Founded in 1973 by the folklore enthusiast Edo Gaberšek – Jež, the Celje Folk Dance Group started its life as part of the larger cultural organization “KUD ŽPD France PREŠEREN” (The Railway Artistic and Cultural Society) under the sponsorship of the then ZKO Celje association. The group’s main aim was, and continues to be, the preservation and promotion of Slovenian folk traditions through dance, poems and singing. The group – which at that time consisted of only eight dance couples, an accordion player and the group’s leader – has evolved over the years and, thanks to its members’ determination, enthusiasm and eagerness, is now an indispensable creator of local amateur culture, spreading its reputation beyond mere local and national borders. In 2008, the group was awarded the Silver Crest of Celje, the highest sign of recognition bestowed by the City Municipality of Celje upon the group for its outstanding artistic accomplishment, an accolade of which the group members are particularly proud.
With the group striving for professionalism and high-quality performances, the Celje Folk Dance Group has been a regular participant in national folk-dance selection contests. In addition, the group frequently attends international festivals; being able to represent the group abroad is a great honour for all members. They have so far had the opportunity to showcase their core repertoire of dances in 19 EU countries, Turkey, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Brazil, Egypt, Algeria and South Korea. The dancers and musicians have always received a warm welcome from audiences and, on numerous occasions, also special awards (such as a festival crown in Reims, France, and a prize in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria, for preserving traditional costumes).
Dance heritage is the group’s cultural value. Yet, the educational importance of the folk-dance group and its activities should not be overlooked. Group members develop fundamental values, such as responsibility, respect, social skills and commitment. The latter is of paramount importance when it comes to working with young people, for whom senior dancers are often seen as role models. The group therefore tries to attract as many enthusiastic young people as possible into its ranks to help promote the heritage of Slovenian folk dance.
Members have also attended a number of professional seminars on folk dancing, music, songs and traditional costumes. The result of this training has been several new, modernised choreographies which have been presented on stage. Along with the dancers, the group also includes musical and singing sections.
Up until Slovenia became an independent country, the group’s repertoire included a wide range of songs and dances from different regions of the former Yugoslavia. Nowadays, however, the group serves as an ambassador of Slovenian ethnic traditions, with a core repertoire of eight choreographies from various Slovenian regions. As the diversity of Slovenian folk dances is also reflected in different traditional costumes, the group pays particular attention to keeping all its costumes in top condition.
The group is particularly proud of the publication of a book on the Kozjansko region’s traditional clothing that came about after intensive cooperation and fieldwork carried out by Edo Gaberšek and Marija Makarov, a renowned Slovenian ethnologist. It includes a detailed description, reconstruction and design of costumes traditionally worn in that part of Slovenia. Following this research, the group designed authentic costumes for its Kozjansko dances.
The Celje Folk Dance Group is run entirely on a voluntary and amateur basis. In today’s consumer-driven society, this is especially valuable. Countless hours volunteering, endless nights spent awake creating new choreographies, washing and cleaning costumes, repairing shoes, tidying up costume storage rooms, many trips to performances home and abroad – all this and much more could not be achieved without strong belief. Yet, everything is repaid in the form of precious times spent together as dear friends as well as fellow dancers after all these years. Everything feels worth it when members meet and gather, both within and beyond the scope of rehearsals and shows. All the effort is repaid by delighted audiences of all ages and nations joyfully applauding whilst the group performs!
The group is extremely grateful to all its donors for their support and recognition of its endeavors in promoting Slovenian folk dance, as well as for their material and financial assistance.
Proud to be members of the Celje Folk Dance Group!