The new show “Vision of Croatia,” filmed in Zagreb and broadcasted in North America, hosted Krunoslav Šokac, the Artistic Director of the Croatian National Folk Dance and Song Ensemble, LADO.
LADO, the Croatian National Folk Dance and Song Ensemble, is celebrating 74 years of activity this year, and throughout this time, they have been equally dedicated to preserving our heritage. The quality of their program has always been at a high level, and the secret to LADO Ensemble’s longevity and success was revealed by Mr. Šokac at the very beginning.
“LADO interprets Croatian musical and dance heritage in a specific way. Our goal and mission are to collect, process, and stage the most beautiful examples of Croatian musical and dance heritage, and we have been doing that for a full 74 years. The secret lies in an inexhaustible richness inherited from our ancestors, grandfathers, and grandmothers. Croatia is a world phenomenon considering its diversity. Just look at how different Croatian regions are in their folklore, musical, and dance expressions, not to mention the traditional costumes. It has often happened that audiences around the world were left bewildered, thinking that they were witnessing performances from multiple ensembles representing various countries, but it was actually dear Croatia. The secret lies in the approach to presenting folk dances and songs on stage, for which our founder, Professor Zvonimir Ljevaković, deserves credit,” said Šokac at the beginning, adding that an important factor is the generations of artists in LADO who have always been carefully selected for their talent and their love for Croatian traditional culture.
“There is no cultural treasure that LADO does not have in its repertoire.”
When Šokac took on the position of Artistic Director of the LADO Ensemble, he outlined three fundamental principles for LADO’s future functioning – tradition, contemporaneity, and excellence. In “Vision of Croatia,” he explained all three.
“We must be aware and proud of the fact that numerous cultural treasures are protected at the global level. LADO has almost every cultural treasure in its repertoire – from ojkavica to bećarac, which is the latest to be protected. A good example of our richness is the island of Korčula, where we have several types of dance expressions. Considering our territory, I believe we have no equal in the whole world, although we have been ranked alongside China in terms of the number of cultural treasures. We need to make an effort to ensure that the youth in Croatia are aware of everything we are discussing now.”
Contemporaneity involves improving production and using new technologies, following trends in other performing arts, and engaging in the current cultural scene through projects that will further position LADO as a unique cultural brand. There are numerous examples of excellent collaborations between LADO and other types of music, one such example being the collaboration between LADO and Boris Novković on the song “Vukovi umiru sami” (“Wolves Die Alone”), with which Croatia achieved a high fourth place at Eurovision in 2005.
“That year, our Ladarice participated in Eurovision and greatly contributed to the overall impression of that performance. I believe the interest in ethno music always exists. For example, at this year’s Dora, Harmonija Disonance showed up as tough competition to the group Let 3. I don’t know what would have happened if LADO had been in the mix this year,” Šokac says with a laugh, and then he touches on the aspect of excellence and whether there is room for mistakes in LADO.
“Everyone who works also makes mistakes. Although I believe our audience doesn’t notice those mistakes, and that’s the magic of professionalism,” he explains.
How to become a member of LADO
However, becoming a member of LADO is not that simple.
“The main criterion is an audition. The interest in LADO always exists, and the audition is something that all of us who have been through it remember for a lifetime. Here in Zagreb, at the School of Classical Ballet, there is a Department for Folk Dances. It is a four-year artistic dance school where students, upon completing their high school education, gain knowledge as folk dance performers. The other part of their education is a reduced high school program that allows them to continue their education. It is an excellent preparation for the LADO audition. Of course, not everyone can come to Zagreb, but the audition is ultimately the main measure for becoming a member of the Ensemble,” emphasized Krunoslav Šokac.
LADO is the only professional folk dance ensemble in Croatia
LADO is truly unique, and we have the privilege of being the only professional folk dance ensemble in Croatia. The rotation of employees doesn’t happen so quickly, so we don’t have problems with recruiting new members. On the other hand, it’s 2023. There are a lot more opportunities for young people now than 20-30 years ago, and, of course, in today’s era, the interests of young people have dispersed into various activities,” Šokac honestly said.
By the way, Krunoslav’s great-grandfather was a famous Baranja bagpiper, and his grandfather Pavo was an organ player. It was precisely with him that he came into contact with traditional church music, and he also recalled from his childhood memories of women dressed in folk costumes.
“These early encounters with traditional culture are something that stays with a young person as a lasting memory. I am very proud of that,” emphasizes Šokac with a big smile on his face.
Finally, he revealed his vision of Croatia.
“It is a fact that we are a top tourist destination. I would like to see one day, although it may be a utopian thought, that when you go somewhere and mention Croatia, people say, ‘Ah, LADO.’ We work hard to make LADO even more recognizable in the world. I hope we will succeed in that,” Šokac concluded.