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The History Of Estonia Dance Culture



Dance Culture – The History of Estonia Dance Culture


Estonian dancing culture is famous for its ancient rites, roundelays, and extemporaneous dances. It was customary in the old days to accompany folk dances with singing and playing musical instruments (psaltery, bagpipes).


The first mentions of Estonian dances belong to the 13th century. Dancing in the Estonian villages had a ceremonial character and were often held on Midsummer night and at weddings. Estonian folk dances were often in some way connected with the sea. For example, one of the Estonian folk dance is called “Day at the Seaside” and symbolizes the life of Estonian fishermen.


In the XIX century, the traditions of other countries began to penetrate into the Estonian dancing culture. Russian culture had a significant influence on Estonian culture at these times. This was reflected in Estonian folk dancing, which has changed.


Such folk dances were popular at that time:

“Laba jala waltz” – a kind of folk dance with elements of waltz. You can see an example here.

“Jooksu polka” – a fun, easy and a quick folk dance with jumps, jogging and coups

“Jamaja labajalg” – slow and quiet dance, performed in pairs

“Ingliska” – mass dance similar to quadrille, in which there are movements of polka

“Pulga-tants” – men’s mass folk dance with sticks


Mainly Estonian folk dances are calm and dignified, like the Estonian people.


Every year the Estonian Folk Dances are held in different cities, where estonian show case their national clothing. One of the most ambitious is The Song and Dance Celebration, which is regularly held at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds and collects a large audience of guests. It was first held in 1962 in Tallinn. Every year the number of performers increases. In 2014 the festival allowed 30 000 singers to perform.



Dance Culture – The History of Estonia Dance Culture


There will be held The 12-th Estonian Youth song and dance Celebration this year from 30 June – 2 July. It is a great opportunity for young artists to demonstrate their skills. The Youth Song Celebration will be held at the Song Festival Grounds, which can accommodate 120 000 people. The artists will be singing on the stage under the arch that provides great sound. The topic of the celebration changes each year.


The Youth Dance Celebration will take place at the Kalev Stadium. This stadium can accommodate 10,000 visitors. There will be many folk dance groups in the Festival, which come from all over Estonia. The program is very diverse and includes people of different ages. Both contemporary and ethnic Estonian dances will be shown at this event.



Dance Culture – The History Of Estonia Dance Culture


In 2017, the Song festival will be held under the motto “I stay”. This motto signifies the unity of the Estonian people with their land, respect traditions and values of Estonian people and the state.


Estonian national costumes appeared in the 19th century. Women’s folk clothing includes a shirt like a tunic, striped skirt, belt and woven cloth top as a jacket or a vest. Married women wore an apron and headpiece. Men also wore a shirt like a tunic, long or knee-length pants, a jacket and a hat from felt. Linen clothes prevailed in the national costumes.



Dance Culture – The History Of Estonia Dance Culture


Almost none of the Estonian folk festivals takes place without the use of traditional Estonian clothes. One of the most famous folk costumes is the Setu costume. Setu are Finno-Ugric people living in the South-East of Estonia. embroidery red cotton thread and the pattern woven on the loom spread under the influence of Russian folk culture among the people of Setumaa.


Many of the dance styles that came from other countries and cultures are popular in modern Estonia. It is possible to learn almost any dance styles in dancing studios, from salsa to tango.


However, the Estonian folk dances are still popular. Children and adults from many dancing groups all over Estonia and other parts of the world dance folk dances. Such dance groups exist for many years both independently and at universities and schools. Some of them exist more than 3 decades!