Last year, the Maribor Folkart, the largest Slovenian folklore celebration, marked 30 consecutive years in existence – three decades’ worth of celebrating intangible cultural world heritage.
Folkart placed the city of Maribor at the centre of the European folklore map and made it into one of the most prominent folklore cities on a global scale.
To mark this impressive anniversary, we dubbed the festival the “Window into the World” and a more apt description could not be bestowed upon it; this window of ours that invites us all to learn and feel new experiences has been swung open once more.
Folkart, which captured the hearts of the people of Maribor a long time ago and made us all rightfully proud of it, has entered its thirty-first year in existence with a bold, happy and optimistic attitude! It calls to all people with a free spirit and open heart who wish to see beyond their immediate horizon.
In June, our city will welcome the most prominent folklore groups from Europe and other, more remote continents. Get ready for the feisty Irish and their dance steps that inspired some of the most famous dance shows; we will be able to experience the softness and pride of Macedonia and the fiery vivacity of the Ukraine. We will marvel at the mysterious culture of the Mayans and Inca from Mexico and embark on an exotic journey to the Guam Islands. Folkart will also look into the eyes of the faraway and mystic land of China and set its sights on the untamed Russian ancestors from Bashkortostan (Bashkiria) hailing from the Western edge of the Urals.
Rounding up this diverse and colourful group from all parts of the globe will be Slovenia, most notably our fellow Mariborians, the Academic Folklore Group Študent.
And so, our world-renowned International CIOFF® folklore festival Folkart will once again clothe our city in the beautiful and diverse colours of cultures from all over the world!
Opening: 25 June at 21.30, Leon Štukelj Square, Maribor
Closing ceremony: 29 June at 21.30, Leon Štukelj Square, Maribor
Republic of Bashkortostan
Dance and song ensemble “Aytugan”, Ufa
The ensemble was founded in 2010 by folk heritage enthusiasts at the Ufa State University. The mastermind behind the ensemble since its very beginning is Alfiya Saifullina. Members of the group are students at the State University.
They hail from Ufa, the capital of this autonomous republic of the Russian Federation situated between the Volga River and the Ural Mountain. Bashkortostan is bordering on various other republics, with the most known being the Republic of Udmurtia and the Republic of Tatarstan.
As is the case with many other countries nested in the massive Russian wastelands, Bashkortostan is a land of contrasts. The Bashkir are a Muslim people of Turkish origin. They were known as shepherds and nomads, who led their flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, horses and camels along carved migration paths. The ancient way of life, the contrasts, and constant change greatly influenced the culture of the nation.
Aside from appearing at home and abroad, members of the ensemble devote plenty of their time to research. They collect and adapt lesser known folk songs and dances, and attempt to revive ancient customs of their people. The ensemble’s repertoire is rich and diverse, featuring Bashkir and Tatar folk dances and songs, as well as the traditional heritage from various parts of the Russian Federation. A professional attitude, youth, charm, energy and passion, and colourful folk attire – with all this and more the ensemble are at the centre of attention and affection wherever they appear.
The “Aytugan” ensemble have become a staple of numerous local and international festivals. This is the first time the Bashkir are coming to Maribor.
Folk dance group “Inetnon Gef Pa'go”, Agana
Guam is the largest archipelago of the Mariana Islands located in the West Pacific, also known as Micronesia. The island of Guam is better known for its strategic military and economic position between Asia and the North American continent than for its complex cultural history. Archaeological finds have shown that seafaring peoples first inhabited these islands over 4000 years ago. These peoples later became known as the Chamorro people.
The island’s tumultuous and bloody history of conquistadores left a great imprint on its culture. Guam was occupied by three different colonial forces – Spain, the US and Japan.
Nowadays, Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States, which is reflected in its modern, American lifestyle. They’ve nonetheless managed to maintain the culture of the indigenous people, the Chamorro. The prehistoric concept “inafa'maolka” – do good for others – is the fundamental value of the traditional Chamorro culture. It is manifested by respecting one’s family, community and the elders.
