About 2 years ago, the Schuhplattler Verein Enzian (Calgary) (SVE) had discussed with us and The Bavarian Schuhplattlers of Edmonton (BSE) the possibility of starting an annual dance workshop and exchange for the western provinces of Canada. We all felt a little isolated here as compared to the Schuhplattler groups in Eastern Canada and the United States which have many groups with which to exchange information. We mentioned that we would be interested and that we should discuss what sort of format, etc. would be best suited for all participants.
In the fall of 2002, they announced that they would start the workshop in the following spring and hold their annual dance at the same time. This idea worked well for all and we all started looking forward to it.
It was decided that the initial 3 participants would be our 3 groups and that the Schuhplattler Verein Alpenrose (Saskatoon) (SVA) (SVE had previously done an exchange with them) and the Victoria Edelweiss Dancers (VED) (we have a long lasting friendship with this group) would be invited to participate. The more the merrier!
The weekend of March 28 was to be the date. Invitations were prepared and sent out and SVE got a great response back. There ended up being 51 dancers and some musicians who all came to share their knowledge and know-how. WOW!!
It started with a get-to-know you at the Members Lounge at the Austrian-Canadian Club where we all met for a few drinks and dinner. Much talk and anticipation began. Luckily it was not a late night as the next day was to be a long one.
On the Saturday morning, we all met at the Club at about 9:30 for the workshops to begin at 10. The 3 groups had 1 hour each to teach a dance and we were also to choose a dance to perform for the mass plattler. Before lunch, the SVE taught the Chiemgauer and we taught the Heidauer. Midway through was a lunch of coldcuts and buns and a video from a Tiroler Abend in Innsbruck. Also at the lunch break, we were treated to a special dance - the bench dance performed by Stefan from the SVE and his son, Matthew, who is 3. Too cute!
After lunch, the BSE taught the Steirer and that dance was chosen as the mass plattler. Even though some of the groups already had these dances in their repertoire, the arrangements of the plattlers, trios and some movements varied from group to group. The workshops ended at about 3 after an exhausting 4 hours of non-stop dancing. Whew!
The evening started with arrival at the Club at 6, buffet dinner at 7, grand march-in with the country flags (Canada, Austria, Germany) and provincial flags (BC, AB, SK, Bavaria and the 9 provinces of Austria) at 8:30 which the band, Premium Akkord, starting shortly after. The dance was sold out so the event was packed. Lots of people and we were all in top-form after the long warm-up in the afternoon.
Lots and lots of dancing ensued as well as lots of mingling between groups. It is hard to put in to words the feeling that we get when we are able to enjoy and share our love of the Austrian and German culture and Schuhplattler. One word that does come to mind - PARTY! The SVE had warned the Club to make sure they had enough Warsteiner for the evening and we heard that there were only 6 left at the end of the night - that was close! At the band breaks, each group performed their respective show dance, SVE - Heidauer and Maasenplattler, BSE - Mahder and Bayrischglueck, us - Heidauer and Kreuzkoenig, VED - Schnackelwaltz . The mass plattler was performed with all participating. What a site to see all those fine Schuhplattlers in rows.
It was at this point, that it was announced (not by us) that we would be hosting the next workshop in 2004 (we are still in discussions about this). Near the end of the evening, when the band was taking one of their last breaks, each group jumped up and did another, and another, and another, dance. Our group decided that they wanted to do the Potpourri (a men's dance) and that the girls could participate (as we have all taught ourselves that dance at practice). The other groups were amazed. They did not expect our girls to plattle and did not expect the speed at which our group does it (fast). We have to admit that at the end of the evening, some of our girls' feet were pretty swollen. The end of the night came too soon for some and not soon enough for others.
On Sunday, we were all meeting back at the Club for coffee and muffins at noon with the presidents/obmanns and vorplattlers meeting to discuss the respective running of their groups and to exchange ideas. Brenda of our group set up a table full of books, patterns and CDs on trachten and dancing which she had collected on our tour of Austria. This was much appreciated by all. At about 3:00, people went their opposite ways with promises to keep in touch and to not let the enthusiasm die.
At the leadership meeting, they discussed that the workshops would be held every 2 years on the even years to allow the groups that wish to participate in the Gaufeste to not have too many big ticket events happening in the same year. We will keep you posted about us hosting the next one!