As reported earlier 16 folkdancers came from Estonia to Portland to add their strength to the West Coast Estonian Days. The dancers were from the “Kajaka” folkdance collective of Pärnu. “Kajakas” translates as “seagull,” alluding to the proximity of Pärnu to the Baltic sea.
Together with dancers from Vancouver and Toronto, Kajakas performed on August 5 a concert dedicated to just Estonian folk dancing. The young dancers from Estonia brought extraordinary energy to the Days with their varied dances which they executed with humor and precision.
The desire by the Kajakad to come to Portland is shown by the fact that they came here on their own expense to participate. One young man came and danced despite that he broke his leg just four months prior to coming. What dedication!
After the conclusion of the Days came an opportunity to reminisce and to ask if the trip met their expectations. It seemed to be an unfair question since at the time of discussion they had been here less than a week.
They looked at the days from different perspectives. Much what they knew of America was from movies, it was mused. It was known that everything is bigger in the US than in Estonia, but that Portland, had such an Estonian community was a surprise. “If you walk on the street in Pärnu, you don’t say to yourself that I am an Estonian. But after the performance when people came to thank us that we came here to preserve our culture, then I really felt that I am an Estonian,” said one young dancer, Ulla. Another thought that such cohesion as she saw here, is missing in Estonia.
In general the dancers were satisfied. One Kajakas was apprehensive that she might become homesick once here, but this fear was quickly dispelled once she was met by her host family. One young man, Madis, commented that he had met some interesting people. (Was that not the reason why Portland requested just young people to come and befriend the locals?)
The preparations for the performances here started one and a half years ago, as soon as the invitation had been received. Their teacher was Rita Mändla and her work bore fruit. We discussed the ways instructing dance is conducted. It seemed that in America dance instruction is a hobby, while in Estonia it is taken very seriously. In the conversation it was noted that in Estonian the trainers use methods, which for us in America, especially for the older dancers would not be acceptable. Have we become too thin-skinned?
West Coast Days Estonian Days – a success (1)