Estonian folk dance groups abroad have played a large role in introducing Estonian culture to the world. In 2014, 14 groups from various countries participated in the Estonian Dance Festival in Tallinn. There are 31 folk dance groups from 16 different countries applying to participate in the 2019 XX Estonian Dance Festival. In collaboration with compatriots living abroad, Estonian cultural festivals also take place outside of Estonia.
From August 15-19, the first summer course for Estonian folk dance teachers abroad organized by the Estonian Dance Festival Museum took place in Kihnu and Pärnu. The goals of the five-day course were to create a functional web of communication between the leaders of Estonian folk dance groups abroad, pass on skills for the heritage and author’s dances, as well as for organizing festivals, share experiences, and create a plan for collaboration. The summer school program included skill-building tips for the main patterns of movement in folk dancing, how to prepare a group, and local heritage was introduced. All the leaders of Estonian folk dancing groups abroad were invited to participate to make preparations for the jubilee party in 2019.
The summer course offered the Estonian Dance Festival organizers the opportunity to survey the needs and wishes of the Estonian folk dance groups abroad. Important information about the repertoire, workshops by Estonian dance mentors, and tips on how to acquire folk costumes was shared. A visit to the Kihnu Museum took place and a concert by the ensemble Kihnumua at the Mõnu farm was attended. In Pärnu, the summer course took place in the new auditorium at Paikuse Elementary School, where the group met the Anna Raudkats Dance Society and enjoyed their concert. In the evening, the open-air performance “Saja-aastane öö” (100-Year-Old Night) was enjoyed at Vallikääru in Pärnu.
The jubilee dance festival and pre-festival activities were introduced to the course participants by the Estonian Folk Dance and Folk Music Chairman Kalev Järvela, the Estonian Dance Festival Director Vaike Rajaste, and the leaders of different types of folk dance groups Erika Põlendik, Agne Kurrikoff-Herman, Karin Soosalu, and Rauno Zubko. Folklorist Ingrid Rüütel introduced her publications on Kihnu, Muhu, and Saaremaa cultural heritage. Anne- Ly Reimaa from the Estonian Ministry of Culture discussed the goals of the Compatriots Program and their methods of support for Estonian cultural collectives abroad. Erika Põlendik held a master class for the participants on the main dance steps of Estonian folk dancing and tips on how to teach them. The Estonian Folk Dance and Folk Music dance mentor Tiiu Pärnits introduced Pärnu county’s heritage dances and folk costumes. Additionally, a handicraft morning took place where jewelry artists Kairi Himma and Jüri Urb taught participants how to make strings of beads and necklaces to go with folk costumes and how to consider special regional features when making jewelry.
Estonian folk dance groups abroad have played a large role in introducing Estonian culture to the world. In 2014, 14 groups from various countries participated in the Estonian Dance Festival in Tallinn. There are 31 folk dance groups from 16 different countries applying to participate in the upcoming Estonian Dance Festival. Therefore, an important point of discussion at the summer course was creating connections between Estonian folk dance leaders abroad.
The goal of the Estonian Dance Festival Museum is to bring the leaders of Estonian Dance groups abroad together and offer them additional training every 2-3 years. A total of 43 dance teachers and group representatives participated in the summer course from ten different countries: Finland, Sweden, USA (Portland), Canada, Holland, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic.