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Saare Vikat, meie New Yorgi rahvatantsurühm, on viimastel aastatel puudutanud palju inimesi meie kogukonnast. Soovin oma vaatenurgast Teile meie lugu esitada. Kuigi olen proovinud parimas kirjakeeles seda esile tuua, eks leidub mõni viga. Palun andestust nende eksimuste ja eelarvamuste eest, mida oleks võinud paremini esitada. Neljaosalises sarjas on siin kolmas etapp. Nautigem!

Tension and the Road to…
November 2018 - March 2019

 

The combination of the preceding intensity and frequency of practice, the necessity of now splitting practice spaces and times between the sega- and naiste grupid, and diverging opinions on practice structure led to a feeling of underlying tension within the group toward the close of 2018.


There were those that felt we should continue with a team-based, “Rauno style” approach while working sections and emphasizing fundamentals, and there were those that thought we were ready to run through each dance (with more of an emphasis on the whole than the parts) while working out kinks as they became apparent.


During this time the naiste grupp had the steep task of learning their tantsud in a compressed window. They had 2 months and 2 practices to learn and fine tune the dances they’d just seen a couple of weeks earlier. A couple of the naised had taken it upon themselves to break down the dances into learnable chunks. These “chunks” were then shared and rehearsed with the naiste grupp.


As the naiste grupp set their foot on the gas, the segagrupp ran through dances in full and worked out kinks as they arose. Although it was not with the discipline we’d returned from Seedrioru with, the opening and closing sequences of Kalamees and Õhtu labajalg were improved during this time.


The highlight of these practices was our gathering at the end of practice to rehearse for one another and film (for comparison to past rehearsals). And while the pressure nozzle was turned up, we had a couple of fun holiday events to help get us through.


Saare Vikat got a table for the New Yorgi Eesti Maja's jõululaat, a particularly warm and festive place at Christmas time, to sell paintings, mugs, T shirts, and spread the word for our New Year’s event.


Fast forward a couple of weeks, and it was time for us to deliver on promises made to the 120+ that were in attendance. Could we pull it off?


The naiste grupp had spent only 2 sessions learning their dances while the segagrupp was still digesting the most complex dance any Saare Vikat dancer, past or present, had witnessed (“Õhtu labajalg).


We met early in the afternoon and both the sega- and the naiste grupid spent the next few hours re-working and tuning our dances. Each group started off extremely sloppy. Although some of us still felt apprehensive about performing, through isolation and repetition we reached a point of performance readiness just in time ...
There were 3 rows of seats in front and row upon row of faces (young and old) jostling for better position and camera angles as our North American Estonian crowd gathered in anticipation for a performance that had been hyped for weeks. It was now on us, Saare Vikat, to deliver.


Lili took the floor, welcomed everyone, thanked the Lakewood’i Eesti Maja for hosting, and introduced Saare Vikat. Through “Õhtu labajalg” to "Targa rehealune" to “Kalamees” to "Oti rattad" to “Tuljak”, we performed the full set of tantsupeo tantsud, with the sega- and naiste grupid sharing the floor and passing the baton back and forth. It was an eye opening performance. One that left those in attendance beaming, clapping, and whistling.


We’d done it! Our group had been nervous, but we’d pulled it off.


It would be a common compliment we’d hear from that night forward:
“That group has such energy!” Now it was on us to direct that energy from the Eve of 2019 through what might lie ahead. We met at Suvekodu the 3rd weekend in January to capture what we hoped would be the only film we’d need for Tantsupidu.


Practice began at 11am, split between two saalid. After a couple hours of focus on the fundamentals, we dressed up in our rahvariided and began the process of filming.


By the end of this 11 hour day of switching between dances (and dance groups), trying to make minor improvements to each dance, and long sessions “on” followed by long pauses “off”, we were spent. It had been a long, trying day, but the camaraderie and spirit of the group carried us until the end.


As a snowstorm rolled in that night, much of the group hunkered down. We had a few drinks, took saun, washed, wrapped up with some games and conversation, and then settled in on cots and sleeping bags in the same suur saal where we’d filmed all day.


It was another beautiful day on this journey of ours, and while we hoped that the film that we were to submit was good enough, we had to move on and prepare for a performance at Suusapäevad.


