January 17th – Izak Ugirin’s Day

Izak Ugirin is a legendary figure from the Buentoilliçan music scene. Born in on this day in 1918 to a poor family from the Docker’s districts, Ugirin was noted to be an extremely lively child by his teachers and friends, a trait which stayed with him until death at the ripe old age of 94. Indeed, it was an attribute about which Ugirin seemed immensely proud; in an interview in the 2005 work about his life, The Way He Moves, Ugirin unexpectedly produces a school report:

I have it here, actually,’ he said, pulling a weathered old sheet out from his jacket pocket, ‘Izak seems incapable of any task which requires more than five minutes of sustained concentration. Unfortunately I have had to have him leave class on a number of occasions this term, due to his extremely distracting behaviour.’ Mr. Ugirin paused for effect here, his knees bobbing up and down in excitement, ‘He seems to be possessed of a boundless energy that he cannot keep contained.’ His tone upon reading these words was similar to that of a man who has just read the final words of a book he had loved all his life to his only child. His eyes were intense; laden with meaning.

Despite failing almost all of his classes at school, Ugirin found early success and fame in the music halls and clubs of the time through dance. He would turn up to almost every musical event that the City had to offer, dancing in his own, strange, characteristic way throughout. Ugirin would be the first on the dance floor, and the last off it, often staying at the end to chat to the band, and soon he found himself gaining free entry to every venue he frequented. In these early days, jazz was the most popular musical form in Buentoille, along with ragtime and folk; Ugirin seemed to favour them all equally.

This fame only intensified as new music forms came about as the century progressed, with many bands inviting him on stage or tour with him, but Ugirin never left the dance floor. He often danced alone, but would dance with anyone who suitably impressed him. For the entirety of the 1960s he danced almost exclusively with the ex-ballet dancer Missy Van Horne, and the two months after her death in 1970 were the only time during his life you could not find Ugirin dancing in public.

Ugirin’s characteristic energy was often ascribed to drugs such as katphaline and cocaine, but he claimed never to have even drank alcohol, and on several instances insisted on having blood tests to prove his claims. In his later life Ugirin did try alcohol, but immediately spat it out. He was known to only drink ice cold lemonade until he was diagnosed with diabetes in his eighties. He died at a Jungle gig in Benny’s Cavern, in 2012. His cause of death is unclear; eyewitnesses report seeing him dancing as he always did (Ugirin danced like he was 20 even into his old age, refusing to slow down), but as the music ended at 6:30 in the morning, he suddenly looked very tired and sat down at the bar. The bar lady, who had known him many years and never seen him seated, asked him if he was okay. ‘I think I need a rest, he said, ‘it was fun whilst it lasted.’ He then put his head on the bar, made as if to sleep there, and promptly died.

Many Buentoillitants will turn up to Benny’s Cavern today, from the various great musicians who he met, to those he danced with, to those who have only heard of his great work. The Buentoille Union of Dance, of which Ugirin was a founding member, will perform a number of dances, commemorating the various different dance forms and genres the man pioneered. Speeches will be made between the music of various new bands, and various types of lemonade will be served. The festival will culminate in a strange spectacle; an entirely silent dance comprising of incredibly quick footwork is accompanied by swirling hand movements, with a particularly memorable few minutes in which the dancers hold their arms straight up, but leave the hands floppy. The lack of music in this dance is intended to symbolise how Ugirin could dance to any kind of music, no matter the beat, rhythm, pace or melody, in a way that was utterly individual, beautiful and compelling.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Graffiti Artists’ Tour Day

  • Hoppard Synthenik’s Dutiful Kiss Remembrance Ceremony

  • The Festival of Saint Ocul’s Awakening