Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Participatory traditions

One of the traits of modernization has been the 'staging' of traditions, where music, dancing or other types of cultural expression are formalized for performance before a public, rather than the public being 'part' of the performance. For example, the Croatian folklore group 'KUD Hruševec Kupljenski' has choreographed a 'traditional' village wedding that they can perform at festivals or on television:

A counter tendency has been growth of festivals and organizations which encourage the breakdown of divisions between performer and public. The Willie Clancy Summer School is one of these. Each year in early july, farmers and housewives from West Clare drop their work to join hordes of dancers and musicians from all over the world for a week of workshops, sessions and céilis. Although there are a few 'master concerts' on stage with listeners in chairs, most of the festival occurs on dance floors, in pubs and private houses. Weight is placed on activating participants, rather than passively entertaining them:

Much of the town of Miltown Malbay and surrounding villages is given over to the festival during the week. The living rooms of many private houses are used for morning group instruction in playing musical instruments, or are turned into cafes and overflow pubs:

I feel that we should encourage and help develop such participatory traditions. This is one of the reasons that the Oslo Irish Set Dancers have been dancing in a pub since their founding in 1995, rather than a gymnasium or ballet studio.

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