> The Festival of Sword Dances - Korčula
July 5th - August 23rd 2000
Korčula island is recognized in the whole of the Mediterranean for its centuries-old sword dancing traditions. These dances are performed by men's sword dance associations in the five oldest villages on the island and in the walled city of Korčula.

Moreška, a type of mock combat dance between two armies was performed in Europe, particularly coastal Mediterranean lands since at least the 16th century. The town of Korčula has retained this dance as one of its traditions, whereas in other lands, the dance and drama have become historical memories. The sword dancing in Korčula has been accompanied by brass band music since the late 19th century, while the current composition by a Croatian composer, Krsto Odak since 1933. The armies alternate seven sword-clashing figures with a circular walking pause. The fighting is preceded by spoken dialog between the Kings of the black army (the Moros dressed in black) and the white army (the Turks dressed in red) and a young beautiful female who was abducted by the Black King from the White King. The combat between Saracen and Turkish armies is rather unique to the drama on Korčula, for most other combat dances of a similar type conveyed good and evil as victorious Christians against the Moros, a theme particularly prevalent in Spanish history. Although traditionally organized and performed exclusively by Korcula males, currently Moreska is performed by two organized groups: Croatian Music Society (HGD) "Sv. Cecilija" originally founded in 1883 and renewed in 1991 with a Moreska section, and the Cultural Artistic Association (KUD) Moreška founded in 1944.

Kumpanjija or Moštra, is a type of linked-sword dance (rather than mock combat) and is performed in the villages: Žrnovo, Pupnat, Čara, Smokvica and Blato. Although these dances are frequently demonstrated in non-village programs, they evolve from ritually-based events and were most often danced during the winter carnival period, and also for the village patron saint's day. Each sword dance group in a single-file military column, led by a flag carrier, and accompanied by a drumbeat, made a cycle of visitations within their village; in the center of the village (today only in Pupnat), there was a ritual beheading of a bull, followed by feasting of this meat with all in the village. Accompanied by a repetitious melody played by a solo bagpiper, the dancing is characterized by a linked circular or linear formation where the dancers step over or walk under each other's swords. One of the latter sword figures links the men in a tight formation to behead a dancer symbolically. In the village square the ritual complex culminates when the village females and the watching public are invited to dance socially with the sword dancers.

Each of the five villages has its own association for Moštra (Žrnovo) or Kumpanija (Pupnat, Čara, Smokvica and Blato), and each village has its own variation of a spoken dialog that precedes the dancing - a request for permission to dance from the heads of the villages - and has its own sequence and style of dancing. Although the combat aspect of kumpanija is not the main feature of these dances, there is a sword-clashing figure between pairs of dancers at the end of the linked-sword movements.

The Festival of Sword Dances provides an opportunity over a period of seven weeks to sample each of these Korčula groups in a performance setting, as well as in its village environment. In addition guest sword dance groups from outside of Croatia are invited to perform in the Festival. The Festival truly provides visitors with a view of living dancing history that is unique to this Croatian island in the Mediterranean area of Europe.

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