The first professional theatre activities began in Finland almost 140 years ago, and today the network of theatres here stretches from one end of the country to the other, with 56 receiving state support and another 40 receiving support from state and local authorities. This doesn't include the numerous smaller groups who provide travelling puppet theatre, restaurant theatre, and performance groups.
The Finnish National Opera performs some 20 different operas in 140 performances annually, including between 4 and 6 premieres at least one of which is Finnish, attracting around 250,000 visitors every year. Suomen Kansallisbaletti, or Finnish National Ballet, is a professional ballet company operating from the Opera House in Helsinki. It is the only Finnish company regularly performing a classical ballet repertoire, and arranges some 110 performances annually.
The dramatic arts in Finland are very popular, as can be seen by the vast number of people who act, or come to watch, theatrical productions. Alongside the many professional companies, there are numerous others where just a few professionals work with amateur performers. In addition, there are wholly amateur theatrical companies operating in almost every community.
Finnish dance incorporates artistic trends from across the globe, and there are around 40 dance companies operating in the country today. In 2008 there were close to 2,500 performances, with over 200 of these being premieres, in front of a combined audience of almost 458,500. Contemporary Finnish dance is characterized by intensity and drama, coupled with artistically and technically accomplished lighting and sound design.
In any given year there are over 20 musicals showing in Finland, from the broadway shows like Les Misérables and Cabaret, to classics like My Fair Lady, and some unconventional choices like Rebecca. Although many theatres perform musicals over the course of a year, Helsinki City Theatre usually has the biggest productions.