SLOVENIAN FOLKLORE IN AUSTRALIA
This discussion was announced in the Slovenian Immigrant calendar, 2000 and repeated with a few adjustments.
Traditions from the old country.
Traditional folk dances were in existence and very much alive in Slovenian villages up until the war years. The same dances were embraced all over Slovenia. Those same dances are adapted to suit the town or the entire area. The Slovenian dance tradition can be divided into three types;
The older dances include elemental free dancing: walk, run, jump. The bridge configuration is employed most often. The paired dancing uses more elemental moves. The important one is the play of hands where there is scope for improvisation.
The changing of steps is the most used. Many dances of younger origin are in two parts. The first part is a group configuration , the second part is a polka or rotations. Names of dances: štajeriš, lendler, ta potrkana, nojkatoliš, zibenšrit, mrzulin, mazurka, sotiš, potowčena, kosmatača, kapucinarska, angelska, šuštarska, točak …
Although the newer dances are of foreign origin, they explore tempo and style. Slovenians dance faster and more dynamically with movement of circles being more temperamental and free.
Older dances include different singing and instumental accompaniment or change of vocal style.
The majority of Slovenian dances are done to instumental compositions according to the area and time. For example,in the 1600’s bagpipes were used. In the 1700’s the violin made an appearance, in the 1800’s different types of violins. In the 1900’s came wind and brass .
In Rezija, the violine and a small bass with three tones was used and in Primorje, the clarinet, bass violin was used,
And in Gorenjska, two clarinets, two violins and a bass accordion were used.
Most dance melodies have a 2/4 or 3/4 beat. In Rezij and in the Zilj valley, we see changes to the usual beat and this is evident in the folk songs.
The majority of the old dances of the period between the two wars faded from memory ( went out of fashion), the main town were introduced to the polka and waltz. This has lasted to modern times and is greatly influenced by the growth of dance schools across Slovenia, where modern and standard dancing is popular.
Old dances are alive though seldom seen. Folk groups are preserving them (there are more than 300 dance groups over Slovenia). The function of dancing has been changed. They have been re-worked for the stage, for viewers.
In 1935, France Marolt established the folkloric institute and with the help from assistants began to draft a collection of folk songs and dances. In 1948, under the guidance of the Ljubljana University, they were assigned six pairs of students who would demonstrate what had been written by professionals. This is counted as the beginning of folklore in Slovenia. The exception was the folkloric group from Beltinci
(Prekmurje), who had been displaying their for ten years previously. The years after the Second World War were not inclined to show folk dancing.
This was the beginning of folklore, which expanded after 1974, with the growth of tourism and amateur culture and with a more or less peaceful political bent. Republican seminars were organised, books were printed about national costumes and dances. Then came records, cassettes and videos.
Dancing was always the unwritten right of unmarried youth. These were the ones who were most likely to be going to dances and parties, as they do today. Apart from some dance games, Slovenians don’t have dances for children although they do eventually take over the adult traditions.
In 1972, Mrs. Košorok organised the first youth folk group with Sydney’s Triglav club. Soon, Melbourne was to Establish the folk group, Rdeci cvet. After two years of work, both the groups ceased to exist.
Weddings, children and family followed. Children grow quickly and so Saturday or Sunday Slovenian language school drew many children. These children in Sydney were then organised by Mrs. Košorok. She named the group Planika.
She got musicians and with the help of other women and mothers, sewed the costumes and she herself, taught them the same dances which her grandfather taught her. If she came across a better teacher she encouraged them to assist.
Folkloric activity Increased from 1975 and reached Its height with the highest number of children and performances.
In this time, Mrs. Kosorok also organised two groups of dancers in Wollongong.
In 1975 and 1977, the Australian-Slovenian club Planica from Wollongong organised with great enthusiasm, a ‘Slovenian Country-Style Wedding’ which demanded lot of work and preparation and good spirit and attracted many participants and a big audience.
In Melbourne the folk dancing was for the children and teenagers. At the Slovenian club at Eltham, they were taught by Mrs. Draga Gelt OAM and at the Slovenian club Planica, Mrs. Meta Lenarčič was the teacher, At both the clubs the dancers practised regularly, depending on the show in the program. Much of the music at Planica was arranged by Lenti Lenko OAM. The Slovenian Catholic church in Australia, under the guidance of the Franciscan priests, organised yearly youth concerts. The dancers from Planica performed at them around 23 times.
The dance group of Slovenian Association Melbourne danced at at least 10 youth concerts and many performances in South Australia and Albury Wodonga, at Moomba and many local Multicultural festivals.
In 1986 to 1992 dancers were very active in Geelong under the guidance of Stephanie Matkovič.
The Slovenians in Adelaide also had a children’s folkloric group.
