Originally posted in July 2014. (Note: This website no longer exists, thus links to it no longer function.)
It’s the moment every Namejs fan has been waiting for… our official report from Dziesmu Svetki! This year we traveled to Hamilton, Canada, to join forces with dancers from the USA, Canada, Latvia, Ireland, and Germany. If you’re curious about the overall festival, check out these shameless plugs- er, check out these LatviansOnline articles, which coincidentally happened to be written by NamejsAdmin and feature quotes from a couple Namejs dancers:
Latvian Song and Dance Festival Draws Enthusiastic Crowds to Hamilton
North American Song and Dance Festival Feels Influence of Troupes from Latvia
In addition to getting those articles finished up, we have spent the past week and a half meticulously searching the world wide web for photos and videos of Namejs at Dziesmu Svetki. They can, not surprisingly, be found here in our photo and video sections. If you have a lead on any more photos or videos and are happy to share, please do not hesitate to get in touch!
But enough of all that. Time for the Wrap-Up! For eight of our dancers, the work started bright and early Friday morning with Jaundejas Meginajums(New Choreography Contest Rehearsal). We lucked out with our rehearsal time slot, which directly followed the combined curtain call rehearsal. Having our two mini-rehearsals back to back meant that we were in and out for our official rehearsal time in less than half an hour. This gave us plenty of time to find a quiet corner for more last-second run throughs, to get back to the hotel for meals, digestion, showers, naps, costuming, etc before having to be back at the theatre for showtime. We also had enough time to sit up in the balcony for the first third or so of the show, since we weren’t on until roughly halfway through. Here we are anxiously waiting for the show to start:
If we remember correctly, then we were the only submission that contained no overlap in terms of choreographer or troupe (meaning our troupe only had one entry by one choreographer and that choreographer had no other entries). Being only a little piece in a big puzzle may have been a little daunting, but it means our dancers were super focused on making sure we got our piece just right. We think we nailed it! Unfortunately, our submission, Nakts un Diena, choreographed by Namejs dancer Elga Ozols and featuring amazing original music by Rich Skulte and Lars Alversons, failed to place in any categories. Regardless, we are proud of our little dance, and the dancers did a FANTASTIC job pulling it off. Here’s a collage of awesome photos!
Preparations for the main event began at 7am the next morning, when all of Namejs, along with roughly five hundred of our closest friends, gathered in the underbelly of FirstOntario Center (formerly Copps Colliseum) to begin rehearsing for the Folk Dance Spectacular! We were easily identifiably by our awesome T-shirts, seen here being modeled by the ladies and the gentlemen of Namejs, respectively:
This year rehearsal spanned two days (both with early morning start times). Saturday was only for dancers, and involved running through the basics of the show (mostly) in order to make sure everyone knew where they had to be on the floor and how to get there. One the second day we brought in the children’s groups, along with the live music. Live music?! Yes! This year’s show featured the musical talent of recognizable Latvian group Folkvakars, which of course sounds familiar to you because they did the music for Tuoli Dzievoj, Namejs’ 2012 submission in the Milwaukee new choreography contest. In addition to the live instruments, there was full chorus of singers on hand, lending their incredible talents, and rounding out the shows spectacularly.
