Central Europe’s largest traditional dance festival kicks-off in Prague

Photo: archive of Prague Folklore Days

Prague is hosting a major traditional culture fest this week - the Prague Folklore Days. Around 50 amateur folklore ensembles from Europe, Asia and Africa have gathered in the Czech capital to show off their musical and dancing skills to the public in various parts of the city. The event launched on Thursday and will continue until Saturday evening.

Photo: archive of Prague Folklore Days
Laced shirts and colourful jackets filled the stage in front of Prague’s Rudolfinum concert hall on Thursday as the 14th Prague Folklore Days kicked off.

It is Central Europe’s largest traditional dance festival and one that organiser Stanislav Terlica says is particularly important in today’s world.

“I think these festivals are very important in the time of globalisation, when differences between countries and continents disappear. We should keep our traditions and the culture that our ancestors used to take care of, because it is our national heritage.”

It may be a celebration of national heritage, but the festival is truly global when it comes to variety as dozens of dancing groups from countries as far away as China, Morocco and Turkey are attending.

Mostly the ensembles come from Europe however, with a particularly large amount having arrived from the Baltic States such as Estonia.

Mr. Terlica says the festival is also giving an opportunity to handicapped folk enthusiasts.

Photo: archive of Prague Folklore Days
“I am very happy that we have a group from Israel which is a group of 10 handicapped people in wheelchairs, who will dance with their caretakers off the stage.”

It is not just dancing that the festival offers. For example, one of the Chinese groups will introduce visitors to the art of calligraphy.

Music fans are likely to appreciate the fact that many of the groups will play on their own traditional instruments and sing folk songs. There are also two wind-brass ensembles from Austria and Germany, as well as two yodelling groups from Switzerland.

On Saturday, a special procession through the Old Town will be led by three marching bands from Sweden, Germany and Austria.

The organisers believe that there is something for everyone and Mr. Terlica encourages visitors to join in the singing and dancing.

Photo: archive of Prague Folklore Days
“There are many people interested in traditional costumes, local dances and traditions in general. Tourists will perhaps have their own programme, but there are many local people who are folklore fans and they like to come. In the end it is for everyone though. There is no specific age group. The groups dance on the stage, but there will also be an interactive programme where they can invite people on to the stage, or they can come down and dance with visitors.”

The festival has been a popular annual event since 2007, but this year it will not feature any Czech groups.

According to Mr. Terlica it is difficult persuading them to perform in their own country during the summer holidays, as they traditionally use this time to travel abroad. However, he says that one of the groups, and ensemble from Eastern Slovakia, is slightly similar in its customs.