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More About The Kaiser's Jubilee
March 15, 2009
By Stefan Iwaskewycz, EDT Dancer, with contributions
In 1913, the Emperor Franz Josef I von Habsburg celebrated his 65th year on the throne of what, after 1867, was known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the Imperial capital of Vienna there were commemorative events and celebration, including a concert during which representatives of each of the Empire's subject peoples, dressed in folk costume, saluted and honored the Kaiser (German for "Emperor").
Austria-Hungary was a diverse realm; at the time of the Jubilee celebration, it embraced either all or most of modern-day Austria, Hungary, Czechia (Czech Republic), Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Romania, and included parts of Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, Montenegro, and Italy. Each of these lands had distinctive folk and high cultures and various local social and political traditions.
Ethnic Dance Theatre has chosen this as the background for its 35th Anniversary concert for a variety of reasons:
First, though Ethnic Dance Theatre is a performing company with over 50 suites from all around the globe in its repertoire, the songs, music and dance of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe--from an area that roughly corresponds to the territory of the Habsburg monarchy--have been at the core of the company's repertoire since its founding in 1974.
Second, it was at this time, during the late 19th century and early 20th, that many of the performance styles were created, and many of the costumes, dances and much of the music was selected that is still used today to present folk dance and music professionally on the stage. A Golden Age of Folk Culture was in full swing by the time of the Kaiser's 1913 Jubilee. A century or so earlier, at the outset of the 19th century, Europeans began to take folk culture more seriously. More of Europe's elites--many of whom hailed from bourgeois families that were only a generation or two removed from life in the countryside--began to see the folk arts and culture of the peasantry and the countryside as worthy of the name of culture and art, if not on par with the high cultures of the towns and cities. At a time during which they were colonizing much of the globe and were inventing sciences like ethnography in order to explain their encounter with societies very different from their own, Europe's elites were also discovering that right in their own backyard were incredible cultures they hardly knew. By the time of the Kaiser's 1913 Jubilee something of a Golden Age of Folk Culture had been in full swing for some time throughout Europe.
Hutsul Villagers c. 1900
To have been active as folklorists at that time! Villagers in 1913 still for the most part wore what we today call "folk costume" as their daily garb. They were still dancing dances and singing songs that have today in many countries been lost (a fact that folklorists like ourselves greatly lament!). As the 20th century progressed, elements of traditional country and village life vanished at different rates in different parts of Central Europe and throughout the world. 1913 in some ways marks the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Folk Culture in Central Europe. It is some of the vibrant folk cultures that inspired this Golden Age and that provided some of the initial inspiration for the founding of our company that we are celebrating for our 35th Anniversary.
A word about the Kaiser and His Empire:
Habsburg rule was based on the ancient strategy of a general tolerance for ethnic difference combined with tactics of divide and rule. The overall restraint shown by Habsburg rulers in ethnic matters often won them the admiration and support of certain subject peoples (while angering others). The 18th century Austrian Empress Maria Theresa was a folk hero among many of the subject peoples, and Franz Josef was a genuinely popular ruler throughout much of his reign. The popular or folk affection that emerged for Kaiser Franz Josef was similar to that shown by peasants of the Russian Empire for the so-called "good Tsar." It was popularly believed that while the Emperor loved his "children," everything that was wrong within the Empire--the poverty, the ethnic tensions, the social stress--was caused by the machinations of local elites. In truth, such machinations were tolerated and even encouraged by Habsburg rulers, such as Franz Josef, as suited the needs of the state.
Franz Josef thus frequently appears in the folk epics, songs, and visual arts of various subject peoples in both a good and bad light, especially in the later Monarchy. At the time of the 1913 Jubilee, two generations of Habsburg subjects had come of age during a period when the Empire had not been involved in a single, external war and was reaping the benefits of several decades of a high rate (for the era) of economic growth. The overall rise in the quality of life that had taken place by 1913 is rerpresented in one set of our costumes for this show: the peasants of the Sárköz region of Hungary could afford to purchase silks (imported from Lyon, France) for use in their finer clothing (click to see our reproduction of the costumes from Sarkoz that will be used in The Kaiser's Jubilee). This general increase in overall prosperity, however slight for the majority of people, certainly contributed to the popularity of the Kaiser in the Monarchy's last days before the Great War (WWI).
In this show, it is not Franz Josef that we aim to celebrate per se but the folk cultures of the domains he ruled and the general values of tolerance and patience with diversity that Habsburg rulers practiced. Since its founding, the mission of the Ethnic Dance Theatre has always been, in addition to preserving and promoting folk music and dance as art, to promote mutual understanding between and respect for people of different ethnic backgrounds. Click to read EDT's mission statement.
