Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dancing Alexander-style, Down Under

Dancing Alexander-style, Down Under
Skopje | 15 March 2010 | By Sinisa-Jakov Marusic

The issue of national identity is taken seriously by Balkan people – including the least serious among them.

Dear friend, today’s repertoire is a little act by a talented group of artists from the faraway country of Australia.

The fact that they originate from these parts, from the bosom of the Balkan semi-peninsula, may answer many questions that may arise while watching.

This performance, dubbed “Alexander’s Oro”, [The Oro means a traditional Macedonian folk dance] and which appears to be taking place somewhere among the Macedonian diaspora in Australia, has recently caught the eye of the audience back home.

Unfortunately the video has been removed from Youtube, but you can see it here.

Although it may seem like a spoof of a sort, mainly because of the goofy acting and poor choreography, sadly, it’s not. These people honestly seem to have tried to be as serious as possible in expressing and nourishing their national identity.

According to a placard posted at the back of the scene, the young performers belong to the Macedonian Youth Association Nikola Karev, which is celebrating 30 years as ambassadors of Macedonian folklore.

So, what’s wrong? Well, for one, this is not a traditional Macedonian dance, so should not be confused with genuine folklore. Nothing like this has ever been seen in Macedonian folk tradition. In fact, it goes against everything established as Macedonian folk music and dance.

Those unfamiliar with the real article should take a look at a “Teskoto”, a 19th-century dance expressing the heavy-hearted departure of the many Macedonians who had to leave their homeland for a better life abroad.

This and many other dances, fortunately, remain deeply embedded in the collective memory of the Macedonian people and are still performed, in almost original form, and without any need for folk ensembles dedicated to their preservation.

Unfortunately, the dance from Australia, which involves ancient warriors performing a medley of traditional Macedonian folk dances with a few loose interpretations of their own, fits another phenomenon – so-called “turbo-patriotism”, or kitsch patriotism.

Whether this derives from the recent bid by Macedonia’s political establishment to link the origin of the Macedonians to the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, or whether it merely stems from ignorance and a simple desire to annoy the Greeks – who insist on claiming exclusive rights to this historical figure – it really doesn’t matter.

Here is the plot. The ten-minute show depicts the life of the Alexander the Great, the man who came from somewhere round here and who at a young age had the whole world under his boot… or sandal.

The story goes that in his short but inspiring life, the young prince fought alongside his father, Philip, defeating the Greek city-states, only to watch him later fall victim to a treacherous assassination.

Strong and courageous as he was, he assumed the helm and led his people on a military campaign, conquering nearly all the known world and extending the borders of his empire all the way to India.

Note the gloomy narration that interrupts the dancing here and there to deliver us the main points of the story. At the end of his life, on drinking from a poisoned goblet of wine, our hero shouts: “The bitter wine has killed me but Macedonia shall live on!”

Many people have foamed at the mouth over the ridiculous forms that national blindness can take but apparently some people don’t get it.

So, for those that understand what I mean, I suggest you lean back in your chairs and enjoy the full absurdity of this ten-minute dance. For the rest, keep sharpening those plastic swords.

Source: BalkanInsight, 15.03.2010

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