Section: Arts

Latvian folk dance invites strangers to dance hand in hand

Latvian folk dance invites strangers to dance hand in hand

Latvian folk dancing is focused on creating different formations to symbolize the dancer’s homeland and their past.

A Latvian folk dance workshop was held on Monday, Oct. 23 in Gund Commons. Last year, Professor of Dance Julie Brodie visited Latvia on a Fulbright Fellowship. Latvia is home to Diāna Garvare and Valda Vidzemniece, who taught Monday’s workshop. “We put in a proposal to present together about Latvian folk dance,” Brodie said. “That opened the door for us to get everybody together again and bring them here.”

Gavare and Vidzemniece visited to present at a dance convention in Columbus and taught multiple dance classes while at Kenyon for the week.

With a smile, Diāna Garvare explained to a variety of students and Gambier and Mount Vernon residents that there are forty different styles of polka. “Today we will be doing a light polka,” she said.

The class started with Es mācēju danci vest, which translates as “I dance to carry” in English. It was a simple warm-up exercise that involved dancing while holding hands, circling around the room and weaving through one another.

After this, participants learned a three-part Latvian folk dance. The first part, called Pankūkas, which had partners side by side, doing a series of heel flicks and turns in repeat. Next, the dancers participated in Cūkas Drikos, which involved getting in groups of four and doing jumps in unison, grasping one another’s arms.

The dance finished off with Skodrikos, which involved medium kicks, turns, switching sides and high kicks.

Combined, the workshop created a fast-paced, exciting dance that left participants with smiles on their faces and sweat dripping down their backs.

Each dancer disappears in Latvian folk dance to become part of a larger story, creating a sense of unity. It’s about building and retaining a cultural community, and about continuing a past tradition and bringing it to a new generation.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to experience the dance style of a different culture,” Meredith Sauer ‘21. “I like making connections between the folk dance and the other styles of dance I’ve been learning.”

Brodie hopes that by bringing these dancers and their stories to Kenyon, students will be encouraged  to learn more about that part of the world. “The Baltic states are quite interesting politically, artistically [and] culturally,” Brodie said. “To me, the folk dance brings joy and a sense of community and I wanted to share that with the students here.”

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