The ensemble Inetnon Gef Pa'go operates as part of the Historic Inalahan Foundation programme at the Guam Department of Education. Young people work together with masters of the old tradition in representing the heritage of the Chamorro people in main tourist promotional campaigns across the entire island, as well as at festivals all across the globe.
“Absolutely Legless”, Edinburg
Absolutely Legless, a traditional Irish dance group, was formed in 1997 by experienced and respected dancers and musicians in Edinburgh. Through the years of performing all across the world, their innovative performances and quality have firmly entrenched them as a dance group with one of the best interpretations of Irish traditional heritage.
Absolutely Legless draw their inspiration from the deep Irish treasure chest, particularly the Irish hard and soft shoe traditions. Despite their fresh and modern dance approach, they remain true to the deeply-rooted tradition. They excel at mixing the hard shoe dance, which is full and energy and rhythm, with the softness and elegance of the soft shoe dance, creating a truly exciting experience.
We are all more or less familiar with the commercial version of the Irish “tap” dance from the Lord of the Dance musical or the River Dance show. Naturally, the creators of these shows got their ideas from the Irish treasure trove.
It is therefore all the more exciting that we will be able to see and live the real and true Irish tradition in Maribor, which will be, beyond any doubt, a wonderful experience. We will be able to witness an exceptional combination of the Irish dance heritage and authentic Celtic rhythms, courtesy of the backing band filled with tried musicians.
Academic group “Beijing Dance Academy”, Beijing
The Academy, known as the “cradle of dance”, was founded in 1954. Its predecessor, the Beijing Dance School, was the first professional dance school in the People’s Republic of China. The Department of Ethnic Studies and Traditional Dance is one of the leading programmes in China, both in terms of quality and its unique curriculum. The main aim of the programme is to preserve and transfer the Chinese folk dance art to younger generations. The Academy focuses heavily on research, development and modern approach.
China is a vast land, home to numerous minorities, each with their own culture, language, beliefs and customs. It is the most heavily populated country in the world with nearly 1.5 billion people. When thinking of China, we immediately think of nearly 5,000 years of history and ancient culture, the once-ruling dynasties, deeply-rooted tradition, and progress that brings swift change to this traditional image. Despite the progress, respect for cultural heritage is omnipresent; it can be seen in the way of life, in rituals, mode of speech and thought.
The area around the Yellow River is the cradle of Chinese civilization. The excellent artists from the Beijing Dance Academy will bring part of this mysterious and remote world to Maribor with their dances and colourful and finely-woven costumes.
We’ve been trying to bring world-class Chinese folk dance heritage to Maribor for years. We are therefore all the more proud and glad that, for the first ever, for the first time since Maribor Folkart first saw the light of day, we will host live on stage the members of one of the most prestigious and world-renowned traditional Chinese institutions. This great honour is the result of our direct cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China as part of a project to promote cooperation through culture – CEEC (Central Eastern European Countries). Definitely one of the highlights of Folkart.
National song and dance ensemble “Koco Racin”, Skopje
Macedonia is known as the land of the sun, lakes and friendly people. The sun is the symbol of freedom and is pictured on the Macedonian national flag. The country has a rich culture as well as a rich and tumultuous history that had led it through numerous changes, all of which left a mark on the lives of its people. Many still preserve their heritage with love and devotion, which is why the way of life of their ancestors is maintained in a most authentic form.
The glory days of the state of Macedonia came under the rule of Phillip II and, later on, his son Alexander the Great, who turned what was once a small country into a powerful empire. After his death, the empire slowly began to crumble, leading to a conglomerate of different cultures that merged together into the culture of the Macedonian Slavs. Due to its strategic position, Macedonia was often split up during history, but luckily all attempts to destroy Macedonian culture were in vain.
The folklore ensemble Koco Racin from Skopje has been preserving these vast riches of Macedonian culture since 1946. They developed into a world-class folk group that appears at major festivals all across the world.
In their rich history, they received more than 400 national and international awards, recognitions, medals and diplomas, which they have been proud to present in their offices for more than 70 years.
They’ve travelled and appeared all across Europe, Japan, Iran and Iraq, and a few times in Australia, Canada and the US.
