Sunday, October 19, 2008

Growing up in a Dutch Costume

Growing up in a Dutch Costume

Folk dancing was really the only form of exercise that I accomplished in my youth. As my mother was a folklorist, we had to dance Dutch folk dances from the age of 7 to 14. My costume attire varied over the years. I started in a costume that was actually made and sewn by my mother.
The design came Walcheren, from the province of Zeeland in Holland. I remember my mother sitting in our basement, behind her old singer sewing machine, spending many evening and hours making this folk costume. There’s a certain pounding sound and vibration that a sewing machine makes, and for me it certainly acted as a soothing rhythmic sleep enhancer.

My premier dancing career started in 1967. We, my sisters and I drove with my parents, together with the rest of the Netherlands Folkdance group, to Montreal. We were to perform in the opening ceremonies of EXPO ’67 ! I really don’t remember much of the drive, but what I do remember is arriving in Montreal and seeing this wonderful amusement park that seemed to just tower out of the St. Lawrence River. Expo’ 67 was built on a man made island. “Man and his world”.

The performance took place on Friday April 28, 1967. We performed outdoors, for a crowd of thousands! I remember the fascinating modern architecture around me, and hundred of colorful flags from around the world making a slapping noise as they wave in the cool April wind. It was the most historic and most significant moment I’ve ever experienced!. Expo was a huge hit. In a political and cultural context, “Expo 67 was seen as a landmark moment in Canadian history” The audience consisted of dignitaries and politicians from all over the world. Not to mention Canadians from all over Canada! Wow.. such a great experience, only such a pity I was only 7 years old! So my memoires are dependant on my older sister, or information from the internet that jogs some memorable moments.

My Dutch costume changed as I got older, and later in life, in my teens I mostly wore a costume from the province of Volendam. There was a new festival in town. It was called “ Metro International Caravan” My mom was contacted back in 1969, by the now defunct newspaper, the Toronto Telegram. They wanted a young child in costume to use in a photo shoot to advertise this new festival. Of course, it was me! So off we drove with my costume in hand, to a Hungarian Restaurant, somewhere in downtown Toronto.
I was about 9 yrs old at the time. Once I entered the restaurant, I saw this huge table placed in the front window that was covered in hundred of desserts from around the world ! I then got dressed in my costume in a small backroom bathroom, and came back up to meet my mom and photographer for further instruction. Learning then, to my horror, that I was to be sitting up on the table in my costume, right in the middle of the dessert extravaganza! So up I went. As the photographer arranged me and the desserts around my body, I had to also hold a huge tray of what looked like, chocolate cream puffs. He then, the photographer, to add insult to injury, proceeded to smear whipping cream all over my cheeks. The visual image of the shot was that I had to pretend to be taking a big bite of this cream puff and have a smile on my face of total enjoyment.

Well, this is a very embarrassing moment! Here was this chubby, fat young girl, in a Dutch costume stuffing her face with a cream puff for all to see. My eyes blinked, and I started seeing white dots, as the photos were being taken. The next day, in all it’s whipping cream glory, was a picture of me, in full colour spashed on the front page of the Toronto Telegram ! . Guess who got teased at school! …My nickname was "whipping cream girl" for several weeks…

** Some Expo facts: Expo closed on Sunday afternoon, October 29, 1967. More than 50 million (50,306,648) people attended Expo 67. Canada's population in 1967, was only 20 million. There were pavilions’ from almost every country around the world, But surprisingly these countries were not present: Spain, South Africa and The People's Republic of China.

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