FOLK FESTIVAL UNDER POLANA
Folk festival at Detva
has been experiencing about the same problems as Vychodna in the past
three years as I wrote above. Here the changes and everybody's happiness
are visible everywhere too. I had enjoyed my seventh year at Detva very
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The festival started
Friday night with a program called: WELCOME TO DETVA, introducing folk
dance, folk singing groups and musicians from villages under the mountain
Polana. The theme of this program was a child’s story: "Salt
above the gold," that is teaching us the fact that we can't live
without the salt. The salt of life of our fathers and mothers was every
day’s happiness, the ability of being happy in every circumstance. It is
sad for everyone, that humor-the salt of life is being lost from our
This was followed by: The Slovak Dances. Performances by the foreign participants of the festival.
What was interesting was the fact that the performing groups from USA,
France and Belgium, were of no Slovak heritage at all. They were the youth
of these countries that felled in love with the Slovak Heritage, Folk
songs, dances, and music and with the help of Matica Slovenska learned to
sing and dance Slovak. It was a memorable program, because I know how hard
it is. Somehow I felt close to the Belgians, their performance was the
best. But we mustn’t forget that it is much easier to teach the Slovak
dances in Europe than behind the Ocean. The choreographer from Slovakia
can go anywhere in Europe to teach every weekend without any problem. It
is little harder to go to USA just for the weekend to teach. So I would
like to congratulate the choreographers and the members of the two USA
groups participating in this program: Vonnie R. Brown, (also a member of
our society) leader and choreographer of the folk dance group Karpaty
Dancers of Louisiana and Elizabeth (Betz) Hanley, (also a member of our
society) leader and choreographer of the Pen State Internationalle Dancers
of Pen State University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for their great
Third USA group was Slavic Projections, this is a vocal group of three singers, musicians that
made this evening even more enjoyable, congratulations to them too.
Many performing groups
get to sleep in the make shift hotel at the elementary school and this is
the place for the best folk party ever. Last year I was there Saturday all
night until 5:30 in the morning, singing with my friends and the folk
choir from Helpa and their Gypsy musicians. This year my friend from
folk dance group Turiec Jozko Labuda and I went to the school Friday
night. It is very hard to describe the atmosphere that is there, you have
to feel it, smell it, live it. It was great to see young and aspiring
musicians playing all night, non-stop, and the youngsters singing and
dancing. It was unforgettable experience.
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Saturday afternoon, two
folk dance groups were celebrating their 60th anniversaries. Kycera from
Cierny Balog. The pearl of their program was as usual the
carnival dance (fašiangy) which brought them a standing ovation and of
course the Oci, oci by Bartos musicians.
The highlight of the folk
dance group Kokavan from Kokava nad Rimavicou was their dance: "Redikau
sa Janik," sorry but I can't translate it.
The first evening program
belonged to groups from Turiec and
Upper Nitra regions, called: Wedding in Turiec and Upper Nitra.
Fifteen years ago the
folklore in these two regions of Slovakia was almost non-existent. Through
the efforts of few enthusiasts, 10 years ago for the first time at the
Folk Festival in Detva these two regions introduced themselves to the
public. Through the years they continued their efforts of learning their
heritage and in turn teaching it to the younger generation that they felt
it was necessary to come to Detva again after 10 years of hard work to
show what they had learned and to prove to everyone that the folklore in
the Turiec and Horna Nitra regions is alive, well and beautiful.
This was a show of
wedding customs, traditions, songs and costumes of these two regions. What
was different from other programs that I have seen so far was the
decoration of the stage during the beginning of their program with ribbons
of fabric and flowers as at real wedding, which was very pleasing to see.
For me the most memorable was the display or the traditional wedding cakes
or Joyful Cakes, in Slovak called radostnik.
The second program of the
evening was: Rozkazovaci.
I don't believe there
is a proper translation of this word. It could be close to commanders, but
not in the army. These are traditional folk song solo expressions by male
individuals, competing against each other in the variety and endurance
together with the gypsy musicians. These performances include traditional
Detva's cifrovacky, solo dances. The women participate also as
soloists, very similar to men. Two of my favorite Detvans were performing:
Pavel Smilek from Detva, who used to dance in the folk dance group
Podpolanec and now only dances some time at the festivals. He is a
character dancer. You can see it when he dances, how he moves and jumps to
the music, the way he sings, the deep feelings and the appreciation for
folklore are visible. My friend Miro Kapasny, who is from Vazec, a
beautiful village close to Vychodna, pointed Pavel to me at Vychodna
in 1989. We have met in 1990 and became friends. Somehow I feel the Detva
festival wouldn’t be complete without him dancing and singing. I am
always happy to see him. The second is Vladimir Homola from Priechod who
has fantastic voice and is a great dancer too. Last two years he wasn’t
performing and many people missed him.
The third program of the
evening belonged again to the Turiec and Horná Nitra regions in the
program called: The produce of traditional folk culture of Turiec and
Upper Nitra Regions. This program introduced
the spectators to a year in the real traditions and many customs of these
two regions. It combined a new video, wide screen projection technology,
with live performance on the stage that was really split by the lighting
to numerous smaller stages for different performers and the groups. The
program was a success and after the end, the performers spontaneously
started to sing some well-known and most beautiful songs of these two
regions. The spectators joined in and the whole amphitheater was singing.
It was a beautiful sight. Again I knew many people that helped to put this
program together, so we opened the first bottle of champagne right in the
parking lot and took the rest to our room. After finishing the next three
bottles Jozko and me were kind of tired, but we still wanted to go to the
parties in the school and in the House of Culture. So we decided on a half
hour nap, left all the lights on and sure enough we waked up in the
morning missing all the fun. Well, there is always next year.
Sunday morning as it is a
tradition for many years, started with a program called: Sunday with our
This program is sponsored
by Matica Slovenska's Office for Slovaks living abroad. Groups from
Hungary, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Vojvodina and USA were performing.
It was Tatra Slovak Dancers of
Milwaukee, Wisconsin under the leadership of Mary Petersen that
got the greatest ovation during their performance. Congratulations Mary
and to all Tatra dancers, you were great.
First afternoon program
was: Children, how Kubko and Matko came to the festival. It was beautiful so see
the children from many regions of Slovakia performing together on
The final program was:
The producer was my long
time friend choreographer and manager of Eastern Slovakia group Zeleziar,
Ing. Vladimir Urban. His program was fantastic as usual with performances
of some of the best groups Slovakia has to offer.
And another year at Detva
came to an end and I will be back next year. I should add that the
government of Slovakia is not financing festivals any more at 100%. The
festival committees are getting sponsors from private sector and it is
starting to work. Beautiful addition at he festival grounds was the
expanded area for manufacturers of folk art, combined with the sales.
One of the folk artists
was Drahomir Dalos from Lehota in Nitra region. I stopped by his stand
and started to watch him making a Christmas ornaments from wheat straws.
It looked really hard until he shown me how it is done. Nothing to it and
I did learn it. I told him to wait a minute, went to my car, took some
pictures of our Christmas tree with straw decorations, and brought them to
him. Right away he new they were made by him, he was so happy, with tears
in his eyes to learn that ornaments made by him are decorating our
Christmas tree so far away, in British Columbia. He told me about his
beginnings in the folk culture and crafts, from friend of his grand mother
that used to play on the bagpipes under the sour cherry tree. Later on
when he would hear melodies played on fujara his whole body would shiver.
So he started to look for people that new how to do folk art objects and
could show him the way. When he was 20 years old he made his first fujara,
he makes bag pipes too. The straw ornaments he discovered as 8 years old
when he used to be a geese and ducks herds boy and one day he saw an old
aunt passing by with wreath made from wheat straws for the harvest
celebration. So she taught him the way and from then on he is making
different designs. I am sure I will see Drahos at next year festivals
making his straw ornaments.
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BACK TO FOLKLORE FESTIVALS
Published in the Slovak Heritage
Live Newsletter, Volume 1, No. 3, Fall 1993
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1993
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced,
republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without
the express written permission of Vladimir
Linder. All rights reserved.