Concert-goers learn Latvian dance from visiting folk group

Derek Thurber

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Whitman has in recent years been trying to pull in artists and performers from around the world. This last Wednesday, Oct. 3, the Latvian post-folk group Ilgi performed at the Coffeehouse.
This concert was one in a series the group is performing on a tour of the United States. They began their tour in Minnesota on Sept. 9 and will end in Philadelphia on Oct. 6.

Ilgi is considered the premier Latvian folk dance group in the world. They celebrated their 25th anniversary as a group on April 21, 2006. Over the past 25 years they have put out a number of albums. Their latest, titled “Ne Uz Vienu Dienu,” was released in 2006 and was sold at the concert.
When Ilgi finished they were given a standing ovation by most of the audience.

The concert was broken up into two parts. The first was a dance workshop led by Ilgi to teach traditional folk dances from Latvia. Students and community members alike joined in on the multiple dances.

“Even if you didn’t understand how to do the dance at first, everyone was really getting into it by the time the song ended,” sophomore Melissa Andreas said.

The dances ranged from circular dances to couple dances. Some dances were done as a group, where people switched partners during the dance, while others kept with the same partner the whole time.

The band taught the dances slowly and broke them down into each step to make it easier for experienced and inexperienced dancers alike to enjoy.

“I have done swing dancing and salsa dancing but never Latvian dance,” first-year Ryan Lum said. “It was very informative and a good bridge between the two.”

After the dance workshop there was a ten-minute break followed by a concert, which lasted until around 11 p.m. The concert featured many traditional songs from Latvia. The songs had stories behind them that the band explained before they played the song. Many Latvian songs are steeped in mythology, largely about fire and water. They also played a traditional Latvian wedding song and a song that told a story about a boy chasing his love.

The sound was very unique and was a point of fascination for some in the audience.
“I really enjoyed the different instrumentation,” Lum said. “It was not a guitar, a drum, a keyboard, etc.”

Whitman students gathered to learn how to dance and to see a unique band play.

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