Dance

Search

Rosamaria E. Kostic Cisneros

Norway and Czech Republic: Yagori Festival, Goran Zoric and Khamoro Festival

image
Finale 2011

Zoran Garić | Finale 2011 | photography | Norway | 2011 - Dec. 1, 2011 | dan_00187 Rights held by: Zoran Garić | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Zoran Garić – Private Archive | More at: www.fotoZ.no

Introduction

Europe is now flush with dance festivals. Major European cities regularly host their own Roma festivals, which involve artists from all over the continent. As Roma dance festivals continue to proliferate, Romani artists are able to use them as platforms from which to share their work with Roma and non-Roma alike. Many of the festivals also feature non-Romani artists who have devoted themselves to the study and dissemination of various Romani dances. The editorial team of the ‘Dance’ section of the RomArchive has chosen to focus on festivals at which Roma and non-Roma artists perform and teach alongside one another, reflecting the modern approach that curators of Romani festivals are frequently taking today.

Yagori Festival (Oslo, Norway)

It is important to note from the outset that romantic ideas about ‘Gypsiness’ continue to prevail in the marketing of Romani music (Malvinni, 2004). Many music festivals commercialise on stereotypical ideas and images in order to attract audiences and boost ticket sales. Our focus in this section is on a festival organised by Roma and at which a majority of performers are of Romani origin. In our Festival Collection, we have included works by the photographer Zoran Garic, who has officially documented the Yagori Festival.

The Yagori Festival is an international Romani music festival that has been taking place annually in Oslo, Norway since 1998. The festival was initiated by the famous Romani singer Raya and her family. Raya performed with the Romen Theatre when it toured the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. She settled in Moscow and eventually became one of the theatre’s leading actors. In 1967 she moved to Norway, which marked the beginning of her international career. She has recorded many albums and toured to great acclaim in Europe, America and Asia. One of the most influential Romani artists, Raya has been involved in human rights and the Romani rettigheter (Romani Rights). In recognition of her work, she has been elected to the parliament of the International Romani Union.

Among her main achievements is the establishment of the Yagori Festival, which was well received from its inception and has grown to become a major part of the Oslo cultural scene. One of the festival’s goals is to showcase leading international Romani musicians, thereby using music and culture to improve the general public’s understanding and knowledge of Roma and other minority groups in what is an increasingly multicultural Norway.

Raya performs ‘Million Alyh Roz’ at the Tenth Yagori Festival, Oslo, Norway (2008).

Rights held by: Zoran Garić | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Zoran Garić – Private Archive | More at: www.fotoZ.no

Natasha Udovikova Bielenberg is Raya’s daughter. At the age of seven, she made her debut at the Romen Theatre in Moscow, Russia and was well received. Natasha Bielenberg has been dancing for more than fifty years and has developed her own style, which combines male and female dances and gestures. She choreographed the ‘Gypsy’ part of Madonna’s ‘Sticky & Sweet Tour’ in 2008/09. Since 1998 Natasha Udovikova Bielenberg and her family have been the driving force behind the Yagori Festival. Moreover, she promotes the Romani heritage not only on stage but also offstage, working in schools to educate students about the Romani Holocaust and the various degrees of discrimination that the Romani community has experienced over time.

Natasha Udovikova Bielenberg dancing at the Yagori Festival, Oslo, Norway (2013)

Rights held by: Zoran Garić | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Zoran Garić – Private Archive | More at: www.fotoZ.no

The Yagori Festival Collection features more than sixty photographs by Zoran Garic, which vibrantly capture Romani dancers and musicians from all corners of Europe. Featuring artists ranging from flamenco dancers to Romanian and East European groups, the collection accurately reflects the diversity within the Romani dance community.

Garic was born in Novi Travnik, Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1966. While still studying journalism, he began working in a photo shop in 1987 and since then has been taking photographs. ‘For me it’s not just a job, it's a passion’, he says. ‘I met Raya and Natasha in 2008 and two years later I asked them if I could come and take some photos at the Yagori Gypsy Music Festival’. He has been working with Raya and Natasha since 2010 and is excited to be part of twentieth Yagori Festival in 2018: ‘I will be there with my cameras. My love for photography will never disappear, and I hope the same goes for Yagori’.

Zlata Demetr dancing at the Yagori Festival, Oslo, Norway (2011)

Rights held by: Zoran Garić | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 Interantional | Provided by: Zoran Garić – Privat Archive | More at: www.fotoZ.no

Finale at the Yagori Festival, Oslo, Norway (2010)

Rights held by: Zoran Garić | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Zoran Garić – Private Archive | More at: www.fotoZ.no

Puerto Flamenco finale at the Yagori Festival, Oslo, Norway (2011)

Rights held by: Zoran Garić | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Zoran Garić – Private Archive | More at: www.fotoZ.no

Khamoro Festival (Prague, Czech Republic)

Khamoro (which means ‘sun’ in the Romani language) is the largest and most famous festival in the world featuring professional Romani artists. The festival, which since 1999 has been organised by the Prague-based non-governmental organisation Slovo 21, regularly features unique concerts in which Romani groups and bands from all over the world take part. It also includes exhibitions, film events, dance workshops as well as specialist seminars and conferences exploring Romani themes. But the cornerstone of the festival is without doubt Romani music, which is an important part of the world's cultural heritage.

Nearly 140,000 people from the Czech Republic and elsewhere have attended the Khamoro Festival in recent years; indeed, from the very beginning, the festival attracted visitors from outside the Czech Republic, including from the US, Canada and South Africa.

Over the past couple of decades or so, the festival has brought the best of Romani culture to Prague every year in the last week of May. Khamoro has established itself not just as the celebration of one community but as a social cultural event for both Roma and non-Roma alike: on the dance stages and in the halls, people of every nationality, ethnicity and age group come together to enjoy themselves.

Since it was established in 1999, the Khamoro Festival has hosted more than 160 professional Romani bands from more than forty countries around the world. Over the years, it has enjoyed the support of many famous Czech figures, such as Václav Havel, Petr Pithart, Libuše Benešová and Ramiro Cibrian.