Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Basics of Ćwarmin Folk Dances

The Ćwarmin tribes are increasingly adopting sedentism, but many tribes still retain very nomadic lifestyles. Many of the traditions and rituals among the sedentist tribes stem from nomadic rituals, and many of the dances have ritual use.

A very common type of dance happens before setting up a new camp, or building additional tents or structures (and in the sedentist tribes, before building a new house). One style of dance consists of placing sticks in geometric patterns on the ground: crosses, "asterisks", and sometimes tiled patterns are made. Dancers place themselves in symmetric or pseudosymmetric patterns, and make sequences of steps over and back across the sticks, often in various symmetric patterns, although with certain layouts, the ends of the shape may require some different step sequence. Oftentimes, these step sequences are the length of two regular step sequences.

Dances in large crosses or asterisks often move in and out along the diameter - often they have a "chorus" part, where the dancers close to the middle grip each others hands (in a variety of ways, depending on the dance) and do some slightly different moves from in the "verse", and now often in some quite simple fashion around the centre.

Sometimes, the final chorus part also differs from the earlier choruses. In some dances, the sticks are moved somewhat in the middle (often really a bit into the second half, length-wise). This is often carried out as a special version of the second main genre of stick dance, where the dancers hit each others' sticks generating percussive sounds as they do so. These often also contain parts where the sticks are hit together in various ways that often feature a significant amount of syncopation.
The final part of such a three-part dance often has the same music as the first part, but with a new arrangement of steps and sticks.

At weddings, married couples often dance either opposite each other or next to each other, unmarried dancers do not dance next to or opposite anyone, and the couple who are building their first common tent move, during the dance, from not being opposite/next to one another to being so. Depending on the region, this may require short movements (just getting one step ahead) or large movements (moving slowly around a large segment of the figure). In other dances, the married couple will dance a 'duet' in an exceptional spot - in the middle of a large figure - and often in an exceptional pattern.


Groupings and symmetries: oftentimes, everyone moves in the same pattern. Such dances are fully symmetrical. Some may permit for gaps. Sometimes, men and women dance in different patterns. Sometimes, one of the genders are divided into two groups with different patterns each. It is unusual, but not unattested for a dance to have two separate groups per gender. Finally, some dances are only for one gender – and such dances also sometimes divide the dancers into as many as three groups.

These are single, double and triple dances (depending on the number of groups), and they usually have rotational or transpositional symmetry.

Finally, four kinds of dances exist where one must consider there to be several 'bunches' of people that move together, rather than separate people moving in similar patterns. In three of these, the bunches all behave similarly, in the final one, the behavior of the groups starts out similarly, until one group breaks the ranks, and after awhile another group also breaks the ranks, and ends up converging on the first group to break ranks. Finally, the whole set converges.

Stick setups: polygons, combs ( |_|_|_|_| ), often symmetrical across the spine ( -|-|-|- ), squares-with-combs (#, possibly with more arms) stars (pentagrams,  hexagrams, larger ones are uncommon), crosses and asterisks (+, *, with odd or even numbers of arms permitted). For the second style of dance, there's two main setups: short sticks in each hand, or long stick held by both. Sometimes, different dancers may have different setups in such dances.

Stick transitions: Most dances that include stick transitions go between a comb or square-with-comb layout and a cross or asterisk layout.

Rhythms: Mostly the rhythms consist of short slightly lilting pulses, basically alternating strong and weak, short and long beats. Length and strength combine both ways.

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