In 1980 the children from the Sydney club Triglav were organised by the experienceed Mrs. Ema Nikolic who, very professionally and with hard work, prepared the children’s group so well that, In 1985 and 1986, they performed at the multicultural festival in the famous Sydney Opera House. They danced dances from Gorenjska, Bela krajina, and Prekmurje.
The remaining clubs in Brisbane, Perth, Mildura, Albury-Wodonga, Newcastle, Hobart and others, always had a pair of dancers on loan, to perform in national costume and represent the Slovenian groups in that area.
In 1987, the Slovenian organisations in Australia, with the assistance of S.I.M. prepared a five week seminar on folklore with experts from Slovenia, at clubs in NSW, and in Canberra. Drago Kunej played the accordion and the singing, and Ljuba Vrtovec taught the dancing in national costume.
After this visit they danced successfully for two years in Wollongong under the tutelage of Ivan Rudolf and in Canberra by Barbara Falež and a year later by Brigite Osolnik. The newly built Slovenian club in Sydney supported the folkloric activities from 1987 onwards. There were children’s and youth groups under the leadership of Ivan Koželj.
All those times, the groups were accompanied by Rudi Črnčec on accordion.
Until 2010 they had a large children’s group, Mali Prešeren, under the leadership of Ivan Koželj. All Slovenian folk groups danced at traditional Slovenian club performances on; Slovenian cultural day- 8th February, Lent, Mothers and Fathers Days, Sports meeting of bowling, Slovenian national day, Select dances in Australian surrounds, Youth concert at the church community, St. Nicholas, Visits from political, cultural and church representatives from Slovenia, Slovenian camps and festivals in Melbourne.
Australia has, in the last 70 years, seen the flourishing of multiculturalism and there is no shortage of multinational shows such as ; National days, Multicultural festivals in Sydney, Canberra and elsewhere, the year of the child, parade of ethnic schools, Easter markets, various exhibitions, folk festivals like Natfolk and Auz dance, Moomba in Melbourne and many other opportunities to display.
Slovenian national costumes in Australia.
The biggest break from tradition was in the manufacture of national costumes. In the beginning they made mostly national costumes from Gorenjska, as it has played an important part at the time of national awakening.
Pictures on postcards were often the only guide to the makeup of the costumes.
This simplified example of the Slovenian alpine costume was an aid for the first Slovenians in Australia, so they could place themselves equally among other national groups living in Australia. Slovenians were very proud of their national costumes and more of the prizes and acknowledgement which was received because of it.
Ljuba Vrtovec Pribac and Reference: MIRKO RAMOVŠ. Plesat me pelji; plesno izročilo na Slovenskem. Ljubljana, Cankarjeva založba, 1980.
In 1969, first Slovenian youth folkdancing group in Australia was established, organized, taught and led by Draga Setnikar, now Gelt at the Religious and Cultural centre at Kew. They danced dances from Gorenjska, Prekmurje, Bela Krajina, Primorska and Koroška. Sister Ksaverija made the national costumes of each region. The music was arranged from the books and played by Walter and Guy Pahor. The dances were taught from the books by Tončka Marolt.
In later years Viki Mrak taught a group Rožmarin, mainly dancing Gorenjska dances, but Sr Petra Kropich lead the youth dancing group which danced Prekmurje dances as well.
In late 90’s sisters Wendy and Kristine Cestnik established group Iskra, whose leaders have changed: Leah Fistric, Meta Lenarčič, Michelle and Melissa Fistrič with the guidance of Draga Gelt OAM.
The dancing groups of Religious centre have performed at all youth concerts in the last 35 years. Most of the dancers of the group Iskra and the teachers were members of Slovenian Association Melbourne.
It is much harder, and it is a greater challenge, to teach children with no dancing knowledge, or youth, to dance, than the adults with dancing experience.
The teacher has to start from the very beginning: the basic steps, moves, formations, listening to the music and applies choreography where possible.
The 3 dancing groups of Slovenan Association Melbourne: children, youth and adults, led by Draga Gelt OAM performed in Victoria, ACT, NSW and South Australia with various dances and dance formations.
The national costumes were made according to the instructions and patterns from the book Slovenska narodna noša - Slovenian national costumes.
Draga Gelt OAM, some information from the book Chronicle of Slovenian Schools and Slovenian Language Teachers in Australia
FOLK DANCING GROUPS:
Slovenian Association Melbourne
Slov. Religious Centre Kew
Slov. Assoc. Ivan Cankar Geelong
Slov. Assoc. Planica
Slov. Assoc. Sydney
Slov. Club Jadran
Slov. Assoc. Canberra
Slov. Club Perth
Slov. Assoc. Adelaide
Slov. Assoc. Planinka, Brisbane
Slov. Folk Dancing Group Iskra, Melbourne