Pillerkaar 5 dancers: l-r: Eve Tisler, Kadri Kallas-Zelek, Lauri Tankler, Age Landra-Robinson, Deborah Klepp
Eleven Pillerkaar Estonian Folk Dancers proudly represented Estonia at the 33rd annual Scandinavian Festival “ScanFest” on September 4, 2016 at Budd Lake, New Jersey.
As Hurricane Hermine pounded the New Jersey shore, beautiful blue skies and sun blessed the 3,000 plus ScanFest attendees. At the opening ceremony, featuring the six ScanFest countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Pillerkaar dancer Sirli Hill bore the Estonian flag and four other dancers sang the Estonian national anthem.
Directed by Jeff Zelek, Pillerkaar treated hundreds of spectators to a variety of traditional and modern Estonian folk dances at 11:45 and again at 3:00. The distinctive Kungla Polka was first, choreographed in 1968 by Toomas Metsala (director of Toronto’s Kungla folk dance group) and Lea Kiik, followed by two traditional waltzes: Külavalss (Village Waltz) and Meremeeste Valss (Sailors’ Waltz). The mood then shifted to wistfulness with Usalda, choreographed by Maie Orav for the 2009 Tantsupidu (Dance Festival), its complex moves complementing Arvo Pärt’s haunting Ukuaru Valss, the theme of a 1973 movie.
Two traditional polkas broke the reverie, with the crowd admiring the antics of Lauri Tankler during Jooksupolka as he tried to court one, then two, then four ladies, and Reilender, chosen as the background music for Scan-Fest’s official video (you can find it on YouTube).
Incredibly, Pillerkaar amped up the energy still further with the high-energy crowd favorite Kõrtsiruumis (In the Pub), to music by Kihnu Poisid. The dance, which portrays people meeting in a crowded barroom, was composed for the 2011 youth dance festival by Märt Agu, whom the Estonian Ministry of Culture brought to the United States in March to work with Pillerkaar.
In keeping with Estonian folk dance tradition, Pillerkaar concluded with the wedding dance Tuljak, choreographed nearly 100 years ago by the mother of Estonian folk dance, Anna Raudkats, and composed by the first Estonian professional female composer, Miina Härma. Pillerkaar then taught audience members two dances: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and Kaera-Jaan, exponentially expanding the number of Estonian folk dancers!
Deborah Klepp and
pictures by Anne Sarapik