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Spanish dance is not only regarded as a culture but also as a component of the Spanish history. The country prides itself in a wide range of cultures that directly translate to a wider variety of dance and music kinds. Spanish early dances and music are largely attributed to the Roman and Visigoth cultures. The evolution of traditional Spanish music scene has been dynamic over the past 19th century. Spanish music and dance are way above the global musical radar. Traditional music in Spain is a blend of many cultures and the cohesive nature of the Spanish population (Carr 254). Traditional music in Spain has developed in diverse means, especially under the Moorish rule. The country, boasting of cultures in the broad region with a host of various communities, has developed the dance and music scenes.
Spain boasts of hundreds of traditional music and dance, valued all over the world. Spain’s music and accompanying dances are popular in the global scene and the spread of the cultural aspects of music and dance have been progressing to other countries. In the much popularized Cataluña, there are up to two hundred recorded traditional dances. The sardana dance expresses the rich variety of the Spanish folklore. This paper will explore the arguments of the impact of the Franco regime in the development of the sandrana dance and culture. The writer checks the myths and the assertions by the media and literary sources.
History of Dance in the Franco’s Spain
Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator of the 20th century, is remembered for his extreme acts of banning music and dance in the tradition-vibrant country. During his reign, Franco banned public festivals, literature sessions, music and drama festivals and the use of regional languages. According to Franco, these factors were a barrier to the achievement of a uniform country. Being a vibrant nationalist, Franco had the intent to do away with all aspects that portray regionalism among them music and dance. The Spanish civil war of the 1930’s brought the Franco’s ban off all forms of art and use of ethnical languages. For over half a century, Spain’s dance scene was developing and recovering from Franco’s reign. Way ahead the Franco’s era, Spain was the epicenter of dance and music. The native Spanish dances were attributed to Greek times. It was not unusual for people to create their own dances such as the flamenco, jota, sardana and contradanza. Invention and innovation of dance routines led to the formation of new bands, dance groups and better moves.
It was not until his death in 1975 that Spain, as a country, and Spanish culture in music and dance were revived in wider scopes. In fact, it is argued that Franco’s death marked the revolution of traditional folk dance and music. The periods, considered as the high points for the radical change of Spanish music, are the Baroque period and the Renaissance. For instance, accompanying dances to classical music was of instrumental importance during the period of renaissance but was overshadowed by the easy music of the baroque.
The republic of Spain in Franco’s regime and the civil war of the 1940’s had its face as the Spanish dance also known as the flamenco dance. The strength of flamenco was retained by Franco who, in many ways, favored its existence. The strength of the flamenco dance in Spain is felt even up-to-date. In 1978, for instance, the government of the Duke of Alba encouraged the composition of dance troupes in Spain. For instance, the creation of the National Ballet of Spain was encouraged by the Ministry of Culture (Carr 254). The Ballet of Spain was registered as a company, and the famous Victor Ullate was chosen as the director. The company and the benefits, enjoyed by the flamenco dance scene, ensured that the Spanish dance culture was well continued. The lead of the company is still regarded as a mark on the history of dance in Spanish history.
The history of Spanish dance is owed to concert performances by the renowned artists such as Emma Maleras. Despite the opposition by the Franco’s dictatorship regime, Maleras was a significant figure in the progression of art in Spanish culture. Through her book, “Study and annotation method of the castanet”, the interpretation of “Método de studio y anotación de la castañuela”, Maleras advocated for the use of musical instruments in music and dance. In the Theatre Institute, Barcelona, Emma Maleras used her model for teaching dance which is regarded as a universal model. Through her efforts and model despite the resistance experienced, Maleras is celebrated for her efforts in the expansion of music.
Catalan culture and Sardana
The Barcelona area of Spain homes the Catalunya area which is considered as the home for sardana dancing. In this form of dance, people join hands in circles with precise steps. In the dance, the circle becomes bigger as people move in a round motion. This dance is traditional and has been transmitted over generations as the dance of Catalunya.
The dictator Franco also banned the sardana, which is a public circle dance that is an expression of national unity and joy of Spain as a state. His early years of dictatorship were characterized by constant rebellion and the demolishment of the sardana. According to Franco, the sardana was a threat to national unity and the creation of cultural unison. Furthermore, Franco described the trend as that destroying the nation, rather than building the nation. Dancing of sardana was categorized as a crime just as robbery and corruption. In addition, the use of Catalan language was completely banned. As a result, there was an inhibition in the use of the Catalan language in publications, newspapers and journals. This strict measure was embossed by the signing of a decree.
