Kultuuripäevad, which offered a weekend of Estonian cultural activities in NYC, culminated this year with the Pööriöö Ball on April 15th.
It was an unforgettable night spent celebrating Estonian culture, community, and tradition. The Bohemian National Hall, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was transformed into a beautifully festive atmosphere where almost 300 guests enjoyed a spacious dance floor surrounded by tables that faced the stage where famous Estonian musicians Stefan (picture below), Öed, and Kalevipogues (from Toronto) performed throughout the night.
When I entered the Hall, I was greeted by a beautiful photo-op featuring a large Pööriöö Ball backdrop with a scenic view of Tallinn. Baskets of delicious homemade pirukad were offered to my friends and me upon arrival. Moving further into the space, I saw the bars serving up a variety of refreshing gin cocktails, along with the usual beer and wine for everyone to enjoy. The food and drinks of the evening were nothing short of delicious.
After the opening speeches, my favorite part of the night began – the dance competitions. Inspired by the dance competitions that were held at past Spordiballs, couples competed for awards in the Waltz, Tuljak, and Rock & Roll categories. I had a wonderful time dancing alongside people of all ages and skill levels on the packed dance floor. At the end of each dance, awards were given out, and the lucky winners received medals and mini bottles of Champagne for their performance.
The musical entertainment of the night was highly anticipated by all. The Toronto band Kalevipogues played the accompaniment for the dance competitions and performed covers of popular songs to a packed dance floor after the competitions ended. Next up was Stefan, a competitor at Eurovision 2022 and voted Estonia’s Pop Artist of 2023, who performed several of his own songs. As the night winded down, the final performers of the night sprung onto the stage, and Pop girl band Öed ended the ball with a bang.
The ball ended at midnight, but of course, the party didn’t stop there. My friends – including some of the performers – hopped into Ubers and sped to the Eesti Maja where we continued mingling and dancing the night away. The singers from the band Öed had so much enthusiasm and energy, even after performing such a rigorous set earlier that night on stage! It was surreal to get to know such talented performers. The Eesti Maja afterparty was the perfect way to end the evening.
For many of my age group, this was only our second black-tie Estonian event. We were just old enough to attend the EV100 Gala five years ago. However, for our younger friends from suvelaagrid where we were their juhid or kasvatajad, this was their first. I’m so glad that their first formal Estonian event was as memorable as this one.
It was so heartwarming to catch up with old friends and meet new Estonians from all over at such a beautiful event. I’ve grown up on stories from my parents and grandparents about the Meeskoori Ball and Spordiball, and have looked forward to dressing up and having the same fun with my friends – especially those who I don’t get to see all the time. I am now at the age where my parents and their friends were attending Spordiball, and my friends and I are so happy that these traditions are picking up. I’m looking forward to future events that will continue to strengthen and celebrate our Estonian heritage!