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DETVA 1993

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 much.

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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 present.

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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 performance.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunday morning as it is a tradition for many years, started with a program called: Sunday with our fellow countrymen.

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 Detva's stage.

The final program was: GALA PROGRAM

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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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.