The World Wide Web of Folkloric Dancing
By Nigel Thorpe
With refreshing punctuality, the Silesianie Group began their first Jerash Festival performance at 8.40 p.m. in the North Theatre on Tuesday. For over two hours, the group served up an eighteen-dance feast of Polish song and dance.
The steps choreographed by George Stasheta, sent the groups’ feet spinning dance threads of rotating circles, long gliding lines and spiraling curves backwards and forwards across the wooden stage. The dance web they spun vibrated with the sound of high-pitched cries and brief snatches of Polish songs.
Most of the nine dances in the first half of the group’s program were from the highlands of Poland. The costumes were as varied and colorful as the dances that followed each other with breath-taking speed. In the “Bes Keda” dance, the ladies wore delightful rustic costumes with headbands of floral garlands, trailed multicolored ribbons down their backs, and waved black scarves in their hands. Dresses, ribbons, and scarves trailed along in the wake of the dancers’ seductive movements. In stark contrast, the straw hats, red jackets and high black boots enhanced the masculine virility of the male dancers as their feet drummed strong staccato rhythms on the wooden stage.
During the ten-minute break between the action-packed halves of the performance, the group’s director Eva Stasheta told Albawaba that “although we are rather disappointed by the small size of the audience, the group loved performing in the beautiful North Theatre at Jerash. The only problem is that we found the stage a little small for some of our dance routines.” Eva told Albawaba that the dancers were extremely pleased that, by this year’s standards, the evening was a cool one. “Poland is a very cold country and our dresses are not designed for a hot country like Jordan,” she added. “Our folkloric costumes are also very old,” she continued splaying her dress out behind her, as a peacock would display his tail feathers. “This one is over one hundred years old. They aren’t making dresses like this anymore. The dress should really have a pure silver belt and accessories but times are hard back home at the moment. We have enjoyed our trip to Jordan very much but we’re disappointed that we haven’t had time to do any sightseeing.”
Eva told Albawaba that there were twelve female and twelve male dancers in the group of thirty-two who made the trip to Jordan. “The second half of our performance is far more dynamic than the first,” she concluded as she rushed off to organize the final segment of the show.
Dynamic was certainly just the word needed to describe the final nine spectacular dances that followed. The first of the nine was a miner’s dance from the former Polish capital Karakowiak. The male dancers wore smart black military uniforms with gold buttons and strips and plumed hats while their female partners wore bright red, orange, or scarlet dresses with floral aprons.
Together with the dancing and costumes, the beautiful music played by seven highly professional musicians completed the group’s artistic triangle. The violins, trumpet, double base, accordion, and oboe produced a sound of orchestral dimensions that spoke volumes for both the excellence of the Polish musicians, and the acoustics of the Roman amphitheatre.
A charming highlight of the second half portrayed the eternal human triangle in dance. The dance drama opens to the slow, sad strains of a solo oboe as a female dancer in a plain shinning white dress resists the advances of a young man from her village. The young girl repels her ardent suitor as he tries, pirouette after pirouette, to present her with a small bunch of yellow flowers as a token of his love. A rich rival suitor in expensive clothes leaps onto the stage to from the human triangle. By his enticing dance, he tires to lure the lady away from the simple lad with promises of power and wealth. For a short while, he succeeds, but the delightful dance ends with the poor village boy winning back the girl’s heart as she accepts his flowers to seal their engagement.
The final nine dances ended on a note of light comedy and carnival as a human horse cavorted around the stage with ostrich-like movements. Resembling a circus horse that had lost its read end, the equestrian figure, wearing a pink conical hat on his head and a giant lollypop scepter in his hand, was soon trapped by a ring of circling dancers.
Delighted claps and shouts brought the performance to a close at 10.45 p.m. The Silesianie Group packed their instruments and costumes away ready for their next performance in the North Theatre on Wednesday evening when hopefully, the group will play to the large audience that it so richly deserve.
In an interview after the performance, the Charge d’Affaire of the Republic of Poland, Mariusx Woxniak, told Albawaba that “he was delighted with the group’s performance in the historic amphitheatre. The music, songs, and dances you have seen,” he continued, “come mainly from Silesia in Poland, the group’s home region. Although the folkloric group was established twenty-three years ago, its members are constantly changing since they are all students attending the University of Economics in Katowice. They are not professional dancers. During the university term, the students attend dance practices organized by Eva and George, her choreographer husband. It is only during their vacations that they have time to tour abroad.”
Their overseas tours have taken them to international Folk Dance Festivals in Portugal, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Syria, Cyprus and Brazil.
A Jordanian member of the audience picked up the international thread when she said “I enjoyed the show immensely, but I wish that more people had been here to see the excellence of the folkloric dancing and costumes. The thing that really amazes me is that, although the group comes from far away Poland, the music, costumes and dances have so much in common with our own Arabic folkloric traditions. I never realized that different countries in the world shared such a common folkloric culture.”
Perhaps the World Wide Web and the “Global Village” is not as new as Internet fans would have us believe.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)