Thursday, 25 April 2013

Sardana - the National Dance of Catalonia ... or Discover Penedès, April 26 to 28

We are still in the week of the Sant Jordi celebrations and that sets a clear Catalan tone also for the next weekend, Friday-Sunday, April 26-28. In Sitges (Garraf) there will be a human tower exhibition (castells) and in as many as three towns, we will be able to see the national dance, sardana; Calafell (Baix Penedès), Vilanova del Cami (Anoia) and Sant Sadurní d'Anoia (Alt Penedès). The latter town offers the most comprehensive program because here we have a sardana-meeting, to which dances and bands (cobles) will come from other places have been invited.

The sardana has its historical roots up in the province of Girona, but before it started to spread from there in the 1850s, it had undergone some adaptations and refining. The youth of Empordà made the musicians to pick up romantic operetta themes whereby the dance became more accessible and could win popularity throughout Catalonia. At the same time, composer Pep Ventura established the a standard composition of 11 players for the band (cobla) and music theorist Miquel Pardas created a model for the steps and bars.

As a symbol, the sardana was first considered a freedom dance (ball de llibertat) among republicans, in contrast to the modest dance contrapàs preferred by the conservative carlists. Later on, the nationalists of the Renaixenca movement adopted it as a point reference for the Catalan culture. However, before it reached the form we see today, it went through further stylization. This happened in the mid-twenties of the 20th century, and with the inspiration coming from ballet the sardana became calmer. The spinning of the rings was replaced by footwork with pointed toes and jumps on the spot, albeit within the traditional ring formation.

To dance sardanas people form one or more rings which you are welcome to join as long as you do so in pairs, since the mixed structure (woman, man, woman, man) must not be broken.

For those who are not interested in Catalan culture the wine region Penedès has much else to offer, during the coming weekend for example Ultra Trail Running in Sitges (Garraf), dance performances in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), Igualada (Anoia) and El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) and several guided tours. A full weekend agenda in English can be found here.

Discover Penedès!

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Mona and Göran: Swedish Mona explains why she will spend the weekend in Barcelona while her equally Swedish husband Göran looks forward to dancing sardana in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia - the capital of Catalan cava. Then a dunce cap appears and the question is who was the biggest fool last week - Catalonia or Spain.

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