We hope that you will enjoy the show!
Did you know? EVEN MORE about Austria-Hungary:
I. Folkish Anecdotes from the zeitgeist of The Kaiser's Jubilee:
It was common practice for impressment gangs in the Hungarian Kingdom to use folk dance as a means to recruit young village men into the Kaiser's army. In a practice that dates from the 18th century, Hussars arriving in villages would dance what was known as verbunk (from the German word "werben," meaning "to recruit, to enroll"), and many of the young village men that joined the dancing found themselves suddenly whisked off ("enrolled!") to the army. A verse of a folk song that likely originates from this period and which we have included in the Dunantuli suite performed in this show goes:
I won't be marrying you this summer
Because Franz Josef called me in to be a soldier
If Franz Josef hadn't enlisted me
I would have been your partner, my dear, so soon
Click to preview video of the Dunantuli suite.
In this and many other ways, town and country increasingly met, and many young men who would have lived their entire lives in their villages found themselves suddenly thrust into the cosmopolitan world of the Empire.
The Archduke Wilhelm von Habsburg, potential heir to the Habsburg thrown, wore a traditional, Hutsul-style embroidered shirt under his officer's coat when commissioned to lead a corps of Ukrainian soldiers in the Kaiser's army during the Great War (WWI). Wilhelm had early on in life become passionate about Ukrainian folk culture after a trip to the Hutsul region of the Carpathian Mountains, and had already mastered the Ukrainian language prior to his commission. In this way a Habsburg prince became a folk hero first among Hutsuls then among many of the Kaiser's Ruthenian (Ukrainian) subjects, who knew him by the name Vasyl Vyshyvanyj (Wilhelm the Embroidered).
The finale of The Kaiser's Jubilee is a suite of Hutsul dances that is the result of a similar trip to the Ukrainian Carpathians; read how EDT's Artistic Director and one of EDT's dancers became enchanted by Hutsul culture this past summer, 100 years or so after Vasyl Vyshyvanyj's experience in the same mountains.
II. On the Arts and Politics of Empire
The imperial capital of Vienna was a cultural mecca, for some the most refined in Europe. Vienna was the chosen home of Mozart and Beethoven; it was the city where Sigmund Freud grew up and lived out his life. Vienna also was the home of such figures as Gustav Klimt and was the birthplace of such movements as the Vienna Secession, a group of artists in the late 19th century that reacted against the neoclassicism that was promoted by and reflected the worlview of the Habsburgs and of Franz Josef in particular. Vienna even gave us such figures as Franz Mesmer, from whose last name and early work with hypnotism we are able to say such things as, "We hope you will be mesmerized by our show!"
From the Hungarian side of the Empire, we receive Franz (Ferenc) Liszt and Bela Bartok, both of whom spent a part of their childhoods in provincial towns of the Hungarian Kingdom, where they imbibed much of the Hungarian folk music that would be an enormous influence on their later careers as composers (Liszt also lived briefly in Vienna as a child, where he studied music with a former student of Beethoven). In particular, Bartok began conducting in 1908 what has to be recognized as among the most important early attempts to conduct modern, ethnomusicological field work of the folk music of the Hungarian Kingdom. His fieldwork is exemplary of the fever for folk culture that swept much of Europe's bourgeois elite during the Golden Age of Folk Culture.
The provinces ruled from Vienna also gave us such figures as Antonin Dvorzak and Franz Kafka in Prague and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in Lwow/Lviv/Lemberg. Dvorzak too was deeply influenced by the folk melodies of his native (Bohemian) land, while Kafka's writing reveals a picture of the darker sides of the late Monarchy that often go unnoticed. Both figures exemplify the sophistication and cosmopolitanism of the Prague that Bohemian elites felt should have been a third capital in the Empire next to Vienna and Budapest. The work of Sacher-Masoch (from whose last name the term "masochism" was coined, to the writer's great chagrin!) also exemplifies the fever for folk culture during the Golden Age. Sacher-Masoch's father was the chief of police in the town of Lemberg/Lwow/Lviv and was of Austrian background; his mother descended from Ruthenian (Ukrainian) gentry and Sacher-Masoch was raised in large part by a Ruthenian (Ukrainian) governess. He thus learned and cultivated an acute appreciation for and wrote at length about the folk culture of the local (mostly Ukrainian) peasantry of his native region of Eastern Galicia, and included many folk motifs and legends in his novels (which enjoyed a wide popularity beyond the Empire and throughout much of Europe at the time).