They are among the select few folk groups that can easily be labelled as gems of the folk tradition treasure chest. Dancers and musicians of the Koco Racin ensemble are known for their fiery spirit, colourful personalities and top-level quality. We will be able to enjoy an all-round excellent and fiery performance by the young Macedonians at Folkart.
Folklore dance group “Mexico”, Ciudad de México
The group was founded in 2002 in the Mexican capital by choreographers Raquel Barroso Pérez and José Alfredo Soní Perusquía. They’ve received nothing but praise ever since their establishment.
As the homeland of several Indian civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztecs, Mexico saw a fair share of colonial conflicts, which were later followed by clashes with American and French forces as well as bouts of bloody revolution, all of which left a deep mark on their folk heritage.
Music and dance are a way of Mexican life. Spanish tradition is the most obvious and strongest influence, even though several dances are preserved even from before the Spanish times, which is partly owed to early Christian missionaries who encouraged the indigenous peoples to perform their dances to honour and celebrate their new god.
The numerous public events have a special place in the lives of Mexicans. The characteristic Mexican mariachi bands, consisting of violin, trumpet and guitar, can be heard practically at any time of day in the greater part of Mexico, particularly so during various religious celebrations, which are always accompanied by great processions and music. They also preserved indigenous ritual dances, with valador being one of the most famous. While the rise of tourism led to the authentic culture being somewhat forgotten, it did contribute, on the other hand, to many traditional folk expressions being able to survive at all.
On their quest from one world festival to another, the folk dance group from Mexico showcases the multi-layered traditional culture. They preserve the heritage of both the Mayans and Aztecs, as well as the better known Mexican dance tradition accompanied by the music of the mariachi.
The group are bringing to Maribor a large and energetic group and their colourful performance will be a perfect supplement to the Folkart stage.
Folklore dance ensemble “KYIV”, Kyiv
The group was formed in 1999 at the Department of Art and Culture of the Kyiv National University.
Their most important goal is to perform new dances and preserve the best folk and stage-dance samples. The group’s repertoire encompasses the majority of Ukrainian folk dances, as well as other and diverse traditional dance expressions, interesting ideas and creative approaches to stylizing the traditional folk dance art.
Ukrainian folklore stands out with the richness of genre, deep faith and enthusiasm. Before folk heritage was more closely followed and documented, the only way to preserve and share customs, traditions, folk wisdom, views of the world, and ideals of the Ukrainian people was by word of mouth. Folklore not only became a mirror for the most important historical events in the Ukraine, but also a way to preserve numerous archaic pagan myths and dance and song skills, a topic that the Kyiv National University pays special attention to. They were, for example, able to preserve the famous 15th century folk dances such as the Hopak, Kozachok and others.
The world-class skills of the members of the ensemble is the result of targeted and devoted efforts of the teachers and students of the Department of National Choreography.
As members of the ensemble regularly acquire rich performance experience both on the national cultural scene and at leading concert venues, the Kyiv ensemble became an ambassador of academic traditional culture. Their excellence has earned them numerous top-place finishes at competition festivals not only in the Ukraine, but also at international events across Europe. This is the first time the ensemble will appear at Folkart.
Academic folklore dance group “Študent”, Maribor
Our own folklore group, one of the best academic folklore dance groups in Slovenia, has been performing for over five decades. In fact, they are halfway to sixty and need no special introduction. They are excellent promoters of Slovenian culture, both within our land and outside of it.
They are also tireless partners of the International Folklore Festival Folkart in Maribor, and one of the reasons why Folkart became one of the best folklore festivals in Europe and beyond. Hand in hand with the Maribor National Hall, members of the dance group Študent make sure that other Folkart performers have the time of their lives in Maribor and return home having lived through unforgettable experiences.
When they are not performing at Folkart, they are devoted folk dancers, ambassadors of Slovenian folk tradition, who use their youthful energy to make sure that the heritage of generations past finds its way onto stages at national and international venues. They are invited to appear at festivals all over the world, yet they always save their best and shiniest moments for the crowds at Folkart – they have the honour of taking the first dance to kick-off the folk fest in Maribor and the last dance in the last evenings’ closing ceremony.
We look forward to meeting them again at the 31st Festival Folkart.