Czech out The Point and polka the night away 

Polka & Pilsner Night includes dance lessons, live accordion and Czech cuisine

click to enlarge Sharon Schrul recently picked up the accordion after nearly a 40-year hiatus. She plays alongside violinist Raddim Koppitz at The Point Artist-Run Centre on Sept. 13 as part of Polka & Pilsner Night. Photo submitted
  • Sharon Schrul recently picked up the accordion after nearly a 40-year hiatus. She plays alongside violinist Raddim Koppitz at The Point Artist-Run Centre on Sept. 13 as part of Polka & Pilsner Night. Photo submitted

Sharon Schrul will be the first to admit the accordion isn't exactly the sexiest instrument around.

"When I was learning, it was not cool to play that instrument. That's the reality," says Schrul. "Playing the piano or the guitar, and even the drums, that was really cool. But the accordion was like, womp, womp."

The accordion's apparent uncoolness didn't discourage Schrul from picking the instrument back up after a lengthy hiatus, however. First learning the accordion at the tender age of seven, Schrul gave it up in her teenage years—only to rekindle her passion for polka nearly 40 years later.

"I took formal lessons in my younger years, during my youth. Then, basically, life happened. You know, marriage, mortgage, kids, that whole thing. So it got put aside," she says. "In the last few years, I've picked it up again."

The misunderstood instrument has also had an unintended side effect for Schrul.

"I do have a mental health issue, and with music being my passion, the accordion has become part of my overall self-care practice. It just makes me feel good. I don't know how to explain it," she says. "It makes me feel good to put a smile on people's faces and if I can do that, I've achieved my goal. It gives me a purpose to play."

Schrul will be putting her rekindled love affair with the accordion on full display this weekend for Pilsner & Polka Night at The Point Artist-Run Centre, a night of live music, traditional Czech beer and food (goulash, anyone?) prepared by Petr Cagasek, and polka lessons led by Adela Smazilova.

Like a lot of her Czech compatriots, Smazilove grew up learning to polka.

"If you grow up in Czech Republic, mostly everybody goes to dance lessons. If you go to balls, like evening entertainment, everybody can do that," she says. "It's like learning to walk."

Attendees will get to learn the basics of polka, including a sidestep, a promenade step, and a spin. "You'll be able to move around the dance floor freely in that rhythm," she says. "It has many other options how to dance it, depending on where you're from, so people have their regional variants, but this is the common one. It's very easy."

Smazilova and Schrul, along with Point regular Isla Robertson, came up with the idea of a Czech-themed night after seeing a polka band perform at a village hotel.

"It was really successful and everyone thought, 'Hey, it's nice not to just get drunk in a house and have an entertainment like that,'" she says with a laugh.

Landing in Whistler five years ago, Smazilova said Whistler's small-but-mighty Czech community has only grown, and she's happy to share a piece of her culture with the rest of the community.

"There's a lot of [Czech] people coming for the working holiday visa," she says. "When you go to the village these past two, three years, you just hear the language everywhere."

Polka & Pilsner Night is set for Friday, Sept. 13. Doors are at 6 p.m., with dinner served at 6:30 p.m. Dance lessons kick off at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $30 with dinner, or $15 for show and dancing only. Get yours online at thepointartists.com/events.html or in person at Armchair Books.

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