Sacher-Masoch, Dvorzak, Liszt and Bartok each contributed to the high culture of the Empire that was so revered throughout much of the world, and to varying degrees each of their high art forms were inspired by a folk culture found within the Empire. Similarly, the promotion of folk dance as art has been part of the mission of the Ethnic Dance Theatre since its foundation.
Though the arts and learning were at a high level, the Empire also had its serious troubles. By the late 19th century it was clear that modern development of its infrastructure was seriously lagging behind that of its increasingly powerful neighbors to the North and West. Wave after wave of peasants emigrated from the Empire's most impoverished lands, usually to the United States. The politics of the Empire became increasingly riven by competition between various ethnic and social groups. In 1867 a viable compromise was reached that greatly reduced tensions between the Hungarian and Austrian elites of the Empire, but elites of the various Slavic nations clamored for a similar arrangement of local autonomy for their lands. Also, as everywhere in Europe at the time, a grand political drama was being played out, one that was leading away from absolute monarchy to some form of representative and democratic government (constitutional monarchy if not outright a republic), and simultaneously away from multinational and imperial states toward nation-states. In this context, members of various groups viewed rule from Vienna and by the person of the Kaiser sometimes in friendly terms, sometimes in not-so friendly terms, and often in both.
For the show we aim to recreate the atmosphere of the Kaiser's 1913 jubilee celebrations, and to this end invite audience members to come to the show dressed in 1913 period-specific clothing and/or folk costume! Click for more information on 1913 period clothing!
The Kaiser's Jubilee can be seen:
March 20-22, 2009
Fri-Sat: 7:30 PM; Su: 2 PM
Fitzgerald Box Office:
$12 under 12
Back to main blog page.
Period Dress and the Culture of Theater Going c. 1913
March 15, 2009
By Stefan Iwaskewycz, EDT Dancer
Come to the show in 1913 period dress or folk costume!
We hope that you will help us recreate the atmosphere of a 1913 performance by coming to our show in period dress or folk costume!
Click for ideas of 1913 period dress.
Come to the show dressed in your best, high fashion outfit of the time. Or come dressed as an urban worker or country farmer. Come dressed in folk costume. Though in 1913 such an array of people from different social classes would never have mixed in a single theater, we certainly can do it!
A brief note on the culture of theater-going in 1913:
In 1913, in an era before radio and television and on the cusp of film, going to the theater was a major event. Throughout Europe and the US there were a variety of theaters and opera houses that catered to the differing tastes of different social classes. At theaters for the elite, folks without the proper dress or status markers were barred from entering, and attendance was about being seen as much as it was about seeing--and what people came to see was not on the stage alone!
There were also theaters for the urban working class and a tradition of staging performances in the countryside. At times people in small towns and villages staged their own performances, especially as schools became more common. However, throughout Europe there were ancient traditions of folk pageantry, such as the skits associated with "mumming" and the winter holiday season, as well as for other holidays throughout the year!
Back to home.
The Kaiser's Jubilee can be seen:
March 20-22, 2009
Fri-Sat: 7:30 PM; Su: 2 PM
Fitzgerald Box Office:
$12 under 12
Back to main blog page.
To Ukraine in Search of Authentic Hutsul Dance
February 16, 2009
By Stefan Iwaskewycz for Ethnic Dance Theatre's Winter/Spring 2009 Newsletter
This past summer of 2008, Ethnic Dance Theatre's Artistic Director Donald LaCourse and I traveled to the Carpathian Mountain region of Ukraine in search of authentic Hutsul folk dance. The Hutsuls are oft considered as having, best among Ukrainians, preserved their traditional culture. On our trip we met a variety of interesting, highly animated individuals steeped in Hutsul music, dance, and culture and gathered a wealth of material over a three-week period.
Highlights of our trip:
On our first day in Kolomyja, a town at the northern edge of the Carpathian Mountains, we met Mykola Savchuk. Mykola is a musician who used to play accordion in a Hutsul wedding band, and is a local journalist, folklorist, and comedian with a degree of local recognition in his part of Ukraine. Most of all, Mykola is steeped in the traditions of Hutsulshchyna (the Hutsul-inhabited region of Ukraine) in general and of his home village of Velykyj Kljuchiv in particular. Mykola gifted us a pamphlet he wrote about the dance Hutsulka and shared with us his musical (and comedic!) talent; he also took us to his home village, where he danced Hutsulka for us with his mother, sister and niece.
Click for video of Mykola Savchuk dancing Hutsulka!
We also traveled up the mountains to the village of Bukovets in search of Mykhajlo Tafijchuk. Mr. Tafijchuk is a renowned, 72-year-old Hutsul musician, instrument-maker and blacksmith whose knowledge of the Hutsul musical tradition is vast. He was born and raised on the mountain and can recall the days "when only our (i.e., Hutsul) dances were done at weddings and village events." Many of Mr. Tafijchuk's eight children have followed in their father's footsteps as musicians and blacksmiths, and today the Tafijchuk Family Orchestra is a much sought-after talent for folk festivals in Ukraine and abroad. The Tafijchuk's are the real deal--their knowledge and musical skill was honed on the mountain, transmitted to them via tradition; they are among a dying breed of players without any formal education or musical training who learned to play music within their families and/or from others in their villages, or who simply taught themselves to play various instruments--as Mr. Tafijchuk says he did!
Click for video of Mykhajlo Tafijchuk playing handcrafted instruments.
We also visited Vasyl Vandzhuraky, a fellow who for years led a Hutsul folk dance group with his brother that was highly regarded for authenticity. Mr. Vandzhuraky lives in Vipche, a village located nearly at the top of a mountain in one of the highest ranges of the Carpathians. The journey to his village high above the town of Verkhovyna was an experience mixed with beauty and terror for us flatlanders from Minnesota--the views were breathtaking but the road up the mountain was steep and narrow with a shoulder-less edge that dropped precipitously. Suffering a bad hip, the elderly Mr. Vandzhuraky was unable to demonstrate dance steps for us; however, we had an informative conversation with him about village life, Hutsul dances and the successes of his dance troupe over the years. Most importantly, I asked him to sing for us some kolomyjky (couplets traditionally sung or shouted while dancing), and he proceeded to dazzle us with a stream of kolomyjky that lasted for many uninterrupted minutes!
Also, with the help of Vasyl Labachuk (click for photo of Vasyl Labachuk) and his fellow Hutsul wedding musicians, we were able to attend weddings in the villages of Rungury and Kosmach. Many old traditions and dances are still practiced, especially at weddings throughout Hutsulshchyna. Our experiences at the weddings were nothing short of fantastic. In addition to observing a variety of wedding-specific traditions and rituals, we were able to observe, film and even dance the Hutsulka, Arkan, and Kovelivka. In particular, the way Arkan is danced in Rungury (and the neighboring village of Sloboda) is reputed to be among the most authentic in Hutsulshchyna.We had a number of very informative conversations about Hutsul language, culture, music and dance with a variety of people; a particularlyinformative conversation was with the 62 year old fellow who led the dances (as caller)at the wedding in Rungury.We are quite grateful to Vasyl Labachuk and the village musicians (mostly from the village of Jabloniv and surrounding villages) who arranged for us to attend these weddings. Also, as a number of them are school teachers instructing in music, we were able to visit a couple of schools to see youngsters performing their Hutsul songs and dances!
Perhaps best of all, Donald LaCourse, whom I personally consider both mentor and friend, told me that his time in Ukraine was one of the best experiences he's had while traveling abroad to study dance. Don has always had a special appreciation of Ukrainian dance; it was in 1970, while dancing in a Minneapolis-area Ukrainian folk dance group that he first met Jonathan Frey with whom he would, a few years later in 1974, co-found the Ethnic Dance Theatre. Don and Jon were among the first (if not the first!) non-Ukrainians to dance in the Ukrainian community group at that time! Don has ever since intended to travel to Ukraine to study Ukrainian dance, but the proverbial stars simply never lined up for such a trip. Thus it was an honor for me to be his guide in Ukraine this past August and September of 2008, and I am thrilled to be involved in the new suite of dances that Don has choreographed and arranged based mostly on material we gathered this summer.
Come see the Hutsul finale of EDT's 35th Anniversary Concert The Kaiser's Jubilee this March 20-22, 2009 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St Paul, MN!
On our trip we were accompanied by Daniel Palahniuk, a good friend and fellow diaspora-Ukrainian who is a Minneapolis-based artist. Daniel is a videographer, filmmaker and photographer who works in both traditional and digital formats and is a co-founder and organizer of Art of This!, an up and coming art gallery in Minneapolis. Daniel and I filmed as much as we could in the course of our trip, and now are working on producing a documentary video about Hutsul dance as done today in the villages of Hutsulshchyna. Donald LaCourse is involved in this documentary in an advisory capacity, with his input a highly valued part of the post-production process. The documentary will not be ready before the Fall of 2009, but in the meantime you can check on our progress here.
