It was the community spirit in the traditional dances and songs in Balvi that impressed me the most in this trip. They organised a special show that was meant to be the end of school year get together, which should have involved only children. The number of performing groups grew larger and eventually involved people of all ages. It was easy to see their joy in dressing up in traditional clothes and that they were having a great time performing to the special audience, which were easily outnumbered by the performers.
It was sensible they keep the traditions going by putting their dances and songs in schools, regularly practice them in public and performing in competitions, and welcome people from all age groups to participate. This type of tradition helps keep the community together, build up the links among local people, bring about pride for their own culture, and can easily become a tourist attraction.
In some ways, tourism can help to promote local traditions. It was obvious in this instances that we as tourists caused a small stir in the community and the local were eager to perform the dances and songs. More tourists may mean more reasons for the community to be together and do what they’re proud of doing. Tourism can also help to revive some of the traditions that are disappearing, such as the royal dances in Hue in Vietnam.
On the other hand, the impact of tourism and time and people’s neglect can be harsh on these types of community rituals and practices. Large number of tourists may commercialize the tradition, making it into a tourism product. This will mean only a small group in the community will benefit from the tradition and the community value is losing. An example of this can be found in some of the traditional dances and song in the communities in the Northern mountainous areas in Vietnam. On the other extreme, tourism can disrupt normal practice and shy away the performers. The community then will have to move their practices to a more remote area, away from the crowded tourists places. The community will need to adapt to the presence of tourists. Tourists’ experience will become less authentic.
I hope that the community in Balvi, and also in other parts of Latvia, may receive more tourists and visitors. They have all the tourism potential and local people’s hospitality. At the same time, I hope they will have a good plan to manage the impact of tourists, and manage to keep their traditions strong and the community values sustaining for everyone.
Linh Pham – Vietnam
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