During 2018 RYEurope asked the participants in our various events to prepare a text or a video on youth participation in their home countries. The idea with this was for the participants and consequently also other young people, to realise the different ways they can actively contribute to the society and to help shape it.
The Rally team from the Latvian Young Farmer’s Club shared their participation story which makes it hard to stand still. All four participants of the team are involved in folk dance and music. There are also a few clips of the music and the traditional dance events at the end of the article.
YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN RURAL AREA – AMATEUR ACTION
BY LATVIAN YOUNG FARMERS’ CLUB
Nowadays there is discussion about passive rural youth and usually this is very controversial. We are searching for solutions how to keep young people in rural area, how to make youngsters believe that living in countryside also can be fun and active. Although we are talking around this topic all the time, we haven’t found many solutions what to do with this situation when young people from countryside are going to spend their life in the city. Probably that’s because we are thinking too big and high when we are talking about involving them in society. We usually speak about NGOs, political parties, helping other people. It can’t be denied, it is good, but sometimes we forget ourselves. I mean that person who is living here and what brings happiness and joy to her, him or myself.
This is very long introduction, but in our opinion it is needed because we Latvian Young farmers are going to introduce you with ourselves. I Know you will ask, „How is it related to participation in society?” Here is answer: amateur action. Okay, no big deal, but you know in Latvia it is a very big deal. It is something what we do since childhood till old days. Mostly everyone has been involved in choir, folk dance group or amateur theater or in all of them.
We Latvians have a saying, that we are a nation of singers, but it is not only about singing. Before we are introducing ourselves and our individual story about this, we are going to explain why this is very good participation in society and why this is very important in our country. How it was said before, that in every village and city there are several dance clubs, choirs and other amateur groups. Usually these groups are hosted at a House of culture, where they have trainings, concerts etc. Amateurs also perform in other places and go to other countries to different festivals. Also, almost in every school we have choirs and folk dance groups. People do this without any money and salary, they do this because it is deep tradition and a way to escape from routine and daily problems. This is a place where people are bound together by song, dance and also life, because people there usually are our friends and sometimes our relatives.
However, it takes much time and willpower because there are trainings and hard work. Why’s that? Thats’ s because we don’t perform or participate only for ourselves, we are doing it for other people and we can’t do this bad. For some amateurs all their lives are scheduled for singing or dancing. For instance, when you dance in A level folk dance group, you have 2 trainings per week, what usually take 3 hours each. Then there is time when every week you have concert or festival. It is not easy and these people have their work or school, they have their families, but they can manage it all. People what are involved in this are very different, they do different jobs. For example, in dance group where Daiga, Elīza and Ernests are dancing there are participants who are students, economists, engineers, teachers, dentists and so on. What is more, this amateur thing in Latvia is that strong because it is on national level. Every year there are national level competitions or examinations. You are not a good group if you can’t pass this and it is better if your group will get higher results. There are many cultural workers like choreographers, composers and others who are responsible for this. They make our dance and song repertoire, they create new dances, songs and compositions. The most admirable thing is that this basic repertoire is one for whole country.
I have strong feeling that here you will ask again: „Why? Are you crazy or what?” We are positively crazy. That is because we have one unique tradition – in every five years a big event is happening. It is called The Song and Dance Celebration. This celebration have been since 1873. And 2018 is the Year of this Celebration, also it is year when our country is celebrating their 100th anniversary. Celebration happened from June 6 till July 8. It brought together 43 219 participants from 3421 amateur ensembles. Around 510 000 celebration-goers (roughly ¼ of the Latvian population—1,96 million) attended (ticketed and free) events. Every five years, all of these artists and musicians from Latvia’s towns and rural territories flow into Riga, creating a powerful grassroots movement. The Song and Dance Celebration is the greatest cultural masterpiece of the Latvian people, and has withstood the test of time. The Celebration has become an event of national and international importance, bringing together people of different generations and nationalities, and uniting Latvians throughout the world. Also, every five years we haves special Song and Dance Festival only for students, next are going to be in 2020. Furthermore, effort is systematically invested on a daily basis for five years — rehearsals, continuous revisions to the repertoire, recitals, contests, exhibitions, seminars, and concerts. And all of our team members were participants of this Celebration. We are still impressed and thrilled by this event. In Latvia this is very good way to get involved in society and these amateurs are the most active part of society. They do things, they are also active in politics, culture. They are interested what is going on. They often introduce others to their passion, bring new people to clubs. What is interesting, that many clubs are paid by the government and membership fees aren’t very high.
In conclusion, here are our own stories about our amateur action and this Celebration. We hope that this will encourage you to take part in amateur action or will be impulse to set up dance group or amateur theater in your rural area.
STRENGTH AND NATURE OF OUR PEOPLE
BY DAIGA DAMBE-KĻAVIŅA
I live in the province of Latvia, in rural area. For all my conscientious life, I’ve always had two life passions that have taken me to the depths of my heart, one of which is agriculture and the other Latvian folk dances! Many people, I mean people from rural area and from cities, are united by dance. It unites people and with the power of dance we are aware of the strength and nature of our people!
DANCING IS HAPPINESS
BY ERNESTS RUDZĪTIS
What is folk dance for me? I often say that “dancing is happiness” with a great deal of sarcasm, but when I take time and look everything from the edge, I understand, it really is happiness! And how it can’t be, if it takes most of my life during the season! I’ve been dancing for more than 10 years and have danced in three dance groups. I have always been expected and understood there by other participants. The dancers are an amazingly sturdy and special part of Latvia!
SOMETHING WORTH DANCING AND LIVING FOR
BY ELĪZA ILZE MALCENIECE
I have been dancing folk dances since age 4. At first at kindergarten, then in school, then in the local dance club „Ķimenīte” (it means caraway in Latvian) and now I’m dancing in Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies folk dance group „Kalve”. It is tradition in our family because my father and brother are dancing, too. Not always it has been easy, especially when something is not going that well how you wanted to or you are very shy like I am, but benefits from dancing are more than disadvantages. Firstly, it is healthy, it improves posture, feeling of rhythm. Secondly, it bounds people together in one dance in one step. That feeling when you dance with 18 500 dancers in the Daugava Stadium is amazing or when celebration week culminates in the closing concert „Following the Starry Path”, in which the voices of 12 000 singers sang beautiful songs and dance groups danced with them on the Mežaparks Open-air Stage. That feeling and tears in eyes are priceless, it is something worth dancing and living for! Also, folk dance is something what tells history. Through all these years I have learned how to honour and properly wear folk costumes. It is not that easy how it looks like. It is pride and responsibility. Thirdly, it gives new connections, new friends, wonderful memories and fun stuff. Talking about rural area, I have noticed that dance club, ensemble and theatre keep people in our small village – Allazi. Many young people drive from their schools or works from the city to trainings to their native village. Also, these people are the most active part in village social life. To sum up, It’s hard to say how beautiful and sometimes difficult it is, so I add links where you can find moments from these wonderful Celebration when song and dance celebrated their big day!
Latvian Song and Dance Celebration 2018, 67 000 people in one Picture: https://roundme.com/tour/288683/view/908328/
Song and Dance Celebration Week overview:
Great dance performance Māra’s Country in 45 seconds:
MUSIC IS PART OF ME
BY SANDRA EIMANE
I don’t know how I could live without kokle, Latvian songs, dance and cultural life. Music is part of me. Kokle is Latvian tradional music instrument. I play kokle for 12 years as a solist and with ensemble. Also I was dancing at high school and singing in the choir. My village is really small, but there are people, who dance, sing and are organizing events, when everyone can forget their housework, fields and animals for moment and relax, it’s good way to get new energy for work. When I meet people who dance, sing or do anything else from small towns or countryside, we talk about work, culture, actual themes in many different ways. They can inspire me to do more and I want to inspire everyone else to be active and interested not only to daily work, but find where meet people and be happy and not worried about work, school, politics, economics or lack of time. If I want to do something, I will find time. I don’t want to waste it. I’m proud to be a part of Latvian traditional culture. We have valuable and unique traditions. I know that people have responsibility for our folk heritage.
In links below you can see and listen two compositions played by kokle: