The season of food festivals, outdoor parties and dancing shows has already started here in Slovakia. It’s that time of year when we like to get together and spend weekends out in the open, have a mug of beer and a good chat with friends, or enjoy a family meal at a village fair. More often than not, these social gatherings will involve traditional folk dancing – and singing.
As much as it’s the case with food, each Slovak region has its own music, dance, and a distinctive costume embellished by old folk motifs and dazzling hand-sewn ornaments. The Podpoľanie region, where I was born and grew up in, is famous for a unique embroidery done by a krivá ihla (or a hook-shaped needle).
The same beautiful patterns grace traditional costumes of folk dancers from the Podpoľanec (pronounced as Podpolyanyetz) ensemble.
No matter how ‘outdated’ the music may sound to some ears, it continues to capture the minds and hearts of all generations.
You have to be really fit and train hard to be able to do all the jumps and spins, not to mention the intricate footwork this type of dancing entails.
Unlikely as it may seem, these young people are not professionals. They meet outside their working hours and train all through the year to bring exciting new choreographies out for each summer season. Clearly there must be something much stronger than money that unites this happy folk. Is it the massive applause they get from the audience, and the enthusiastic calls for repeats that keep them going on this hot afternoon?Breathless and sweating after the performance, the dancers are given instructions from their managers. Another show starts in an hour, so they have to change quickly and get on the bus taking them to a nearby town.
Do make sure you see one of the traditional summer festivals they take part in. The sheer joy, energy and passion these young people exude certainly won’t leave you cold.