Who is Pillerkaar?


Who are we?

We are a non-profit folk dancing group, which performs original Estonian, Finnish, and Swedish, folk dances at various events in full national Estonian dress. We are dancers of all faiths and cultures and seek to be of service to the Baltic and Scandinavian countries and to the local communities associated with them. Active in the Washington metro area since 1971 under the leadership and choreography of Anu Oinas, this dance group, named Pillerkaar (meaning party, revelry, or soiree) was founded by Anu Oinas in 1971. Practices were held at the Calvary Lutheran Church, Silver Spring, MD (under the kind auspices of Silvi Valge who worked there) until September of 1999 when the dance group became an official World Bank Club (Washington, DC) where Anu worked and held weekly practices. Anu retired in 2015 when Jeff Zelek and Kadri Kallas Zelek took over the leadership role and holding practices at the State Department in Washington, DC.

Who are Estonians?

Everyone knows about the Finns and the Swedes, but who are the Estonians? Estonians are the oldest known inhabitants of the Northeastern shores of the Baltic Sea, having been there since the second millennium, BC. The Gulf of Finland in the north, Latvia in the south, and Russia in the west Estonia is 18,370 square miles, equal to Denmark and the Netherlands in. Estonians are decidedly Western and part of the Finno-Ugrian family of nations speaking the language called Estonian, slightly similar to Finnish. The alphabet is the same as the one used in the USA.

What do we dance?

Enjoyed by both young and old, the traditional dance is for those who have a love for music, dance, and keeping fit! Danced in circles and lines, the basic steps are the polka and waltz, similar to square and contra dances. Dances traditionally depict the lifestyles of the ancient working people: Fisherman’s and Pipe Maker's Dance; animal mimicry such as the Bear and Frog Dance; and party dances: Wedding Dance, Grandfather's, and the King’s Polka. In the last 20 years, newly choreographed dances more in the ballet style have become popular with the dancers.

Music of Estonian Folk Dance

Estonian dance music is traditionally played with the accompaniment of the torupill (in the bagpipe family), kannel (zither), mollpill, parmupill, lehepill, and the violin that sometimes looked very much like a kannel with a bow! In contemporary times we have grown accustomed to dancing to the accordion. Today, due to the scarcity of accordion, violin, and torupill players, we dance to prerecorded music on CDs and to music procured from the Estonian internet!

Where have we danced in the past?

Pillerkaar has participated in the Estonian World Festivals in Estonia, Australia, Germany, New York, Toronto, Sweden, Portland, and Los Angeles; The Smithsonian Institute; Wolf Trap; Montgomery County, Gaithersburg, Fairfax, Bowie, and Essex County Heritage Festivals; June Celebration of Light Festivals; NATO and Scandinavian festivals; the Estonian, Australian, and other embassies; the World Bank; and various clubs, schools, and parties throughout the US. We also dance for weddings, parties, church group functions, senior citizens groups, and many more!