Life Story

Latvian Traditional Dances

Latvia is a small but wild country. When I lived there I was taught how to dance their traditional dances. And now, I think that dancing is the best form of exercise – it’s fun, very active and creates a wonderful feeling of closeness with other people.

When I started secondary school, my maths teacher in Latvian school was a traditional dances choreographer. Honestly, I started going to her dancing classes to improve my grades. Two of my classmates also went with me, but for them it was too much. I, on the other hand, got really hooked.

So what is Latvian traditional dancing anyway? Firstly, it is European type of dance, which has some similarities with German and Russian traditional dancing [to be honest I’m not entirely sure what kind of mix it is, but these are the most influential countries to Latvia and its culture been hugely impacted by those two].

It originated in the days of different rituals like non-religious weddings, solstice celebrations and birthdays. The traditional costumes usually involve a lot of white linen shirts and woollen long skirts [LOVE wearing those], as well as the very Lativian leather shoes they call ‘pastals’ (and sometimes black dancing shoes). And no costume ever goes without a special brooch called ‘sakta’ that goes on the top button of the shirt.

The dancing routines are meant to represent an ordinary life in its simplicity and irony. For example, there are many dancing routines that are themed with romance and in which you’ll distinctly see a couple of solo dancers in the crowd to represent a wife and a husband. There are also some main themes like war, future telling and farming. A lot of the most ancient traditional songs feature basic elements of Latvian mythology like Lady Luck (Laime), Wind, Sun and Earth. But, in other countries, these are very outdated, so traditional dancing is barely surviving.

However, in Latvia, traditional dancing is such a big part of its culture that every three to five years the government makes a grand Song and Dance festival. Over 1,000 dancing collectives and over 20 thousand singers from all over that small country and the neighbouring countries come together to celebrate the rich culture that its ancestors left for them.

And if you think that only young people engage in this kind of activity, I will tell you – you’re wrong! In Latvia, young and old love to sing and dance. It is absolutely magnificent whether you’re just seeing it or doing it.

Me 8 years ago…

By Jevgenija Zukova

I'm a second year university student doing Accounting and Finance course. I stand together with other female entrepreneurs to bring sensitivity into the business world, fun of art and creativity into local communities, and awareness of highly sensitive people.

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