written the 17/02/2021
Whist waiting to start our dance classes again and at this difficult time, during which we have all had to demonstrate our resilience and sense of responsibility, the Caribbean dance section would like to introduce you to several aspects of the culture of the West Indies. Today: Carnival!
In the French West Indies, the Carnival season starts on the first Sunday in January.
Its roots are deeply anchored in the cultural traditions of Europe, with distinctive African and Amerindian additions.
It began when the colonialists landed in Martinique and Guadeloupe in the 17th century, bringing with them this European pagan tradition according to which Catholics would have a party before Lent, in order to prepare themselves for its limits.
The slaves, who at first could only watch from a distance as the colonialists enjoy themselves at the masked balls they organised in their homes, began to follow their example, with their agreement, and to mark this festival in their quarters. They entwined in these celebrations elements from their own culture (masks, songs, dances, colours…), their beliefs and their musical instruments (drums, tibwa, cha-cha…).
For the colonialists, carnival was a time of preparation for the abstinence they would impose on themselves during Lent; for the slaves, it was an opportunity to reclaim their African customs without any restrictions.
Nowadays, the Carnival, an array of shimmering costumes and Caribbean rhythms, is best experienced outside, following the processions and parades of costumed dancers. Each week ends with dance, costume and beauty competitions in the different towns and cities.
One can experience the Carnival in different ways, at times gracious and charming with magnificent sparkling parades, at other times more lively (or inebriated!), particularly during the "vidé" on Ash Wednesday and when gibes are hurled at the institutions during this period of release, to the amusement of the crowd, but all in good humour.
It culminates with a grand parade on Shrove Tuesday and ends on Ash Wednesday, with black and white costumes. The festival ends with the symbolic death of the King Vaval, the king of the Carnival, who represents all the sad and painful events of the previous year. On Shrove Sunday, he is paraded around the town and on Ash Wednesday, his effigy is burnt and thrown into the sea: time to start afresh!
Your tastebuds will not miss out at this great festival of colours, rhythms and sounds : at home, families prepare all kinds of delicious doughnuts: plain, banana, pineapple or apple, covered with icing sugar … Yum… Recipe