A mutual love of music and dance

QUESTIONS often arise around St Patrick’s Day (on March 17) about the similarities and differences between Slovak and Irish culture, which, despite the two countries’ geographical distance, manage to seem connected.

QUESTIONS often arise around St Patrick’s Day (on March 17) about the similarities and differences between Slovak and Irish culture, which, despite the two countries’ geographical distance, manage to seem connected.

Irish Ambassador to Slovakia Anne-Marie Callan explained when asked by The Slovak Spectator about the aspects of Irish culture that resonate the most in Slovakia: “Irish literature, music and dance are very popular. Ireland has a strong literature tradition and Irish literature is readily available in Slovakia. The works of a number of Irish writers, including Sebastian Barry, Colm Tóibín and children’s writer Darren Shan, have been translated into Slovak and are sold in Bratislava bookshops. Folk music and dance are widely appreciated in both Ireland and Slovakia and folk festivals attract a lot of interest.”

On the possible similarities between the two cultures, she added that it may emanate from our shared Celtic roots, but as mentioned above, the two countries’ love of music and dance is definitely mutual.

Conversely, “Slovak folk music and dance can be enjoyed in Ireland, where Slovak-Irish violinist Vladimir Jablokov is quite popular. Jablokov has played in some of Ireland’s most prestigious venues, including The Mansion House, The Gaiety Theatre, Marley Park, Cork Opera House, Limerick University Concert Hall and the National Concert Hall.”

Irish dance seems to be especially popular, although it differs somewhat from Slovak folk dance. “Irish dance is thriving in Slovakia,” Callan told The Slovak Spectator.

“Irish dancing classes are available from Bratislava to Banská Bystrica to Košice. Schools such as the Avalon Academy of Irish Dance, Connemara, Eire Dance Academy and the Stefan Toth Irish Dance School, as well as music groups like Irish Rose and Duo Shade, are instilling a love of Irish music and dance into generations of Slovak students with impressive results.”

She maintains that the Riverdance phenomenon brought Irish music and dance to the world stage during the 1994 Eurovision contest, creating a surge of interest worldwide.

“A new generation of very talented Slovak teachers and students are ensuring that the strong interest in Irish dance will be sustained into the future,” the ambassador concluded.

As for specific events and projects supported by the Irish Embassy in Slovakia, she said: “To mark the opening of the Irish EU Presidency, the embassy supported two concerts, including a live public concert by the celebrated Irish folk group, The Kilkennys, which was broadcast on Slovak Radio, and a performance by the folk group We Banjo 3; both concerts were very well received.

In addition, the embassy supported a very well-attended concert by the talented Irish singer and song writer Cathy Davey at the Pohoda music festival.

In March, the embassy supported the launch of the Slovak translation of a book of poetry by the Irish Poet, John F. Deane. A celebration of James Joyce and Bloomsday, featuring Professor Anne Fogarty and Songs of Joyce performed by Sinead Murphy and Darina Gallagher, was held in June 2013. The event celebrated the life of James Joyce and the events of his novel Ulysses, set in Dublin on June 16th 1904.”

In 2013, the eastern-Slovak city of Košice became the European Capital of Culture (ECOC). Callan said that within the ECOC 2013 project, the Irish Embassy supported the young Irish composer Alyson Barber at the ISCM World Music Days Festival in November 2013. For the first time in its 90-year history, the ICSM World Music days was organised in Košice, during the ECOC 2013. Barber’s solo viola piece, Twists and Turns, was performed on November 7, 2013 in Košice by talented Slovak violinist and violist Milan Paľa, “to rapturous applause”.

Life doesn’t end after St Patrick’s Day, however, and Callan said that “a number of other cultural events showcasing Irish culture will be supported during the year. However, plans have not been finalised at this stage”. She concluded that “it is hoped that a photographic exhibition will also be held later in the year.”

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