New York’s Saare Vikat at Freedom Square, Tallinn, waiting for their turn. Photo: Kärt Ulman / VES
While not part of the official XXVII Song and XX Dance Festival program, more than 300 dancers from diaspora (väliseesti) Esto-nian troupes from around the world danced together at Freedom Square on Sunday, in a performance aptly titled “Ühendusmaa on Eestimaa” (“The Uniting Country is Estonia”).
A total of 340 dancers from 25 folk dance troupes from 14 countries performed in Tal-linn’s public square, including from Finland, Sweden, Nor-way, Belgium, the Nether-lands, the United States, Ca-nada, Australia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland. The diaspora Estonians were joined by local ensembles Leigarid and Koidupuna.
It was a team at the Dance Festival Museum Foundation headed by Angela Arraste and Ülo Luht who first came up with the idea for a separate, dedicated folk dance performance during a diaspora Estonian dance teachers’ training camp in Estonia last August.
A record number of diaspora Estonian folk dance troupes registered to dance at the XX Dance Festival this year — not all of whom made the final cut — and so it was decided to make it happen.
“The Uniting Country is Estonia” brought diaspora dance troupes from all over the world together for Sun-day’s joint performance. Each folk dance troupe has its own exciting story and traditions, which are passed on as Estonians living abroad get together in order to keep Estonian culture alive beyond the homeland.
In addition to their unique histories, each dance troupe has its own style as well, right down, occasionally, to how a specific dance is danced — just as is the case from village to village across Estonia itself.
At the conclusion of the performance, spectators were invited to join in for several dances as well.
“The Uniting Country is Estonia” was directed by Karmen Ong and Jaan Ulst.
Diaspora Estonian dancers make the news
The diaspora Estonians’ performance also made “Ak-tuaalne kaamera,” the Esto-nian-language evening news to air immediately following the conclusion of the second concert of the Song Festival on Sunday night.
“We understood that not everyone will be accepted to the Dance Festival anyway, but if they come here, if they can watch the final, dress rehearsal for the Dance Festival, if they can march in the Song and Dance Festival parade and can dance in their own performance here, then that’s something already; then it’s worth the rip,” Luht said.
“We love to folk dance,” Lili, a dancer from New York’s Saare Vikat said, code-switching fluently between Estonian and English. “Once a month we go to the New York Estonian House and practice, and every time we do, we have a party.
“We get together once a week,” Katrin, a dancer from an Irish-Estonian folk dance troupe, explained. “We travel pretty far, some even 90 kilometers, and we practice in Dublin. So that’s once a week. And sometimes dance instructors will come from Estonia, and then we’ll practice among ourselves; they teach us the dances, and then we dance them.”
Aili Vahtla / ERR