Wednesday, July 11, 2018

XXVI Latvian Song and XVI Dance Celebration 2018

As the XXVI Latvian Song and XVI Dance Celebration 2018 wraps up in Rīga, we are welcoming back to the US all those who flew to northern Europe to sing, dance and enjoy the festival atmosphere. This year was an especially important milestone, as Latvia is celebrating its centennial: 100 years since independence in 1918. 40,000 participants took the stage to celebrate Latvian culture in what is a century-and-a-half-old tradition, and although I didn’t make the trip to Rīga this summer, we have been living and breathing Dziesmu svētki through photographs, videos and broadcasts for the past week.

Photo: Ilmārs Znotinš (copyright Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive)

The official Dziesmu Svētki website is where you’ll find information on the history of the song and dance festival, as well other information and links such as the official numbers of the 2018 festival. According to, there were 43,000 participants this year: 18,000 dancers, 16,500 singers, 8,500 brass players, kokle players, craftsmen, folk musicians and members of amateur theatre groups. They came from 21 countries worldwide, the youngest participant only 3 years old and the oldest 91! Sunday’s closing concert “Following the Starry Path” (Zvaigžņu ceļā) featured 20,073 participants, while the dance spectacular “Mara’s Land” (Māras zeme) had 18,174.

Photo credit: Agris Tabaks (copyright Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive)
Official photographs can be found on the Dziesmu un deju svētki Flickr feed, among them also albums of photos taken from drone. The Flickr album view shows the sheer number of events that took place over the week, from the svētku gājiens through the streets of Rīga to the dozens of concerts and performances in Vērmanes park and other public spaces. You can also view photographs from previous years.

Photo credit: Ilmārs Znotiņš (copyright Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive)

On the same site where the live broadcasts were shown to viewers across the world you will find concerts, dance performances, and other significant events from the festival. Listen to Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis address Latvians worldwide, or try to spot familiar faces among the singers and audience at the final concert Zvaigžņu ceļā

Photo credit: Aivars Liepiņš (copyright Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive)

The LTV YouTube channel has a ton of videos, everything from interviews with the conductors and choreographers to clips from various concerts and shows. Adding a bit of color are interspersed news reports such as “Drought has damaged the crops, but rapeseed is blooming.”

For aerial photos of the Dziesmusvētku koncerta ģenerālmēģinājums (final rehearsal for the closing concert) and dress rehearsal of Māras zeme, check out Ocean Multimedia’s facebook page. And drone video footage can be found here (one of my favorites is this one).

Photo: Ocean Multimedia

Immerse yourself in the final concert by getting this 360 degree view from center stage... And one of the coolest videos I've seen from the festival is this 45-second take on the final dance performance by Haris Katlaps.

Looking for a primer on Dziesmu svētki to help explain to friends and coworkers where you’ve been the last few weeks? The page has a great brochure in English that might help: The Latvian Song and Dance Celebration.

Photo credit: Vil Muhametshin (Copyright Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive)

And finally, while the XXVI Latvian Song and XVI Dance Festival may have come to an end, the celebration is continuing through the end of the year in honor of Latvia’s 100th birthday. Events across the world can be found on the Latvija 100 website, along with hundreds of projects that have been completed in honor of the centennial.

Photo credit: Evija Trifanova (Copyright Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive)

Previous Femme au Foyer posts on the song and dance festival include:
The Celebration Procession (the opening parade) 
Rīga also hosts the youth song and dance festival on certain years
The last song & dance festival to take place in the US was in Baltimore… (Part 1 & Part 2)
… and the next North American festival will take place in Toronto

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