The buzz has probably died down now seeming it did happen over 2 weeks ago but I never got the opportunity to write about Dziesma Svetki, well I probably did have the opportunity but I was too hungover. So now I write, plus I am on a bus and have a lot of hours to kill.
My experience of Dziesma svetki was amazing. Having been a spectator in 2008, it was really interesting participating in the dancing. The dancing which has over 15000 participants also has rankings from group A to E. we were group D- dancing with the more middle aged people. Our rehearsals were crazy, we would rehearse from 8-11pm but we would spend a lot of that time either waiting to find out where to go or just waiting and resting till our next dance. It was a bit of shame but when we arrived we found out that for our2 favourite dances Kumas and Lepna Lepna we wouldn’t actually be dancing it but forming a moving shape. But what can you do, it was a no our just dancing. I was also surprised during the rehearsals we were allocated water for the day, heaps of the young Latvians would just use the drinking water to cool down and not drink it. On the plus side to it being hot, there were a lot of boys taking off their shirts and man did they look nice, letting us have a cheeky perve. With that being said we all here to dance our Latvian folk dances and it was soon time for our general rehearsal with a public audience. Our dance group was big enough that out of the five performances we had we were all entitled one concert off, we even lent some boys and a girl to the Kent dance group from England as they had people who didn’t turn up. Why they wouldn’t turn up, I wouldn’t know because to me you wouldn’t want to miss out on this experience. But back to the general rehearsal performance, this time we were all in our folk costumes which are not the same, so trying to find the purple t shirt dance group you were dancing with earlier in the day became harder especially when the ladies are wearing white head scarves which about 75% of people were doing. But it turned out alright we all found our partners for al the concerts. Especially the one that was televised so we looked super awesome not that you could see us, seeming we were up in the back corner for most of it, though the boys we’re upfront for the boys dance which was exciting because they loved that dance and they looked do good doing it.
So my experiences: the first dance Iebrauca Saulite- a pretty dance, one of my favorites because it’s pretty, it’s also the dance where I screwed up my ankle earlier in the year at the Melbourne rehearsal, I also liked it because I danced this with different boys. Coming onto the stadium we were all in straight lines, and then we would start our dance, if you were watching it from the tv screen in a bit we would be in a darzins( a circle) and then do a bit of a in and out (or as us Australian Latvians call it haree Krishna), it literally looked like a flower blooming, then we would continue our dance and for the last part we would gracefully sprint off stage and quickly because you would get run down by hundreds of other people. You would think it would be a mess but on tv ir watching as a spectator you couldn’t fault it.
Next dance was Lepna Lepna. One of our favorites that we unfortunately weren’t going to even dance as we were the shape makers. At rehearsals it was quite stressful as no one not just our Australian group but other Latvian or foreign groups knew where to go or what to do, as the boss lady was a bit unorganized, luckily we were up the back but you know what on all performances the dance worked out, the shapes looked good. Though the end of the song, there was a mad sprint to get off stage and people would be telling you to run faster so all you could do was hitch your skirt and sprint.
Kumas: another of my favourite dances that we unfortunately were just shapes for. We hardly even ,made it on to the stadium for this one as there was nearly over 2000 people dancing on it, but when we did we had to sprint off In nice lines. I actually felt my ankle roll in it on the last time that I had to let go of my partners hands or I would either face plant or fall and get trampled on.
Kreicburgas Polka: I hated rehearsing for this dance, it was a girls dance and it made me feel like a frumpy old lady. Luckily when we performed this in Melbourne I was able to sit out due to my ankle and one of the boys danced it in my place. But in latvija this dance grew on me. They made it seem easier and we walked on with different female collectives and our group Estonian Latvians were quite friendly. The exit of this was another mad sprint as the boys came on for the boys dance,
The finale we were all given mirrors and all the dancers so over 15000 people were on stage at the same time, sparkling their mirrors doing a Mexican wave.
Out of the 5 concerts the last one was televised, even had my mum and sister had home in Australia watched it, having purchased some hdmi cord that would plug the laptop into the tv so they could watch it on big screen.
