People, who danced or have been dancing here for eight, ten and even more years say, that the “Częstochowa” Song and Dance Ensemble is the biggest adventure in their lives. They also say that the love for folklore is like an incurable germ – injected in their childhood lasting forever. Even if someone stopped dancing, the presence of this “germ” would be seen in some of the details of their clothing or decorative elements in the house.
On Saturday evening of 23rd November 2013, the stage of Częstochowa Philharmonic Hall undividedly belonged to Folk Song and Dance Ensemble “Częstochowa”, which celebrated its 35th anniversary. Tickets were already sold out a few weeks before the performance. Preparations lasted many months, with over 100 dancers on the stage due to the “50+” dancers joining the basic group, who took their first steps in dancing almost 35 years ago.
From Kaszuby to Beskidy
“In 1978 when there was the first recruitment to the Ensemble, there were almost 200 candidates,” says Danuta Morawska, manager of Częstochowa Dance Ensemble for 26 years. “From this group of people 150 were selected, with whom the trainings begun. One year later the first program was presented – groups of dances and folk songs of Częstochowa’s region.”
There were a few twists in history. The existence of Częstochowa Dance Ensemble was in serious danger at some point but managed to escape. In 1990s, the 20th Century Ensemble, whose first patron was Częstochowa’s textiles facilities, and then Provincial Centre of Culture, was taken under the wings of Centre of Culture Promotion “Gaude Mater” in Częstochowa.
First having modest repertoires, it has been expanding every year by the new dance schemes. Now, depending on the character of the concert, the company can perform suites from regions of Częstochowa, Lublin, Silesia, Beskidy Mountains, Cieszyn, Kaszuby, Kurpie and others. In its repertoire it also has Polish national dances and two custom, outdoors spectacles: “Częstochowa Wedding” and “Midsummer Night”. The Ensemble represented Poland multiple times during international festivals in: China, Brazil and USA, thanks to the high artistic level and rich repertoire. It was also the face of Częstochowa during concerts that took place in Częstochowa’s partner cities like Graz (Austria), Pforzheim (Germany), Loreto (Italy), Lourdes (France), Rezekne (Latvia). Overall, the Ensemble has already performed concerts in 21 countries on 4 continents.
Over the past 35 years there has been 2 thousand people learning, singing and folk dancing with respect equally for tradition and the history of Poland. Currently the Ensemble consists of 80 members who are working in 4 different age groups. As in all of the disciplines, the beginnings are the hardest. “The road to the first concert is long and arduous,” says Danuta Morawska . “People outside the Ensemble think, that they’re going to come to 3-4 trainings and they will be dancing instantly. In the meantime, grinding elementary skills before the first concert lasts a year, often two or three years. Most of the people resign at this point, but when they finally go out on the stage and receive their first applause, they are already hooked by the “germ” that stays with them forever. Even if they leave to another city to study, they are still searching for the contact with the other folk groups.”
The artists’ efforts are not only the time sacrificed for their trainings; it is also a solicitous concern for the outfits. Apart from the kujawiak’s or oberek’s (Polish national dances) figures, they have to learn how to wash and starch cotton shirts and underskirts as well, how to iron ruffles and laces. Those, who take part in many suites, must have a few costumes and because of their authenticity, they are made from the natural materials. That is a lot to carry on long journeys.
Within 35 years the Ensemble has gathered a large collection of awards from festivals and competitions. Among these there is a Grand Prix – statue of “Szczyglik” and the Award of Silesia Marshal in Adolf Dygacz Children Song Competition “Silesia Singing”(“Śląskie Śpiewanie”). It is a particularly valuable trophy because in the history of this competition Częstochowa Song and Dance Ensemble was the first group except of Silesia to win the main prize. “It make us all happy, but our most important success is considering the fact that we still exist, because in the years of political change many good amateur companies failed to survive,” says Danuta Morawska. “Our pedagogical success is very important. We have numerous groups of our former dancers that are professionally engaging in choreography and dance – some of those were even accepted to “Śląsk” Ensemble. Also, we alone, as a group are more self-sufficient – the assistant of our artistic chief is our former student. Moreover our youngest age groups are led by our dancers.”
“I danced in Częstochowa Ensemble for 10 years,” says Magdalena Winkler. “This is an unforgettable and special chapter in my life. Now, my seven year old daughter Natalia asks if she can sign up as well.”
This is not the only case when next generations want to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Work in the Ensemble favors in making friends and also growing mature love. Some people from the Ensemble would often get married and there are even children who, inspired by their parents stories, are working their way up on the stage. The Ensemble is not lacking in audience and candidates for now mean that Polish folklore is not an extinct relict. Shown in an interesting, artistic and authentic way, the Ensemble delights audiences both in Poland and abroad. It’s surprising that the most important media presents the Ensemble in a very restricting way. If some music genres were successfully ennobled in the form of different television channels then why are folklore groups only watched during special occasions, as if we were ashamed of them?
Source: Niedziela – Tygodnik Katolicki, 26.11.2013