Friday, December 22, 2017

Baltic Christmas Day 22 - Stay Tuned...

This time of year it is a shared love for tradition and food that brings us together, pīrāgi, kugelis and piparkook bringing our thoughts and hearts (and stomachs!) to the Baltics and our heritage. I would like to keep this flame burning after the holidays have come and gone, and so have invited the Toronto 2019 Latvian Song & Dance Festival organizing committee to join us today on Day 22 of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas with a post celebrating another common love - SONG!

Did you know, that Toronto, Canada will host the XV Latvian Song Festival from July 4 to 7, in 2019?

If you can’t make it to Latvia, then we’re bringing Latvia to you!

Latvian Song Festivals are held in different parts of the world each year. Latvia’s is considered to be one of the largest amateur choral events in the world, and an important event in Latvian culture and social life. Traditionally, every festival is about presenting theater, folk dancing, art exhibits, outdoor events, a marketplace and much, much more. What makes each festival special is the unique talent it features.

The two traditional main events, the Folk Dance Show and the Massed Choir Concert will be held in the historic Maple Leaf Gardens venue that has undergone a huge renovation since the last time these events were held there. We are happy to announce that Kristīna Kārklis-Kalniņš and her group Raxtu Raxti will be providing the live music accompaniment for both events!

Raxtu Raxti

But there is more.

Over the four festival days the folk dancing featured will vary from new choreographies to a showcase of old and new dances at the Folk Dance Show. Our festival is proud to announce that one of Latvia’s award-winning dance groups, “Līgo” is coming to Toronto! Not only will they be performing at the Folk Dance Show, but will also be showcasing their talents in a separate concert at Blume Appel Theatre.

To help understand Latvian folk dance, here are a few words from choreographer Zigis Miezitis:
Latvian folk dances go back to prehistory – they were performed in joy and sorrow. Dancing for joy – after a job well done, at harvest time, performing mummery, or for simple amusement during the long winter months. Dancing in sorrow – at funerals, to obliterate the foot prints of the departed and lessen the sorrow of the survivors.

What can we expect of the future? …. Essentially, the ethnic Latvian dances are simple and measured: that is their character. Slowly they are being replaced by faster, more elaborate choreographies. That is to be expected as life in our New Era has a faster pace, less restraint, faster interchange of information. There is a time deficit, inability to process, to evaluate, and separate the useful from the useless. Present day choreographers are professionals, highly educated, creating new dance forms in their occupation but that does not prevent amateurs from trying their hand at this too.

So our dance committee has chosen to highlight these aspects of the traditional festival that compliments Latvia’s initiatives when they present to the world their 2019 festival:
TDA “Līgo” is an award-winning Latvian dance troop under the tutelage of Janis Purviņš, one of Latvia’s most gifted choreographers. His innovative dance reflects the essence of Latvia’s soul, and also what Latvians take pride in… their heritage and their customs. Each new dance is unique, and shows a different dimension of who we are and where we’ve come from.

TDA Līgo

The new choreographies will showcase submissions from dance groups from Canada, the U.S.A., Latvia and various other countries from Europe. As our country evolves, so does our dance. Every tautas deja promises to exhibit each choreographer’s interpretation of the new genre of Latvian dance, while still keeping with tradition. In a break from tradition there will be no judges this time, but you will be able to weigh in… come see how.

Lastly, we have our Folk Dance Spectacle. It will showcase the many dance groups from all over the world coming together to show that tradition can be preserved and yet built upon to reflect the new. Its motto is: Latvia – Together We Stand – In our Love of Dance.

The main hotel will be the Toronto Hilton, located in the heart of downtown Toronto. During the day everyone gets to meet and mingle in all sorts of places in the hotel. During the festival the rooftop terrace will be open for live entertainment, and a piano at the bar available for everyone to join in on what Latvians like to do best – sing!

Toronto has a lot to offer… Why not come early and visit some of its beautiful sites? We’ll keep everyone informed of any important information, as time goes on, on our website:

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United in song, connected by dance. A celebration of Latvian culture!  

I couldn't resist adding these two photos from my very first Dziesmu svētki in Toronto in 1991! (from the Femme au Foyer archives...)

Thanks to the Toronto XV Latviešu Dziesmu Svētki Kanadā rīcības komiteja for the look at the 2019 Song & Dance Festival! The modern day festival is an integral part of Latvian culture, and remains an anchor of Latvian tradition outside of Latvia. I wish the organizers endurance and strength over the next year as they invest in putting on a Dziesmu svētki for the history books! Please join me in supporting them by signing up for updates on their Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram or for email updates, and stay tuned for more on the Toronto festival here on Femme au Foyer over the coming year…

Only two more days left in the series… Please join me tomorrow for an Estonian finale to 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas!

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