Words can’t describe the feeling that I felt when I danced with all those people. The experience of seeing so many dances dance the same dance at the same time in perfect sync. The experience of running home in the rain in my folk costume. The after party, dancing on the stadium till early dawn, hooking up with a Canadian friend that I hadn’t seen in ages but then decided to bail on him because he was just too clingy (I’m mean sometimes, but when I want to dance let me dance god dammit) but then I also had a fight with my best friend and travel buddy. I guess that’s what you get for three weeks of traveling together and only having about 48 hours apart from each other, but yes my best friend and I had a drunk fight and I slapped her which is a shock because I never slap people and I think we were arguing over stupid things like cigarettes, that she had my cardigan and neither of us were letting each other finish talking. But we did wake up the next day wondering what we were fighting about it, it was after the boys told us and then pulled us apart from each other. But we are friends again and have built a bridge and gotten over it, and I’ll always be there for her etc etc.
The next day after the final dance concert and party we had the Gajiens- the parade, where all the participants of the song and dance festival walked down the street, past the freedom monument. It’s a long parade. Last time in 2008, we just thought it would go for an hour, we would see the Australian group and go home, 3 hours later no Australian group had turned up and people were still walking. I ended up going home for a nap because I had had back surgery a few months prior so I missed out on seeing Australia. This time round it was much of the same thing but we were standing around waiting t o walk. This was another experience I will never forget, firstly it was the first time where I saw how happy my cousin actually was and how he was loving this experience, the second being that everyone was calling out for Australia, left right and centre. I true.y felt like a celebrity or that we were suoer stars, you’d walk a few steps and someone would shout out Australia, so you would wave, it was also nice seeing familiar faces in the crowd like my grand,a and aunty.
Having finished the walk, we were super hungry so we stopped off for a kebab at a shop on our way home that we call the drunk food,shop as it sells greasy non Latvian foods and a quick nap before the closing ceremony concert.
The closing ceremony concert had over 18000 singers, it was a spectacular concert hearing the anthem of Diev Sveti Latvija sung by everyone and the audience standing up too made me year up just a little bit. The songs were amazing but it was just a ridiculously long concert. It went for 6 hours and it wasn’t 6 hours of singing. Perhaps 3 hours of singing, 2 hours of brass orchestra which was boring and an hour of people getting off and on stage. Plus the seats aren’t comfortable they are just park benches so my butt was getting numb. I just couldn’t wait for the last 3 songs, Saule Perkons Daugava, gaismas pils and a relatively new song called Dveseles Dziesma. These songs made me tear up too and it was amazing seeing everyone stand up for Saule Perkins Daugava it’s like a new Latvian national anthem. What got the tears rolling though at the end was when everyone was singing Put Vejin, that song gets me at the best of times but hearing it with thousands of voices the tears poured.
After the concert it was another afterparty where we literally sang until the sun rose and we got kicked out of the facility. This is where another memory was made. We stumbled upon a group of people who were singing still so we joined them and sung with them, there some familiar faces but other people that I had no idea who we were but we all seemed to be joined in this unity of knowing the same songs. We sung for a few more hours literally just on a park bench, 2 boys actually crept back into the park and stole 2 slabs of cider, so we had alcohol. Sneaky but memorable, it was even funny when the police drove by and saw us with alcohol all they asked was that it was in plastic cups next time they came home. Then someone came up with the idea of going to the river to sing and party some more but I was crashing so me and one of my other friends went home at 9am. So you know when you had a big night when the tram is already running on normal schedule and the bakery is open. Crashing at home, my travel buddy only arrived home at 2:30pm in the afternoon. But she said the experience was a crazy experience and a memory for her too just drinking by a river.
The evening was spent with a quite night at Lido with our group, a buffet style restaurant where you choose what,you want to eat and how much and they weigh it for you and you pay. The only thing is that the portions are huge. It was nice and chill, we ended up at egle the local place where we drink a d ended up home at 6am. Why in latvija do quiet nights always turn into big nights?
But these memories are what I will hold onto till I die, a once in every 5 year experience.