Once a year in December, folk dancers from all over Estonia gather together on the cobblestones of Tartu's Town Hall Square (Raekoja Plats) for the traditional Tartu Winter Dance Day. This year's event saw a record number of people involved, including over a thousand folk dancers.
Usually, the busiest time for folk dance parties in Estonia is in the summer. So, the annual Tartu Winter Dance Day, which took place this Saturday, was one of the few times during the colder months, when hundreds of dancers get all dressed up in their traditional folk costumes and come together to perform.
"It's very nice to dance here, in such a big crowd. After a long time, we can finally come to the Winter Dance Festival, we feel really positive. We can dance ourselves warm, so that's why it's so good to be here," said Ilmar, one of the folk dancers involved in this year's event.
For some participants, this was their third, fourth or even tenth Tartu Winter dance Day, with the numbers involved growing every year. This year, more than a thousand dancers took part, weaving their way around the square between the huge Christmas tree and glass houses of the Tartu Christmas village.
Kati and Meelis for instance, travelled to Tartu from Viimsi to take part. "It's the first time we've been (for this), so it's a really good feeling," said Kati.
All kinds of traditional Estonian folk dances were performed on the day, some more well-known than others. "We've been searching the archives for a few 'old numbers' that haven't been danced for a long time and made our own arrangements for them here," said Robin Gielen, artistic director of the Winter Dance Day.
"In fact, they're all things like that, which every folk dancer has, at some point, tried their hand at," Gielen said.
Of course, the folk dancing in traditional costumes is all accompanied by live music, which this year was provided by Regina Mänd, Kert Krüsban and Villu Talsi.
"The way musicians play is like in the old days. If they want, they play faster, or they play slower. That makes it more interesting for the dancers too. Musicians don't play the same rhythm all the time, otherwise they would get bored. The same is true for dancers, I think," Gielen said.
Editor: Michael Cole