Don and I hope that our work with the Ethnic Dance Theatre and the documentary video will be just a beginning and that the project represented on our Hutsul Dance Project website will grow into an online archives and information center about authentic Hutsul dance. Most of all, we hope that this project will grow into a collaboration with others who are knowledgeable and passionate about authentic Hutsul dance. Have a look around the Hutsul Dance Project website to get an idea about what the project is all about.
Finally, Don, Daniel and I would like to thank everyone in the Ethnic Dance Theatre community that contributed last summer to our project before our departure for Ukraine. Your donations were a tremendous help!
Big Winners in Bavaria
By Donald LaCourse, EDT Artistic Director
In October 2003, long time EDT performer and my sister Renee LaCourse, along with our nephew Jacob Schultz, his girlfriend Jenny Roehl, my brother Mark (another long time EDT performer) and I traveled to Germany to participate in the 3rd annual Bayrische Loewen (Bavarian Lion) Schuhplattler Competition held in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. We were there as the first American individual couples invited to take part in this prestigious championship, along with two group competitors from Philadelphia, PA and Newark, NJ. We had received our invitation because we were the 1st and 2nd place winners in our North American competion held in May 2003, and through the hard work of several friends in Bavaria who helped secure the invitations for us.
We spent 10 days as the guests of our dear friend, Hans Menzinger, the owner of "Trachten Poehlman", a store for traditional Bavarian clothing. From the time of our arrival until our departure, we had the rare experience of being immersed in the living, breathing folk culture of Bavaria. Although we had all grown up surrounded by things German, each day we tried new foods, wore traditional clothes, and explored ethnographic museums and peoples homes, to gain new insights into the customs and life of this corner of the globe.
At the top of the list of highlights was the competition itself. Held in a large ballroom of a charming hotel on the Auwaldsee in Ingolstadt, we arrived at 8:30 in the morning , after a 1 1/2 hour drive, to find a bustling scene of men, women and children dressed in their best festival day clothing. Delicate silk brocades, crisp linens and lace, and heavy chains of silver were the order of the day. We slipped in quietly, our own attire not revealing our "Foreign" origin, to register for the day's events. We heard no whispers about "the Americans" until Jake and Jenny first took the floor. Then we heard the approving murmurs for our Festtracht. When the first "catch" of the girl by Jake happened, the entire room gasped at the smoothness with which it was accomplished! When they finished their dance, the room erupted into thunderous applause. A short while later, when Renee and I performed, once again the audience (our fellow competitors) gasped and shouted for our rendition of the ancient dance. Afterward, we were surrounded with new friends, offering their amazement that we knew their tradition and dance so well.
The awards ceremony came after an entire day of competition in age categories from 6 years, to over 60. The 30 competitors in each age category were called to the floor, where places were announced, from last to first. Since this was a competition of the champions of the 10 participating federations, the placement of standings was very close. We were proud that Jake placed 24th and Jenny 20th out of 30. I was thrilled that I placed 11th out of 30 in the 35-49 year category, and everyone was stunned by Renee's FOURTH place finish in the same category- an amazing achievement that had all of us welling up with tears of pride and joy.
EDT Dancers Compete in China
By Blanka Brichta and Jan Morse, EDT Dancers
In October 2003 we were participants in a world premier international dance festival and competition held in the city of Jiangdu, China. We performed three "fad" dances from the 1920's—Varsity Drag, Black Bottom and Charleston—to original jazz recordings from that era. The suite was choreographed by Lance Benishek, an internationally recognized expert on American dance (and a former EDT dancer who appeared most recently in EDT's The American Show).
The invitation to the festival was graciously offered by the festival committee through Ms. Tian Jiang Cui, the Artistic Director of the Minnesota Chinese Dance Theatre. Ms. Cui has worked with EDT many times over the years and is credited for setting the Chinese classic "Red Ribbon Dance," an audience favorite, for EDT in 1991.
The festival judges and the audience of nearly 3,000 people enjoyed our performances; we were awarded third place behind Brazil and Russia out of an overall festival competition of 14 groups.
We also had the good fortune to meet Shi Dali, one of the competition judges, who holds a prestigious position as the president of the Chinese Dancers Association at the Chinese Ministry of Culture. She is influential in promulgating and preserving dance as an art form as a valuable part of Chinese traditions.
We consider the Chinese experience a trip of a lifetime and are very grateful for the wonderful and unique memories we have.