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Performing with Zelena Polja

For years I have been wanting to perform with Zelena Polja, Cleveland’s own adult Croatian performing Tamburitzans. However, I haven’t been able to as the performances are out of town and I was busy working and getting married. This year the festival they were performing at was in Cleveland so I had no excuse. I was in to perform with the people I grew up with. Alumni of both American Zagreb and Cleveland Junior Tamburitzans.

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I swear we started practicing in August but we really only got to practice 6 times at the most. We practiced on Saturday afternoons for about 2 hours. This includes going over vocal music, practicing with the combo (small band on the side of the stage) and learning an entire 10 minute dance to be performed in the Renaissance Ballroom in front of a couple hundred people. No pressure.

The entire group of ladies on the stage
The entire group of ladies on the stage. I’m on the end on the far right.

On performance day, we had practice at 10am. In a super tiny room but we did our best to make it work. Which was good because the stage was much smaller than we were expecting. After an hour practice, we had 2 hours to ourselves to eat lunch before it was time to get our costumes on. We spent our free time getting creeped out by people at Tower City. It is no wonder that place has gone downhill.

Friends for life
Friends for life

I don’t know why but the boys and girls always get dressed in the same room and think nothing of it. We all grew up together so we are all practically family and help each other put our nosnja (costumes) on.

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We also pass the time waiting to go on stage by taking pictures and dancing. Sometimes we start puting costumes on as early as 2pm and don’t go on stage til 5. This usually means no sitting as the costumes are pleated.

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I was completely in love with my costume. It was the choreographers costume that she has had in her collection for years and it fit me perfectly. It’s probably meant for a child but I loved it.

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The performance itself went very well and I loved every minute of it. Our group was HUGE! I was so happy with the turnout of people who wanted to perform this year as well as how many boys performed. It is always hard getting the boys involved, they think they are too cool for tamburitza.

If you want to see a video performance you can see it here.

And since Zelena Polja only performs once a year I think it is time to join Zumbercani who performs year round…. Stay Tuned

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Nothing Hotter Than A Man Who Can Kolo and Secrets I Kept From My Man!

For the wedding we had my Uncle’s Croatian band play for a little bit. However, Ryan and his family knew little about Croatian dances and I hated to leave them out of the fun. Also, Ryan had this great idea to surprise me and was going to learn how to kolo for the wedding. (Kolo is the name of the dances.)

As the wedding grew closer, Ryan was uncomfortable having someone he didn’t know well teach him the dances so he asked me to teach him instead. I think he was sad he couldn’t surprise me with it but I was so happy he was willing to learn. Nothing hotter than a guy who can kolo. Ryan picked up the dances pretty easily but what Ryan didn’t know was that I was sneaking over to his Moms house to teach his Mom, Aunt and Cousin how to kolo as well!

IMG_1947 IMG_1948I was easily able to tell Ryan I was meeting with a vendor or a cousin or just getting wedding stuff done but really I was hanging out with his family teaching them to dance. It was so hard to not tell him about it because 1) it was so much fun, 2) they were picking it up so quickly and 3) I was so excited for Ryan to know the secret!

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Practically professionals

I was able to teach Ryan’s family the same dances I was teaching him so they were all on the same page. I thought it would make Ryan feel more comfortable to have his family up dancing with him.

There he is
There he is

Somehow we didn’t get any professional pictures of Ryan koloing but someone did snap that picture for us. However, I really wish I could have seen Ryan’s friends faces when he jumped in to dance. They were loving watching the kolos.

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Awesome band

My very talented Uncle and his very talented band played at the wedding. I had no idea my little, 10 year old cousin Gus, was joining them! When did he become better than playing prim than me! He may be replacing my cousin Julian as “the best prim player I know” in a few years. (I just realized I’ve never blogged about my favorite prim player!!!!)

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I love how much fun everyone seems to be having in these photos!

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Tamburitza

Ok this post is LONG over due, but I’ve been fairly busy lately. So better late than never.

I may have mentioned here or there that my family background is of Croatian heritage and that I grew up performing in a Croatian folk group, The American Zagreb Junior Tamburitzans.

The American Zagreb Junior Tamburitzans perform traditional Croatian songs and dances and also learn to play folk instruments. The members of the group usually range in age from 5-18. Most members join at a young age and stay until they go off to college. The group does one big concert in the spring, travels to the Croatian Fraternal Union Festival every year (travel all over the U.S., Canada and to Croatia), as well as performs at picnics, churches, and as a guest group for other junior groups.

For me, this is a family tradition. My mom and her brothers performed in this same group when they were growing up and my Uncle is the musical director for both American Zagreb and Cleveland Junior Tamburitzans (that’s right there are actually 2 junior groups in Cleveland and there are adult groups as well).  I joined the group when I was 4 years old and performed with the group until I was 18. When I was little I had no idea that not everyone did this, to me it was as normal as going to school, something everyone did. 

That’s me on the right.

For the big anniversary years, the group brings back the alumni and has them perform for the big concert of the year. This year was the 55th anniversary!

Program Book Cover

When I heard they were doing the alumni concert this year I was stoked! I missed performing so much, it was a huge part of my life growing up.

*I have limited digital pictures from anything before 1999 but the one on the left is at least 10 years old. The one on the right is about a month old. I have known these girls since I was 4 years old and we are all still friends today.

       

After just a few practices, us alumni were ready to go. I was kind of shocked how fast we learned everything. It’s like learning to ride a bike, you never forget how to play your instruments and the dance steps come back fairly fast as well.

     

*Please note that these are pics my Mom took. Clearly I get my photography skills from her.

Sorry no video of the alumni performance, you’ll have to settle for these random pictures I found on Facebook. Yes I am aware that one is really blurry 😦

       

 I have no idea if this video will work but we’ll give it a shot. This is a video of the final dance from the junior group kids. They did such a great job, so many talented individuals in the group.

I am so happy that I was able to come back and perform with them this year. However, I look forward to many years of watching my little sister perform with them!!!!!

                       

Anyone else have some unique family traditions? Speak another language or play an instrument? All of our songs and dances are performed in Croatian language and I can play Brac and Prim (which most of you have no idea what that is).

Perfect day to post this since Croatia plays Italy in the Euro Cup today.