The Depression brought the folk dance revolution to Estonia
The Estonian folk dance world has never
seen anything comparable over its last century of existence.
past summer’s Folk Dance Celebration themed “Meri” (English “The Sea”)
left hundreds of people standing behind the gates due to lack of seats
in the stadium. It did not matter that the same concert was performed on
three occasions. People were shocked – this is impossible?
Dance Celebration is similar in scale to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies
with over 7500 dancers performing on the big field at once. As recent as
the turn of the millennium, it was believed that Folk Dance
Celebrations would need to be dropped from the Song-and-Dance Festival
scene due to lack of audiences. Nevertheless, folks had different
opinions and the crowds came to the Folk Dance Celebration. There were
not enough seats even after rows of bleachers were added at the last
minute before the concerts.
In past year three of Estonia’s
leading folkdance groups – Leigarid, Kuljus and Tartu University Folk
Ensemble – have celebrated their anniversaries with large scale
concerts. There were doubts that a folkdance concert would fill up 1800
seats at the prestigious Nokia Concert Hall at Solaris Center in Tallinn
or at the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu.
This summer’s men-only
folkdance festival in Rakvere is close to being sold out and it is only
early spring. The Man’s Folkdance Festival has attracted dancers from
among the prominent people of Estonia - all the way to the government.
women dancers have now announced their “own” dance festival.
up with all this?
As of today, the “Kaerajaan going to Europe”
campaign is approaching 10,000 participants who have joined this crazy
idea. This popular folkdance has been danced not only in Estonia and
Latvia, but even in the USA. When the campaign was announced on
Facebook, it took only 24 hours to get 100 members from 12 countries.
dance teachers can tell you of the interest of folk dancing among
teenagers - a trend very unbelievable in the recent past.
Marju Lauristin said the prophetic words a year ago as she described
the human development of a depression era. She stated that “During a
depression, the real values will surface”.
As the result, it is a
pleasure to see that the folkdance teachers who have carried on with
the Estonian folk traditions throughout the years and taught folk dance
in cold and small rooms, while being compensated just pennies, will see
that their work has value.
It is also my pleasure to see the
tens of thousands of folk dancers, whose senseless jumping has been
compared to that of a ridiculous country boy, know that their dancing
has cultural value.
And thirdly, as a person of Finno-Ugric
ancestry, I am aware of the inferiority complex of our people as we
think that folk dancing, regi songs and Kaerajaan are not worthy to be
called a culture.
We have a tendency to think that culture is
where we are not. The Irish had to be ashamed of their Step Dances and
the Finns of their Jenka dance before they believed that these had real
Thanks to the depression, we Estonians can see these
changes in our beliefs and self worth - the true acceptance in our
Author Rein Sikk/Eesti Päevaleht Daily Translation by
Tiina Oviir and Don Vendetti