Letter from Estonia

4. augustil 2011

Geoff Longhurst, an Australian living in Estonia, Viljandi, and married to Estonian girl Kati, is writing about his feelings and impressions of the 11th Youth Song and Dance Festival ’The Land and theWorld.’

We got back to Viljandi yesterday after spending a week in Tallinn. It was a big week of rehearsals and socialising, which ended with the Youth Song and Dance Celebration. Around 10 000 dancers and 27 000 choir members participated (NB the population of Estonia is about 1.3 million people). Probably 99 % of us who performed are amateurs. For example in our group there are a number of teachers, but also builders, social workers, mechanics and students. Saturday was our first wedding anniversary and it was pretty cool to enjoy the day with about 50 - 60,000 other people :)

We were there with our dance group from Viljandi and despite me being a youthful 35, (but the second oldest in our group), we weren't trying to stretch the definition of 'youth', but were participating as a teachers dance group. Kati was also there as the main organiser from our county.

The theme of the dance celebration was something along the lines of how although Estonia is a small place, it is connected to the wide world and that despite its small size, together, it can feel like a big nation. Tied in with this are themes of friendship, love, family, beauty and joy. Traditional or new folk dances are used to create large scale patterns and show off the colours, beauty and finery of the 100's of different sort of national dress which were commonly worn in the 18th and early 19th centuries (and are still worn every day in some parts of Estonia).

Both, the dance and song festivals, became deeply connected to a positive and hope filled nationalism during the Soviet era. These mass events were a chance for thousands of Estonians to come together, sing in their own language, dance their own songs and reaffirm their independent identity from the Russian Soviet system, which they were forced into after World War 2.

Letter from Estonia
Geoff & Kati