Folk Dance Orgins

Estonian Folk Dance Origins[1]

As early as 1584, Kroonik Balthasaat Russow wrote in his memoirs, “Chronica der Provinz Lyfflant that Estonian farmers with their wives and kids on Saturday nights gathered together to dance, drink, and revel in delight to the music of the “torupill” (something like a bagpipe). It was said that if they left church (the next morning) as smart as they were they got there, then the dancing and carousing would continue!

In 1774, A. K. Hupel wrote in his “Topographische Nachrichten aus Est- und Liefland” that each person, old or young, would find a partner, often men with men and women with women and step into a circle to begin to dance. Estonians, in their dancing, use the 3/4 time or the 3/8 time, step in short, slightly dragging steps, and on the third beat they stomp their foot on the floor.

At Estonian weddings, the groom and a few of his best men always carried an uncovered sword, even while dancing. At every door entrance, they would lift the swords so that two would touch over the archway of the door. After heavy partying in to the night, the bride is taken to the groom’s house (pannakse pruut tanu alla) and the evening is ended, the bride sits on her brother’s lap while the groom, father-in-law, and best men dance around them hitting the ends of the swords together above them.

In the old folk songs sung by the Setu people, there is mention of a kind of “kontratants” which was danced in the barnyards and farm fields. It consisted of four long rows of girls facing one another while dancing. Dances which developed from this were Ingliska (Kaberneeme, near Harju), Kassari (from Vihterpalu, near Haapsalu), Kuusalu kadrill, (from Kuusalu, near Loksa).

After Estonia's independence proclamation in 1918, many began to take the old folk dances and choreograph them to their own taste and style. These are the new dances and not traditionally considered the true “folk dance”.

Estonian Folk Dance Groupings

Estonian folk dance may be grouped into 4 basic types[1]:

1. circle and line dances

· unlimited number of dancers

· the oldest of all the dances

2. kontradances and kadrills; the number of dancers is designated as well as the choreography

· kontradances: row dances; ingliska’s and threesome dances

· kadrills (done in sets of four groups together)

· setukargused (jumping steps from the Setu area)

3. couples dances; usually in circles moving counterclockwise

4. single dancer performances

[1]Tampere. 1975, p.50

[1]Väljalõige raamatust?,”Vanast Rahvatantsust”, p. 21-24.