Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Where Do the Catalan Falcons Come From?

Somebody who sees falcons for the first time might think that they are castellers, building typically Catalan human towers. Although most falcon teams have adopted the gralla music and the waist band (faixa) of the castellers, what they assemble is usually more acrobatic and dynamic. While the first castells were erected as parts of religious ceremonies, falcons has its origin in sports.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Llorenç del Penedès, home of the oldest active team (colla), founded in 1942. It members wear soft shoes and are specialists in performing synchronized formations with clear references to acrobatic gymnastics (acro) and, more precisely, the Czech Sokol movement. Sokol is Czech for the bird of prey falcon.

The five oldest and still active Catalan falcon teams all come from the Penedès region. After those of Llorenç del Penedès follow the teams from Vilafranca (1959), Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Falcons del país de cava, 1992), Piera (1997) and Vilanova (1998)

The Falcons de Barcelona (2003) is the oldest colla outside the Penedès, but at this year’s Falcon meeting as many as three more teams turned up: The Falcons de Castellcir (from the sparsely populated northern part of Vallès Oriental) have, as I understand it, performed during the local festa major since 2004, but formally entered the Federació de colles de Falcons only in 2008. The Falcons de Malla were founded in Osona in 2008. Finally, the Falcons del Riberal (2009) is the newest but also most exotic member since they come from Baó (Roselló) of Northern Catalonia (France).

The 8th annual Trobada de colles de Falcons (Falcons meeting) took place on June 27 in Vilafranca del Penedès and formed part of the hosts' celebrations of their 50th anniversary. The 450 particpants - nine colles - were split into three groups which paraded, and occasionally performed, separately before all they all joined each other at the Plaça de la Vila for simultaneous performances (actuació conjunta).

To stand in a crowd where human pyramids are being built up all around you is a mighty feeling. Many people know that I used to be a gymnast and my close friends are used to me always trying to lift them. Guess which manifestation of Catalan culture I will join as soon as my private life allows for it?

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Castellers, Catalonia, Festa Major, Gymnastics, Human Towers, Penedès, Sant Sadurní, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

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