Folkmoot experience shared across generations of performers
By Andre A. Rodriguez
Twenty-five years after their father represented the Netherlands at the first Folkmoot festival, a second generation of folk dancers has arrived from Holland to take part in the two-week international dance festival.
Oscar and Victor Peeters weren’t even born when their father, Rene Peeters, came to Waynesville to perform, first in 1980 at a folk festival that was Folkmoot’s forerunner and then again in 1984 at the inaugural Folkmoot event.
Growing up, the brothers heard many tales about their father’s first trip to the United States and the international festivals to which their parents traveled — in addition to Folkmoot — in countries such as Israel, Italy, Portugal and Romania.
“I heard stories about festivals in a lot of countries, mostly in Europe,” said Oscar Peeters, 21. “My father was in the Waynesville festival, and he talked about America. That was his first visit (to the United States).”
“Just like us,” said Victor Peeters, 16. “This is our first visit (to the United States), too.”
Oscar and Victor Peeters’ mother, Lynda Hoekstra, is also making her first trip to the states. She is artistic director for Paloina, the Dutch group with which the brothers dance and with which she used to dance. She said her husband spoke fondly of the host family with whom he stayed in Waynesville. She said he also shared a frightening and slightly humorous anecdote about another group’s performance during the fledgling Folkmoot festival.
“There was a German group from the south of Germany, and they had a dance with axes,” Hoekstra said. “There was this big theater with a very new floor. Their dance didn’t go right, and one of the dancer’s axes hit the floor and made a hole.
“So that was one of the things he talked about and of course it was his first time to America as well,” she said. He spoke about the “big houses and big cars. It’s quite different than Holland.”
Another dancer performing with Paloina at this year’s Folkmoot shares a similar history with Oscar Peeters and Victor Peeters. Twenty-year-old Jan (pronounced “Yon”) Hootsmans said his mother, Maja Kuijper, was a singer with Paloina’s accompanying orchestra during the 1984 Folkmoot festival. Hootsmans joined Paloina when he was 16 and began dancing with members he grew up watching, he said.
“As a small kid I actually went to a festival with some of the people who are in the group right now, so they knew me as a 2-year-old and then as a 16-year-old.”
The young performers have been enjoying their first trip to the United States, which began with a few days in New York.
Victor Peeters said he enjoyed renting bikes and going cycling, while Oscar Peeters said his favorite part of the trip so far was looking up a Romanian gypsy band on the Internet and going to see them perform live “deep, deep in Brooklyn.”
As far as international folk festivals go, Folkmoot is one of the largest and most organized they’ve attended, Hoekstra and Hootsmans said.
“Everything from day one to day last is organized,” Hoekstra said. “When you come into the (Folkmoot Friendship Center) all the beds are made and they even give you towels and small bag with toiletries and it’s all so well done. The food is very good. They try to make it good for everybody.”
Making it good for everybody includes allowing the members of the groups from eight countries participating in this year’s festival to interact with others outside their group as much as possible.
Victor Peeters, who took part in the fourth annual Folkmoot 5K on Saturday (July 18), said it was an “awesome” experience.
“I think it was great running with all the different people and the locals,” he said.
Some other festivals only allow for interaction with their guides and bus drivers, said Victor Peeters.
“Mostly the guides at the other festivals are the representatives of the (host) company that have some ability in English,” Oscar Peeters said. “Here (at Folkmoot) everyone speaks English so you can converse with any person you want to.”
Hoekstra said she’s happy her sons have taken an interest in folk dancing, even though they only began participating about two years ago. It’s good for the continuity of the Paloina, which was founded in 1971.
“There were years when some of the older ones stopped dancing and then we had a period when not too many dancers were ready as far as joining the other dancers,” she said. “So you feel it’s good to share the information you know to not only the next generation but also to people who are a few years behind you because it’s good to continue the dance.”
Hootsmans has two younger brothers who dance with Paloina’s children’s group, to whom he feels he has a responsibility to pass on what he’s learned.
“I have a feeling they’ll probably be joining our group in a few years,” he said. “I’ll be there to mentor them at that point as well as some younger guys who are dancing in that children’s group right now.”