Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

South East Europe / Via Adriatica

Moreska Dance

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Moreska Dance

About the site

Corridor: Via Adriatica
Country: Croatia, Korcula
Type: Intangible Heritage
Theme: Intangible Heritage
World Heritage:
Intangible HeritageIntangible Heritage

The Moreska arrived in Korcula in the 16th century, at the same time as it did in Dubrovnik, most probably from Sicily or Southern Italy, via Venice. An indication of this is that two of the dance "figures" have Italian names: the "Rujer" and the "Rujer di fori via". "Ruggero" was the name of a Sicilian war dance, a version of the Moreska, in which the Saracens are shown fighting against the Norman Prince Ruggiero d'Altavilla - a powerful family who ruled over Sicily and Southern Italy in the 11th and 12th centuries, which suggests a possible link. There are, however, no written records of the Korculan dance until the beginning of the 18th century. Latterly and up to the first World War the Moreska was "fought" only every few years -- protagonists were often wounded and replaced by 'seconds' during the dance - between 1918 and 1939 it was performed every year under the aegis of the Gymnastic Society of Korcula. Nowadays it is an exclusive Society (and 'club') of its own and the Moreska is performed much more frequently for the benefit of the many tourists who visit the Island. Every family in Korcula is proud to have one of its members dance in the Moreska, especially one of the key roles, which demand considerable talent and stamina. When the Black or the White Kings "retire”, they are allowed to keep their crowns and these become valued family possessions.
Korcula is the only island where it is still danced with real swords in its original War-Dance form and where it has enjoyed a proud and almost unbroken tradition for over four centuries, though the text, music and pattern of the dance have been slightly altered and shortened (the contest used to last for two hours!) over the years. The introduction to the dance is a short drama in blank verse, which sets the scene -- four characters recite the verses: the enemy or the Black King, his father, Otmanovic, the Hero or the White King, and the Bula or Muslim maiden, who is a peacemaker as well as a heroine.

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