Perpignan has been elected ‘Capital de la Sardana 2019’ as the official dance of Catalonia is elevated to the rank of art.

The title “Capital de la Sardana”, awarded each year to a different town, was created in 2013, a change to the former “Ciutat Pubilla de la Sardana” set up in 1960 by the Obra del Ballet Popular (Barcelona) to promote and develop the Sardana in north and south of Catalonia and Andorra.

Cultural and fun activities will be organised to promote the dance and music, including introductory dance courses, various exhibitions of traditional and modern instruments, dance demonstrations, a Sardana Championship, award ceremonies, period films and concerts and lots of surprises.

The Sardane is a traditional Catalan circle dance, believed to be of Greek origin, designed to bring whole villages out into the streets, and get them in party mood – a little like a more complicated version of the ’hokey cokey’ in fact!

Sardane

Music for the sardane is played by a cobla, a wind band with double bass consisting of 12 instruments played by 11 musicians. Four of these instruments (tenora, tible, flabiol and tamborí) are typical Catalan instruments along with the more traditional trumpet, trombone, fiscorn and double bass. The makeup of a cobla never varies.

For the Catalans, the Sardane is more than just a dance.

When the Spanish Republic was declared in 1931, Catalonia gained a degree of autonomy, but when the Second Spanish Republic collapsed in early 1939, General Francisco Franco, aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, declared a fascist government over which he ruled until 1975.

He resented the Catalan national pride and desire for independence and considered it  to be arrogant.

He therefore enforced bans against certain aspects of Catalan culture, language and heritage, to force the Catalans to conform with the rest of Spain.

Sardane

Not for the first time, the speaking of Catalan was banned. So was the Sardane.

In a paranoid country, where walls had ears and spies were commonplace, Franco believed dancers were passing on coded messages with their feet!

In fact, the banning served only to strengthen the national unity and fierce pride of the Catalans, which could not be extinguished, even under the rule of a dictator.

sardane

The Sardane brought together all ages and classes, linked them to each other as they raised their heads and hands and declared their  ‘Catalanité’

Today the Sardane is danced in villages and towns throughout Catalonia, by Catalan and non Catalan alike, and is a great way to make friends and take a little exercise at the same time.

Join in the next time you see a Sardane starting up. The more the merrier!

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