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Pillerkaar Scanfest 9 3 17

Group picture of Pillerkaar at Scanfest 9-3-17: (l-r) Toomas Parratt, Deborah Klepp, Kadri Kallas Zelek, Arney Smit, Jeff Zelek, Age Landra-Robinson, Jyri Erik Kork.

The morning of Sunday, September 3, tropical depression Harvey was dampening everything except spirits at the 33rd annual Scandinavian Festival in Budd Lake, New Jersey.

The drizzle had largely stopped during the opening ceremony honoring Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, when the newest Pillerkaar member Toomas Parratt proudly bore the Estonian flag as Deborah Klepp, Jyri Erik Kork, and Jeff Zelek sang the Estonian anthem a capella. Blue skies and sunshine made an appearance as Pillerkaar started its first performance. Since ScanFest is intended to entertain and to educate, Pillerkaar’s Director Jeff Zelek and dancers interspersed the dances with stories to tell how the songs and dances of the small nation of Estonia express its powerful and enduring spirit. We began with Padespaan, a social dance common in the 1900’s in Estonia and around Europe, followed by Raksi Jaak (Jack from Raksi) and Kalamies (Fisherman Dance), two traditional dances done at village parties. After describing the importance of Estonian song and dance festivals, we then performed four choreographed dances – the rustic, flirty polka Reilender (Reel Dance); Vanaviisi Valss (An Old Tune Waltz) with its multiple shapes and surprise ending of women jumping into the men’s arms; and the flowing sea-inspired waltz Usalda (Trust); noting that composer Arvo Pärt is the world’s most-performed living orchestral composer.

Romping-stomping Kungla Polka, choreographed some decades ago in Toronto by Toomas Metsala for his Estonian folk dance group, Kungla, was next. For the first time, we shared with the audience our dream of choreographing our own dance to name after Pillerkaar! (Help us find the right song by posting your suggestions on our Pillerkaar, DC Facebook site of fun polkas or waltzes composed or performed by Estonian-Americans or Estonian songs inspired by American themes!) the Traditional circle dance Oige ja Vasemba (Right and Left) preceded the riveting wedding dance Tuljak, performed at every dance celebration for 80 years.

After our second performance, Pillerkaar invited audience members to join for Neljapuari (Four Couples Dance) and Kaera-Jaan (“Jump” John). After the performance, Pillerkaar dancers were pleased to again dance to the pan-Scan polkas of Smorgas Bandet, a lively accordion band from Long Island specializing in Scandinavian music.

By Deborah Klepp, Pillerkaar

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