Nostalgia? No, thanks!

each society has certain set of rules which they obey...

Couple of weeks ago I decided to go to the Latvian dance concert in Brussels. Up until now I have never gone to yearly festivals organized by the small Latvian community here in Brussels, nor to regular concerts, theater plays, card or football games. I just did not have the need. And then for no obvious reason I decided that I should give it a chance. It was my first try in 5 years. Did I learn something? Definitely one thing: I have no intention to live in the past.

I do agree that it is important not to loose your connection with the country that you’ve been born. I do agree that it is important that we as a small nation would not forget to be proud of what we have. But I also think that we should be able to live with the time and present not only our past but also how we as nation are now – in the 21st century.

The concert that I went to was clearly not agreeing on this point. Maybe I am not a typical Latvian and nobody else from my compatriots would share my opinion, but I don’t understand why would you create surroundings for concert like it was in soviet times – when concert is made not in place for concerts, but in a hall…  Of course, Latvia is experiencing an economical death (or almost so) but the concert was organized here for people that live here. For people that were paying for entrance…. And if you are paying for entrance, you have certain amount of expectations… The “being in the hall” somehow ruined the whole ambiance.. I mean  that was a first impression when you enter the room – a hallway is made into “concert room” with cheap chique.

Trying to please all

What else was weird to me was that it was a compilation of dance show and singing little children. I am not in the category yet where I would appreciate little children singing about milk (I leave that appreciation for new parents and grandparents), so for me this was something unnecessary. And it is a pity that they did so – because the dance show was great – as Latvian dance is full of joy and playfulness and the dancers seemed to enjoy what they were doing, it was something that makes you smile and have more endorfines… To illustrate how playful Latvian folk dances can be,  watch the video of Latvian dance!

From time to time I also have to remind myself that Latvia is really close to Russia, so, our mentality (or at least those who grew up in soviet times) has a lot of influences from them. So, here we are sitting when suddenly a girl from dance show is passing by the tables (yes, we had little tables and plastic seats and we were supposed to bring our own food and drinks) and giving out words for the songs. Not only that, but she states: “all of you have to have this. we all are going to sing.” Well, not me… I did not subscribe for this (even though I must say that my friend Evita sitting next to me managed to make me “sing” along couple of lines in the end). This sense of – you’ll have to do this now – when I thought that I am coming to relax there… it kind of made me think that I don’t appreciate these kind of concerts 🙂

Bad jokes are no no

Third thing that startled me was that all show was put together with jokes.. that did work in Latvia but when they are put on in the show here, they just sound lame. Especially because big part of local Latvians were coming with their other non-Latvian halves. I was listening to those jokes and I could clearly imagine how much people in Latvian countryside would appreciate it. Even my parents maybe would. But for me that was something that does not fit in and sounds artificial…

The feeling that I got from this event was that they meant well.. they really did. they thought that all that Latvians miss here is the ambiance from the country in 90ies and they wanted to provide a piece of that time. And I am sure that part of the community misses that and was happy to receive that gift. The past. But I am not part of that community. For better or worse…

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One thought on “Nostalgia? No, thanks!

  1. I do agree with you! Lately I have been trying to look up some kind of Latvian communities in the UK. Not because I would like to join them, just out of curiosity. I have to admit that all the web pages aimed at Latvians are quite boring and stiff. Latvian community centers and organizations don’t even try to attract young people. I still hope to find something good and prove myself wrong.
    Young Latvians living abroad try to assimilate in the local culture. As you said, it is important not to loose connection with your country. But nobody wants lame cultural leftovers being poured down their throats.
    Maybe there is an open space for reintroducing Latvian culture in a tasteful and up to date way. Maybe it is already been done and I just haven’t found it jet. Or maybe we just live our lives and hope to dissolve in the culture we are in.

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