We met at the New Yorgi Eesti Maja in February to re-visit “Kalamees”, “Tuljak”, “Reinlender”, and “Meremeeste valss” in preparation for suusapäevad. All members practiced at first, but as we progressed, we shifted toward exclusively those that could make the trip to Canada.


It was not pretty (especially at first). Many in the crew had not practiced these dances in a long time, and we spent quite a while refreshing the formations and fundamentals involved. At day’s end we knew who would be making the trip and we had our list of dances.


Fast forward to the Saturday of suusapäevad.
As the sun set behind the Laurentians, after a long day of skiing, Saare Vikat gathered once again to rehearse.


The start was the worst start we’d had for any of our practices. The limited performance area changed the pace and spacing, but more than that, it seemed that many in our bunch had forgotten how to dance. What had we gotten ourselves into?


In a matter of a couple of hours the saal would be packed, our dance space might be even smaller, and we couldn’t even practice the dances properly as it was. We scaled the number of dances back from 4 to 3, to improve quality and energy, and while we weren’t perfect, the general feeling improved.


The suusapäevad crowd gathered. Friends and family chatted over dinner and drinks. Awards were handed out, and then we were given the signal.


Tables, chairs, and the crowd were cleared from our performance space. Children were seated on the floor in the front row. Behind them were rows upon rows of eestlased from the US and Canada (a record-setting number as a matter of fact). Saare Vikat stood ready at the entryway.


It was our moment to rise or crumble … We took the floor with “Reinlender” and it was immediate. The crowd’s energy became our energy and we spiraled. Our motions expanded through “Kalamees” and climaxed with the lift of “Tuljak”.


The crowd erupted. We took a “U” shape, faced the crowd, bowed, and exited.


From the exposed wood of the saal to the familiar faces of the crowd, it had felt a lot like performing for the village. They looked to us, we looked to them, and this whirlwind of energy overtook the room.


In the end, it was our best performance to date.
...
The next weekend we were at the Lakewood’i Eesti Maja for the re-filming of our corrections. The segagrupp started, shortly after 9am, by progressing through the list of improvements to “Õhtu labajalg” one-by-one, prior to a brief run-through of “Kalamees”.


Four hours later we split between Wawa and Surf Taco for lunch, before re-convening at the Eesti Maja an hour later. As the naiste grupp trickled in, many of us stopped through Tõnu Vanderer’s memorial gathering prior to re-starting practice on the võrkpalliväljak.


While the naiste grupp prepared, the segagrupp tuned and filmed “Tuljak” outside. We then re-entered the saal for final takes of “Õhtu labajalg” and “Kalamees”. By 5pm, with the naiste grupp cheering us on, the segagrupp’s takes were deemed A-OK.


After patiently waiting, the naiste grupp took the floor. With a comprehensive list of corrections, a compressed practice window, and limited slots for the 180+ naiste grupid hoping to dance in Tantsupidu, they had their work cut out for them.


They spent the next 5 hrs (nonstop), chipping away at the list of corrections, tuning, and re-filming "Targa rehealune" and "Oti rattad". Shortly after 10pm, a tired applause and cheer broke out as they wrapped up their session. The segagrupp congratulated the naised and re-took the floor for one last thing ...


Eesti had asked all groups to submit their best take of “Maa hing”, a dance to be performed at the opening of tantsupidu. While the naiste grupp worked their dances, the segagrupp learned this new dance on the side.


Upon taking the floor, we walked through the dance once, shifted personnel, and then filmed two takes before getting the thumbs up.


At this point it was after 11pm. It had been a 14 hour day!


With patience worn, tension bubbling, and clear signs of physical and mental depletion all around us, our filming was done. Given the circumstances, this was the best that the sega- and naiste grupid could have done.


At this point, many in the group left with “other plans” (it was St. Patrick’s day after all), while those that remained rinsed, changed clothes, and then completely shifted gears.


From the bar to the lõke, we closed out the night, drink in hand, laughing and enjoying one another’s company. After such a long day, it was the perfect night cap.


We’d done what we could. Now all we could do was wait.

 

Magnus Skonberg

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