Care to dance?

Riga Travel Blog

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view from the balcony
One of the most unforgettable moments in my trip thus far, came from an unexpected source. Riga is hosting a Latvian song and dance festival this week. It occurs every five years and fills the town with choirs and dancers from across the country. I missed the actual parade, but couldn't miss the pageant of traditionally costumed participants, roaming the streets, flowers in hair.

On Tuesday, Kristine, Gita, Keiko and I went to watch the "Choir Wars." Their friend Edite was singing and it would be a great way to witness Latvian folk culture. I can't say enough for the beauty of the songs or how enjoyable it was to sit and listen. I assumed it would stop at that, but in the end, the choir wars were the least interesting part.

After the final choir, while we waited for the judges' results, the real entertainment kicked in.
couldn't resist joining in
To pass the time, they invited everyone to the front to dance. We watched, smiling, from the balcony, thinking "that would be a fun way to experience the culture." Of course it didn't really dawn on me to be brave enough to actually try it until Keiko insisted we all go down. Our Latvian locals knew all the dances, so it was up to Gita, Edite and Kristine to lead Keiko and I around the dancing circle.

It's possible I've never had so much fun dancing. Or been as sweaty. And the sole downfall of the evening was that, in the midst of all the heel-to-toe hopping and twirling, I think I may have fractured my foot. Perhaps that's a bit dramatic. Without a proper doctor's inspection, I'm forced to make my own analysis and hobble around in the meantime. All I know is, I can no longer two-step with the best of them and the unattractive and extremely inconvenient limp will linger for weeks to come.

But back to the evening. After the dancing subsided, Keiko and I looked at each other in astonishment when the entire hall of onlookers simultaneously burst into a perfectly-pitched Latvian ballad. And like a flock of migrating birds, they'd switch songs without the slightest indication of instruction.

This continued until almost 3 in the morning: the entire audience sang song after song in perfect unison, and the two americans stared in awe and cultural jealousy.
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view from the balcony
view from the balcony
couldnt resist joining in
couldn't resist joining in
sweaty as hell, but loving it
sweaty as hell, but loving it