[Red Rose, Why Don't you Thrive. A carnival carol from Doudleby: dance, identity, status and integration.]
Prague, The Institute of Ethnology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic + Association for Children's Creativity in Dance, 2008, 85 pages + DVD
Even a fleeting glance at the comprehensive edition of "Folk dances of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia," which is published by the National Institute of Folk Culture in Strážnice, must make a striking impression on interested parties. The ten volumes from the 1990s subdivided according to regions always contain video material from various localities of the region and text parts with descriptions of dances, musical transcriptions, choreographies, etc. Further - more recent - seven volumes deal with male dances, primarily various forms of the verbuňk (originally, dance of recruits). (This is, of course, not surprising: in 2005 this Moravian dance earned a UNESCO status as intangible heritage). The text parts have, in contrast to the preceding series, even more detailed comments, including the history of dance, occasions for dance, etc.
The reviewed volume might thus seem to be only another in the series of audio-visual materials depicting music‑and‑dance traditions from our land, even some sort of poor relation. It deals with one genre from three neighboring South Bohemian localities. It is not like that. It is about another type of publication, more or less new in our country. While the Strážnice edition records existing (and sometimes almost no longer existing) dance tradition - and their goal is to describe HOW the phenomenon looks, Daniela Stavělová asks mainly WHY it seems the way it seems. (In the text, however, she also declares a documentary objective of her six-year field work in Doudleby.) While in the earlier volumes the focus is undoubtedly on the visual part, here - from the logic of the approach - it is necessary to start with the text, or - in the ideal case - to combine the reading of it with the watching of the film on DVD. Such a multimedia format is, besides, the quite usual world standard of ethnomusicological and ethnochoreological scientific publications.
In the text (which here is in Czech and English versions) the author presents the carol as a universal, historically petrified template filled with elements of a concrete culture. These create a functioning structure - and it is to up to the author to interpret the whole and its individual elements. Stavělová uses not only of the material, which she herself collected in the field, but of various forms of description or recordings beginning at the end of the 19th century. She then analyses all the components, evaluated synchronically and diachronically, as elements of structure of the whole ritual. She explains it as a way of ventilation of community conflict and strengthening collective identity, and, at the same time, as "area of communication in which every individual person can highlight his position and role within the community."
While watching the 35-minute film it hardly occurs to the viewer how difficult it is - with the help of documentary sequences, short testimonies of the participants and an accompanying commentary - to create, from many-hours-long material obtained during all-day following roundabout ways in three communities, a well-arranged and understandable whole. This was definitely successful. On the accompanying DVD, there are, apart from the film, unused shots which are thematically organized into the appropriate chapters, and an independent photo gallery.
It is undoubtedly a cause for rejoicing: ethnochoreology (the name of which was often used for many dance-folkloristic events) has in this work a fine representative.