On 11 August, exactly one hundred days before Latvia's hundredth birthday, Zaļumballe [The Centenary Open-Air Dance Party] will take place in castle ruins, parks and fields, on hilltops, beaches and riverbanks, throughout Latvia and around the world.
In more than 150 places in every region of Latvia, at Lough Ramor Camping in Virginia, Ireland, and in the Latvian village of Augšbebri in Russia – dancers, country bands, orchestra musicians, Latvian troubadour-singer-songwriters, and folk music ensembles are busy preparing for the Centenary Open-Air Dance Party!
“Although we originally encouraged Latvia's municipalities to organise Open-Air Dance Parties in honour of the State Centenary, we are gratified that a number of businesses and private citizens have joined the initiative. Some dances will be take place as a part of local city celebrations, theatre festivals, and folk music events. The Open-Air Dance Party is a rich, full-blooded, living tradition, and another attractive way to discover local history, bring communities together, and celebrate the Latvian Centenary,” emphasised Minister of Culture Dace Melbārde.
Some towns and regions will be hosting more than one dance party – for example Rēzekne, Alūksne, Daugavpils, Kandava, Gulbene, and Tukums.
Many places are also preparing special all-day programmes to ring in the c. From 5–11 August Brocēni will be hosting the event Industrial Art in Brocēni, where four artists will create four sculptures to be unveiled on 11 August. The Centenary Open-Air Dance Party will be held by the sculptures and in private courtyards. And in Jaunmārupe party-goers will be able to enjoy homemade cakes, ballet performances, and the songs of Eduards Rozenštrauhs by the light of homemade lanterns by the Pavasaris water reservoir at Jaunmārupe Nature Park, which was spruced up especially for this event during the Great Clean-Up. And the district of Lubāna will be hosting an open mic night featuring past and present wedding and party musicians from the entire region. A variety of Centenary Open-Air Dance Party activities will be happening in other places as well, and some municipalities have invited musicians from neighbouring Estonia and Lithuania, which are also celebrating their centenaries this year.
Honoring the zaļumballe phenomenon in Latvia and elsewhere in the world, traditional culture researchers Ieva Vītola and Signe Pucena from the research Group SERDE have published Zaļumballes burtnīca [The Open-Air Dance Party Notebook], where stories about Latvian country dances from various eras and places have been collected, including pre-War Latvia, the Soviet era, and contemporary practices complemented with photographs and posters. This book is a wonderful source of information about this little-studied, yet once hugely popular Latvian tradition.
What were the liveliest traditions, unwritten rules, and good manners of Open-Air Dance Parties of the past? Which melodies and dances were most popular? How did young people travel, secretly or not so secretly, to dance parties many kilometres away? You can read all this and more in one downloadable e-book (in Latvian).
Which Centenary Open-Air Dance Party will you be attending?
Photographs from the pre-party at the University of Latvia's Botanical Gardens on 26 July can be found here: flic.kr/s/aHsmfNJFKj (photographer Kaspars Teilāns).