We’re not sure whether it is due to overall organization, or to Namejs being super well-prepared, or to us just being used to Dziesmu Svetki after all of these years, but the rehearsal process seemed to go much smoother than in the past, with relatively little stress or worry. Things were just quiet. Maybe a little too quiet? Here we are in rehearsals, looking noticably chill (despite the fact that Namejs admin had too much fun with photoshop and made the world around us black and white):
We had enough time at the end of Sunday’s rehearsal to do an entire start-to-finish run-through, and were all so awesome that we even got out of there an hour early! This gave Namejs members roughly two hours to get back to the hotel, relax, costume up, braid hair, and return to the arena for headcount and official group photos. Unfortunately, we had a couple little issues with our group photo shoot. In the first attempt, a poorly-placed hand made it look like there was an antler growing out of one dancer’s head. In the next attempt the passerby who took the photo for us never actually pressed the shutter button on the camera. On the third attempt one dancer had wandered off to the bathroom (resulting in our official troupe photo being one dancer short), and by the time that person returned another three had also disappeared to the bathroom, and then it was showtime! We wound up doing impromptu unofficial group photos after both the rehearsal and the main show, but since people had already left, we were still three dancers short, and the group photo from the entire festival featuring every single dancer is the one where were are in sweaty T-shirts and holding Mikus upside down in the air. Oh well. Here’s a collection of our attempts:
Enough about our modeling careers! We are, after all, a Latvian folk dance troupe, so let’s talk about Latvian folk dancing! The show went great! Namejs performed in 8 separate dances: Mārtiņdancis, Pērkoņdancis, Piebildzēni, and Sasala Jūriņa in the first half, and Ar Meitšmi Dancot Gāju, Sasukoju Bāru Zyrgu, Toronaks, and Uz Dalderi Dancot Griezu in the 2nd half. In addition, we loaned three dancers to our friends in Seattle Trejdeksnītis for Mārtiņdancis, Abaviņa, Sudmali’mas, and Saulespuķu Deja. In true Namejs fashion, we decided to sign up for some of the most challenging and high-energy dances. The unforeseen consequence of this decision is that few other troupes selected these same dances, and we were generally one of only three to five troupes on the floor at any given time. For example, here we are dancing the world’s most exhausting dance, Sasukoju Bāry Zyrgu, with just us, Toronto Daugaviņa, and Rga’s Perle:
Sure, this scarcity made us feel the pressure, but on the plus side, it made us easy to photograph! Look at us go!
Speaking of feeling the pressure, we’d like to give an especially sincere shout-out to Namejs dancers Kaytlin Lapsa, Laura Kohler, and Kristine Surite, all of which were performing in their very first Dziesmu Svetki with Namejs! Kaytlin and Laura have both been with Namejs for a while now, performing in various shows in the states, but have not had the chance to do a Dziesmu Svetki before. Kristine, on the other hand, has plenty of experience dancing with our shorter buddies over in DC’s children’s dance troupe Mazais Namejs, but this year we sucked the 11 year old superstar up into our midst. Here she is with our Dear Leader Alberts Ozols:
We threw all three of these ladies into the deep end, assigning them some serious tough dances like Sasala Jurina, Sasukoju Baru Zyrgu, and Uz Dalderi Dancot Griezu. Way to go, dāmas! At the other end of the spectrum, we’re sorry to say that we have to part ways with beloved Namejs dancer Andzs Ubelis, who joined up last year but unfortunately is moving to Europe for work. We wish him luck in his next adventures (though are secretly hoping he’ll return to Namejs someday.) In honor of our incoming and outgoing dancers, when it came time for the official troupe intros, we had Andzs leading the way by carrying the troupe flag, and Kristine and Laura serving as honor guard. Here we are entering the arena:
Like we already mentioned above, we are always searching for more videos, so if you have a lead on any, please let us know. In the meantime, here’s a very zoomed-in video of Perkondancis, featuring tons of Namejs screentime as we do some serious hopping:
The show ended with a grand finale involving every dancer in the entire show coming out onto the floor at once and forming giant circles. Namejs was one of four or five groups that, instead of dancing in the circles, did its own thing, performing the high-kneed, high-lift, high-energy showstopper Uz Dalderi Dancot Griezu. Being surrounded by giant dancer circles meant that we had significantly less room to dance in than we were used to. On the one hand this was nice because we didn’t have to run as far. On the other hand, it means that more than one person was literally kicked in the head during rehearsals, and some of us were a little nervous going in to the show. As per usual, there was no real reason to worry, and the finale went off without a hitch. Here’s a picture! We are wedged in on the left there.
So that’s it: another Namejs Dziesmu Svetki for the record books. All in all every seemed to have a great time. We would like to say a huge thanks to the festival organizers, who really did a brilliant job making sure that everything ran smoothly, and that we were as well rested, hydrated, and fed as possible. And thanks to all our friends and family for coming out to watch! We hope you enjoyed the show, and we’ll seeya next time! Now excuse us while we rest our polka feet and collapse into summer break.