group Midnight Follies who danced between sets, donning matching trench coats and umbrellas as props. The group incorporated swing and lindy-hop moves as well as tap dance techniques for a stunning and expertly executed performance, which captivated the audience, who took a well-deserved respite from the dance floor during the performances.
The crowd was on their feet from the first note of the band until the last beat of the DJ at 4am, with high energy and enthusiasm throughout. The outsider would be delighted to see that well known songs provoked a mass dance routine, in which one might have thought it was a flash mob, with friends and strangers alike dancing in perfect unison.
To top it off, the Atelieri O. Haapala Victorian photography booth and professional photographers offered the chance for guests to have their portraits taken in their lovely outfits for a small fee. This spurred even the most shy to put on their best, get all hotsy totsy, and make whoopee on the dance floor. The artist group Atelieri O. Haapala also frequents other events, such as the Helsinki Burlesque Festival.
According to Paula, "every year I think it might be the last one, but then the next party is always better than the one before so I start thinking about the next one..." So, until next year then, folks!
Reviewed and written by Megan McCormick
Photo credits: Kevin Pollard