Until 1939, the suppression of the native sardana dance by the Franco regime was held relentlessly. The Catalan culture as a whole including its languages, sardana and values were inhibited. The native sardana dance was the greatest symbol of the Catalan autonomy and prohibiting it brought with it detrimental effects on the culture. However, the demise of Franco in 1975 freed the Catalan culture, and Catalonia was once again regarded as a country by itself. To mark the end of dictatorship and kick start liberation, large numbers of the population were seen dancing sardana on the streets. Indeed, this was an immediate emblem of freedom. In 1939, Franco reconstituted his central government in order to obliterate the differences, created by the use of different languages. This, according to Franco’s premises, was divisive to the Spanish culture and nationalism. Art and music was abolished just as regional laws and the regional institutions. The power, bestowed to Franco by himself, allowed him to ban sardana as a dance and all the regional laws.
All over Spain, the Catalans are considered as patriotic people (and proud at times) with their distinct culture that sets them apart from the castellan Spain. To a greater extent, the Catalans consider themselves as a country on their own with rigorous campaigns of separation for over a century.
Francisco Franco, on the other hand, viewed the Catalans as a threat to national unity. Ruling for more than three decades between 1940’s and 1970’s, Franco resented the national pride of the Catalans. To him, this was arrogant, unacceptable and insolent. In many efforts, Franco oppressed the Catalans through crippling measures and law systems. All this was in the course of making Spain a uniform state by eradicating the culture and language of the Catalan society.
Under the tyrannical rule of Franco, the Catalans still remained united as a culture and progressed with their culture termed as illegal (Payne 84). From all walks of life, the Catalan has remained in high esteem despite all challenges. Their unity is unmatchable. It is widely believed that it is Franco, the dictator, banned the use of sardana. However, my stand in the argument is that the measures, taken by Franco, are not as extreme as literary sources have claimed. Surprisingly, children and younger generations have been made to believe that Franco is a tyrannist and majorly he has be blamed for the infringement of the Catalana music and dance cultures. The Catalonia’s national dance has been perceived to be banned by the tyrannical Franco. However, I am of the view that the Franco regime did not kill the sardana culture. In my opinion, it is the Francoist regime that encouraged the sardana as an acceptable dance routine. It should be recalled that the sardana was, initially, faced by difficulties during the period of Stalinist control between 1936 and 1969. Furthermore, all literary sources have reported little to prove the detrimental role of Franco in the regression of sardana as a dance.
In a recent study on young Catalans, aged between twenty five and thirty five, schools’ curriculum taught children in schools that sardana was totally banned by Franco. The content further implicated Franco in the suppression of the Catalans as a society and sandrana as their national dance. This among other negative allegations implies that the books, journals and other literal materials have alleged these.
The intensity of Francoist oppression on the progression of sandrana is claimed to be in enormous measures. For instance, the premier of the Solench’s La Sardana made claims that Francoism was not only a threat but also an act of colonialism by the Francoist government. However, the claims are vague and are further not consistent with previous claims of repression. A caption from the Solench’s La Sardana reads:
We remember our parents,
and their ancestors,
oppressed by repressions,
yearning for liberties.
When the enemy furious
wanted to erase the character
Of the Catalan homeland
I resurged, quiet
the sardana. (A una terra, dansa bella 2003).
The assertions, made by political and social spheres in the Catalan community, cannot be termed a modest. However, no distinct source of oppression has been validated in the public limelight. The claims of separatism and incitement by the Catalunya media were rampant with a key case being the charging of La Santa Epina.
Evidence indicates that during the 40’s till the 70’s, the Catalunya’s dance bands, commonly known as “Coblas”, were on a steady rise. With the accusation on Francoist rule, the data and the assertions made have no clear match. It is during the 1940’s that the coblas flowered not only among the Catalana but also in the greater Spain. To disqualify the claims and reports made, it can be seen that individuals had better things to do during the civil war period other than engage in dance bands. At that point in time, security issues were of greater importance other than leisure and dance. It would be unfair to judge the trend Franco set on the sandrana as this was the worldwide trend. For instance, the British brass bands were all banned for long periods, preceding the Second World War and during the war. Despite this, the bands still continued to exist, although their existence was repressed for the war periods. The Francoist government did not in any way act as a barrier to the revival of the coblas after the war period. As a matter of fact, the Francoist government was seen to encourage the existence of these bands.
