15. The Verbuňk under the Pressure of World Fame
Zuzana Jurkova [+]
Charles University Prague
In 2005 the Slovácko (a region in southeastern Moravia) verbunk, a male dance with singing, was the first of the cultural phenomena of the Czech lands to be put on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (Afterwards, three others followed, of which the Ride of the Kings is connected with the same region.) There is no doubt that this dance has been performed for a long time in Moravia, but only in the past decades has it attracted intensive attention of different types of folklorists. Primarily, at the biggest folklore festival in the CR – In the Slovácko celebrations in Strážnice (a regional center) a contest for the best Slovak verbunk dancer has been taking place since the mid-’1980s; at it the victors of the local contests are compared. The Strážnice “celebrations” are organized by the National Institute of Folk Culture (NÚLK) in Strážnice, a folklore institute that publishes scientific and popularizing materials, including those dedicated to the verbunk. It was also from there that the initiative for inscription onto the UNESCO list emerged. NÚLK materials and personal connections of its workers nurture the extensive regional folklore movement (e.g. verbunk lessons), incomparable in other Czech lands. On one hand there is no doubt that initiatives of folklorists influence in many ways the reality connected to the verbunk (including completely decontextualized use of the word verbunk) and so it is a kind of Hobsbawm’s 1983 invented tradition. On the other hand, however, the verbunk is not performed anywhere except Slovácko – despite more than a century of the existence of so-called Slovácko circles in many towns of the CR. It seems then that this phenomenon is inseparably connected to the dense network of local culture, including the component of “tradition”.