When you move to a new country, you will (almost) certainly be curious about its culture and how similar or different it is to your own. Estonia has had its own distinct culture for thousands of years, and newcomers usually start experiencing it by traveling around Estonia, starting mostly in Tartu or Tallinn and traveling to the gorgeous nature which fills Estonia. Alternatively, their first experiences with Estonian culture might come through trying  Estonian food, or from visiting different historical sites and museums. However, I went in a different direction: I chose to start exploring Estonia through dancing.

As a guy who is coming from a country that appreciates dancing, I do know how much it has given nations the opportunity to record their experiences, feelings, and personalities, just as in my home country, where we have several types of dance which present different sides of my culture. However, when I arrived in Estonia, I had not yet realized how much I enjoy dancing. I have been to several dance concerts but never had the chance to practice it until I arrived in Tartu.

One thing I love about Tartu is that it gets the best out of you. In addition to studying hard, you can still do your hobbies and have a great time. This is why I love Tartu. Therefore, it did not take me long to do my first dance practice, probably a fortnight after I arrived, I was invited to a Latin dance class by one of my colleagues. That experience was what led me to realize how much I dig dancing. It all came together when I found out about Estonian folk dance: I was amazed by the marvelous performances I watched online. The movements are usually simple steps in a circle or line, with a lead dancer, or a pair of lead dancers, who would show the others the direction of steps. I never thought I could be a part of such thing, but again, this is how great Tartu is: there are always opportunities for people who look for them.

It came to my knowledge that the University of Tartu offers traditional dance courses, two of them as a matter of fact. I applied as soon as I could, however, one of the two courses was already full, so I registered for the other one. I tried to find the course location on Google Maps just to discover that the course is located outside of Tartu, in Viljandi, a town which is 70km from Tartu. I was really disappointed at the time! So, I registered for the other course – Traditional Dance (HVVK.14.008) – which takes place here in Tartu, at Riia st 25 – and stayed in the waiting list hoping to get a place before the course starts, and fortunately, I did.

The first day of the dance class was a bit hard for me, but it was still a lot of fun. The instructor walked us step by step into the dance movements and guided us through the practice until we mastered it. Moreover, she illustrated the meaning of the dance to make us feel the movements, in addition to how to communicate with your partner and group dancers to carry out a masterpiece performance. In addition, if you love violin music then you are in a big surprise because we perform the dance on a live Estonian music played by a talented violinist! Needless to say, this class has become my escape from the stress of my study, and the dance floor is a great place to meet awesome people, and make new friends, not only Estonians but several international students join as well.

Finally, if you want to witness a live Estonian folk dance, then Tartu is hosting the “Wintry Tartu Folk Dance Day” on mid of December, at 1 p.m. on Town Hall Square. Dancers from Tartu and Tartu County will perform folk dances and simple group dances. I cannot wait to watch the marvelous show, can you?

Check the pictures from last year’s performance here, and do not miss your opportunity to experience the magic while you have the chance!