In the reign of Franco, all civil and public ceremonies were officially ended with performances by the sandranas. This was rampant, especially during the first years of the Francoist government. The celebrations, marking the liberation of Barcelona on June 27th, were colored up by the coblas bands. For instance, the celebrations on the 15th to 18th August, 1958 were graced by nine sardana performances that involved many people; Franco himself in attendance. This is on contrary to the belief that Franco was totally repressing the Catalonya population. The performances continued for days with no interruptions.
After the war, sardanista groups were slowly re-formed and the bands were seen mushrooming in the streets. With the support of the government, through the support of the Organization of Popular dance, band existence was promoted. The organization was charged with the responsibility of promoting bands in Spain. To foster the existence of sardana and Catalonian culture, the Franco government in 1960 established the Universal Day of the Sardana, which preceded the establishment of the Congress for Sardanista studies in the previous year.
The presumptions, made by many spheres, are that Franco totally banned the Sardana, which is a public circle dance that is an expression of national unity and joy of Spain as a state. This is, however, not necessarily true. The basis of abolishment of the sandrana at the time was due to the concurrent Second World War that demanded for more time and energy as compared to leisure activities. The rebellion of the Catalana further impounded the understanding of the sandrana repression. Continuous opposition by the masses led to constant conflicts among the Catalunya residents and the Francoist government. The views presented by Franco that the sardana was a threat to national unity and the creation of cultural unison were on a steady basis. Furthermore, Franco described the trend of meeting in the streets for leisure, rather than development, as those destroying the nation, rather than building the nation. To impound the spread of the behavior, dancing of sardana was, thus, categorized as a crime just as robbery and corruption. In addition, the use of Catalan language was completely banned to foster nationalism and patriotism. The Catalonian population had in the past failed attempts and tried to assert itself as a free nation and not as a part of Spain. This was a threat to national unity at that point of time. As a result, there was an inhibition in the use of the Catalan language in publications, newspapers and journals. This strict measure was embossed by the signing of a decree.
The dictatorship nature of Franco’s leadership cannot be renounced. However, the premise that Francoism is solely responsible for the banning of sandrana may be termed as a generalization or myth that many continue to hold onto. Unfortunately, the myths have been largely advocated for through the media and school curricula. Just like other countries, involved in the Second World War, being the ‘captain of Spain’, Franco was concerned by people’s activities in other spheres such as music and dance other than the war, which was of considerable significance (Payne 84). The interpretations of his actions, according to me, are misleading with existing reinterpretations. The arguments presented in this paper are based on recorded evidences from credible literary materials rather than hearsay or presumptions. The transfer of guilt to Franco and his regime is viewed as a collection of forces against Franco as an individual.
Even though a revolt was experienced, the monarchic Spain in the Franco’s regime did not diminish the strength and the role of dance in the free Spain. Dance is an expression of culture and society and cannot exist fully without it. Though there have been allegations and misunderstandings in the Franco’s role in suppressing the development of sandrana dance, national unity was boosted through music and dance. It is justified to imply that Franco’s role in Spanish dance cannot be overlooked as he was a frantic supporter of the arts after the civil war.
The dynamic nature of the Spanish music scene over the century will take time to be killed by any form of leadership. The blend of cultures in the Spanish population has led to cohesion rather than division in the population. Traditional or native music in Spain has developed in diverse means, especially under the Moorish rule. The country, boasting of cultures in the broad region with a host of various communities, has developed the dance and music scenes despite the problems, experienced in the 1940’s. With the high numbers of cultures in Spain, the dance culture will not be done away with soon. Spain boasts of hundreds of traditional music and dance, valuedall over the world. Spain’s music and accompanying dances are popular in the global scene and the spread of the cultural aspects of music and dance have been progressing to other countries. In the much popularized Cataluña, there are up to two hundred recorded traditional dances.
The claims and reports, asserted by literary sources, show that Franco was justified. As noted in the paper, individuals had better engaged in the civil war period other than engage in dance bands. At the peak of the war, security issues were of greater importance other than leisure and dance. It would be unfair to judge the trend Franco set on the sandrana as this was the worldwide trend. The discontinuation of the dance bands was not unique to Spain alone and it had been seen in other parts of the world . In addition, there was promotion of the bands after the war, justifying the disqualification at the time.