I feel as though I went on a trip to eastern Europe this weekend without ever leaving Canadian soil.
My husband’s best friend Benny got married to a lovely woman named Megi. Both were born and raised in Albania before moving to Canada. Benny and J. (husband) went to university together and bonded during first year algebra class on their mutual quest for an engineering degree.
After a beautiful outdoor ceremony in a park overlooking Lake Ontario, we reconvened for the reception at a glass-walled pavilion built out over the water with a spectacular view of downtown Toronto. While J. sat at the head table, I caught up with a number of our close friends, whom we sadly rarely see anymore since leaving Toronto.
The evening proceeded according to the customs I know – delicious dinner, open bar, speeches, jokes, lively conversation, champagne toasts. It was when the dancing started, however, that I suddenly found myself transported to another region of the world.
The Albanian band started to play – beautiful, eerie, hair-raising folk tunes in minor keys with strange time signatures. They sounded Eastern European, though mixed with gypsy, Turkish, and Middle Eastern influences. The songs were quick and energetic, and I could feel the rhythm creeping into my bones despite my inability to dance.
Suddenly the dance floor was full of people young and old, and all of the women’s hands were in the air, twisting and weaving and waving and gesturing in liquid motions as their feet repeated the same steps over and over again. They danced with partners, the man clapping a rhythm and circling the woman, matching her footwork. They danced in lines, with the bride leading and waving a white napkin in front. They danced in circles, hands linked, going round and round, until someone – bride or groom or both – entered the middle and everyone clapped while accompanying their exotic, napkin-entwined, playful dance.
It was one of the most beautiful wedding dances I’ve ever seen. With music like that, you can’t help but dance. That’s the type of music that makes me understand legends like “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” That piper must have some Albanian blood in him, because the call to follow was simply irresistible. I actually danced till J. pried me away at 1 a.m. Usually I’m the one who sits at the table, wishing I could wiggle and pulsate to Top 40 hits the way the pros do. I’m as stiff as a board, no matter how many drinks I’ve had. But on Saturday night, I couldn’t stay away. Circle and line dances are definitely manageable, and far more fun.
Benny and Megi are now off on their honeymoon to Spain and Albania, where I hope they can do lots more dancing, because, man, they look great together on that dance floor!
As for myself, going on less than four hours of sleep with no possibility of napping was rather difficult. This, at least, put a big smile on my exhausted face early the next morning: