Resources > Estonian Song and Dance Festival Foundation
03 Sep 2010

Estonian Song and Dance Festival Foundation

The Estonian Song and Dance Festival Foundation organizes the festival from which it borrows the name. The Festival traces its tradition back to a first song festival in 1869. Since then, Choirs compete during the national song festival.

The 1860s marked the beginning of a period of National Awakening. The Song Celebration tradition began with the first Song Celebration organized by Johann Voldemar Jannsen and the “Vanemuine” society in Tartu from 18-20 June 1869. 51 male choirs and brass bands encompassing 845 singers and musicians gathered in Tartu.

The first Song Celebration was high point for the Estonian national movement. The Song Celebration was also great musical event, which created the Song Celebration tradition. The Song Celebration have taken place regardless of the political situation. The term “singing nation” expresses well the Estonian identity that has united the nation in its struggle for national independence before 1918 and during the period of the Soviet Occupation (1941-1991).

The greatest Dance Celebration of all times (the 9th) took place in 1970 with over 10000 performers. By then a structure based age groups had developed with performers including toddler and seniors, the dancing veterans. The youngest dancer at this festival was 4 years old and the oldest 76! All the following festivals have had the optimal 8000 performers.

The Dance Celebration is a complete performance with a certain theme. The dancers in their bright national costumes from several colourful patterns on the dance field. The Dance Celebration is usually held on the same weekend as the Song Celebration. These two celebrations commence with a united festive parade through the city from the centre of Tallinn to the Song Festival Grounds.

In November 2003, UNESCO declared Estonias’s Song and Dance Celebration tradition a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

In July 2004 about 100 000 people participated in the XXIV Song Celebration and the XVII Dance Celebration, either as performers pr spectators. For the first time in the history of the festival, the dance performace and the official parade were cancelled due to strong rain, however, 7000 people organized a spontaneous parade.