Pillerkaar dances at Scanfest 9-2-18

Picture: Amalia Pleake-Tamm, Age Landra Robinson, Jyri Erik Kork, Debora Klepp, Arney Smits, Kadri Kallas Zelek, Jeff Zelek.Picture: Amalia Pleake-Tamm, Age Landra Robinson, Jyri Erik Kork, Debora Klepp, Arney Smits, Kadri Kallas Zelek, Jeff Zelek. Pillerkaar Estonian Folk Dancers were proud to represent Estonia for the eighth year in a row at the 34th Annual Scandinavian Festival on September 2, 2018, in Budd Lake, New Jersey. Why does Pillerkaar look forward each year to ScanFest despite the drive and the Labor Day weekend traffic? “Pillerkaar” means “a really great party” and that’s exactly what ScanFest is! The day-long event is a spirited and respectful celebration of the Nordic regions and their peoples -- Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Festival merry-makers of all ages show their ethnic heritage by wearing national dress or t-shirts embossed with ethnic themes, having their faces painted with national colors, or wearing stickers of flags they had chosen upon entering the festival.

The welcome ceremony started with a solemn flag procession, followed by singing the national anthem of each of the countries (three Pillerkaar dancers sang Mu isamaa a capella), and capped with the U.S. National Anthem. ScanFest organizers recognized this year’s 100th anniversary of Estonia’s independence. The day continued with performances from more than 50 singing, dancing, and story-telling groups in six entertainment areas. Nordic food and drink were plentiful, as were crafts sold by a wide variety of vendors. ScanFest is a Pillerkaar favorite for many reasons, one being kindred cultures. Pillerkaar director Jeff Zelek quoted to a reporter from the New Jersey Herald that, “certain themes, stories, and tunes are common to Nordic cultures. It is fun to see other performers doing different dances to the same tunes, simultaneously celebrating what makes us similar and what makes us unique.”

Many festivalgoers told the dancers that Pillerkaar performances are one of their favorite parts of Scanfest and that speaks volumes, given the caliber of the other performances, the lure of the reindeer and Viking boats, and the not-to-be-missed wife-carrying contest! The ScanFest program calls us “riveting,” and Pillerkaar does its best to live up to that reputation! The Estonian dancers were pleased that as in past years, their two performances were standing room only. Pillerkaar’s dancers performed choreographed dances Tule aga tule (Come, oh Come) and Vanaviisi valss (Old-Style Waltz), then circle dances Külavalss (Village Waltz) and Oige ja vasemba (Right and Left), whimsical polkas Jooksupolka (Running Polka) and Raksi Jaak (Estonian version of the Polish Krakowiak), Kalamies (Fisherman’s Dance), the energetic Kungla polka (signature dance of Toronto Estonian Folk Dancers), and finally, the incomparable Tuljak (Wedding Dance). Pillerkaar then taught the audience two couples dances Neljapuari and Padespaan. It was wonderful to see so many Estonians and Estonian-Americans in the crowd, including family members and friends. Pillerkaar also made some new friends, including the son of a composer who penned of a portion of Finska Polka, the music used for Kungla polka.

Pillerkaar has two upcoming performances closer to home: September 30, 2018 at Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air, Maryland (with the Baltimore-Washington Estonian Choir!) and October 7, 2018 at Lord of Life Lutheran Church’s Oktoberfest in Fairfax, Virginia. Follow www.facebook.com/PillerkaarDC for more updates and www.pillerkaarwdc.com for history and pictures.
By Deborah Klepp, Pillerkaar