Pärimus ja jäljendus. Postkolonialistlik katse mõista rahvatantsu olukorda Eesti NSV-s ja pärast seda. Tradition and Mimicry


  • Sille Kapper Tallinna Ülikool




Estonian dance history and traditions can in some respects be viewed as colonised culture. Folk dance research can help clarify which period or periods in our history could be discussed within the framework of colonialism. In this article, I analyse a style of staged folk dance, posing the question if a colonial situation came into being in Soviet-occupied Estonia in 1940 – 1991, and whether or not any colonial traits can be observed in Soviet Estonian cultural life and arts. The limits for what constitutes folk dance became extremely wide during the course of the 20th century, and came to encompass traditional as well as staged folk dances. The creation and performance of the latter became particularly popular in the days of the Estonian SSR. Looking at stylised dances performed at dance festivals or amateur concerts through the prism of post-colonialism could help find markers pointing to the colonial situation within the Soviet-era compositions. Stage and stadium performances at times share more similarities with classical ballet and character dance than with traditional dance – a situation which inspires to interpretations through Homi Bhabha’s notion of mimicry (Estonian: jäliendus; Annus 2003: 138–139). The style based on homogenization and other canons of classical dance has even after the re-independence of Estonia preserved the characteristics which came into being during the colonial period; out of the colonial interference, a new tradition has been born (for comparison, see Bhabha’s ’English book’). In post-colonial Estonia, the tradition of staged folk dances has little in common with folklore and a lot in common with performance arts. The hybrid art form which came into being mimicring a colonialising culture has its own – and if dance festivals are also taken into account – rather broad following of amateurs and spectators, in certain respects representing or wishing to represent the entire nation. At the same time, the paths of form and content have been different: if the outside has stayed true to the different forms resulting from defensive adaptation, the contents can after the restoration of independence be said to have returned to the values of patriotism and national romanticism which were ascribed to folk dances before the Second World War. Thus, the colonialist echoes of the Soviet regime within contemporary Estonian culture are reflected in staged folk dance.


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