Interview: Ulla Savisalo, Savcor Ballet. Organizing of ballet festivals as part of events tourism in Finland
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Interview: Ulla Savisalo, Savcor Ballet. Organizing of ballet festivals as part of events tourism in Finland
Kirill Malyutin, 4 November 2013

Ulla Savisalo is the Managing Director at Savcor Ballet (Finland). Savcor Ballet is a Finnish company, which was established by two entrepreneurs, Hannu and Ulla Savisalo in Mikkeli in 1995, and specializes in organizing ballet festivals. Ulla has great expertise for almost two decades in this business. Absolute success proves hard work, patience, devotion and passion demonstrated by a team of professionals, working at Savcor Ballet.

TOHOLOGY: What is the main motivation for you to create such events as ballet?

Ulla Savisalo: We got such an unbelievable offer: “would you like to have the Bolshoi Ballet and Maya Plisetskaya to dance in your city? Two world famous ballet icons!” We were adventurous enough to answer “Yes!” This 19 years old story started from that answer. We could never imagine what kind of great experiences it would bring to our life. Before that question, it had never occurred to our mind to do anything on the field of culture.

TOHOLOGY: What are the most difficult and the easiest things for you when organizing the event?

Ulla Savisalo: We were lucky to start this festival with the best dancers and very innovative people. The company, Imperial Russian Ballet, was a private company, very hard working and flexible. It did not have any public money. They had to find everything from the market. That made our co-operation easy and difficult. Working with them was very fun and creative but we both struggled with the financing. We did great productions with a fraction of money that public companies need. We had to be innovative and work hard but we had our freedom to do what we together decided.

TOHOLOGY: Is there a “plan B” in case if something goes not according to the plan?

Ulla Savisalo: Our plans were living all the time. New ideas and productions might come even in the last minutes. We had to overcome so many problems, but our motto was: “anything for you”, so all of them were solvable together. With Imperial Russian Ballet and Gediminas Taranda we had a marvellous co-operation. The public theatres, like Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky or Eifman were great partners too. They had much bigger and more professional teams, but not so adventurous.

TOHOLOGY: Do you set time limits? What is the standard time for the company to organize the event (depending on the event)?

Ulla Savisalo: Yes, of course, the earlier the better. Our target was to inform the next season´s program during the previous season. The optimum time is about one year. Sometimes it was not possible to know everything so early, but latest in March-April the autumn season was published.

TOHOLOGY: How do you gather feedback from guests of the events (if this method is applied)?

Ulla Savisalo: Yes, we have done some studies, or some students have used Savcor Ballet as their case. The feedback from our customers has been very positive.

TOHOLOGY: What good advice would you give to the followers when organizing the event?

Ulla Savisalo: You have to have passion inside you so that you cannot be moved. You have to think it as long-span work. Set your target and prepare to work passionately because you need to get other people enthusiastic too.

TOHOLOGY: Have you ever considered any other events to organize beside ballet?

Ulla Savisalo: Not actually. We once organized a Chinese Circus festival, which was very nice art, but not really our thing. This has been only a hobby for us.

TOHOLOGY: What influence on so-called “event tourism” of the city (town) or region does ballet have? Can such occasions attract more tourists to the destination?

Ulla Savisalo: Our audience came 70-80% from Helsinki area, so definitely there was some influence to the tourist business, like hotels and restaurants. Ballet festival has been generally only one or two weekends and limited number of people, but very influential and wealthy people. I think that city has gained more in the image than in direct cash flow, but for some businesses, also the income has been important.

TOHOLOGY: We would like to ask you to name five most important aspects, which must be taken into consideration before organizing the event.

Ulla Savisalo:

  1. Make clear to yourself why you are organizing that kind of event, what is your motivation.
  2. Think carefully who your audience will be and what you can give to them.
  3. List the things, which are important to your audience to enjoy the event (think about the whole experience).
  4. Think over, how you can differentiate your event from other events, what is your specialty.
  5. Take care of the quality in everything. Build your image.
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