Saturday, 21 January 2012

surviving the plague with a Schäfflertanz

Der Schäfflertanz (Cooper's Dance) commemorated on Munich's Neues Rathaus

If you've ever been to Munich, the capital of Bavaria, there's almost no way you missed going to the Marienplatz. Here's how Wikipedia describes it in Architecture of Munich

‘At the center of the city is the Marienplatz - a large open square named after the Mariensäule, a Marian column in its centre - with the Old and the New Town Hall. Its tower contains the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, an ornate clock with almost life-sized moving figures that show scenes from a medieval jousting tournament as well as a performance of the famous "Schäfflertanz" (roughly translated "Barrel-makers' dance". The "Schäffler" supposedly were the first to dance in the streets after the plague ended, thus encouraging the people to do so themselves).’

Which introduces our topic quite nicely. If you've been to the Marienplatz and looked up at the tower and seen the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, you might not have realised that this dance is sometimes reenacted with traditionally-clad dancers. Even if you live in Munich, you might miss it. That's because the live version only happens every seven years.

Earlier in the week, I went to see the Schäfflertanz where I thought it was supposed to take place, but I got the days mixed up. Figured I'd missed my chance, and would have to wait another seven years. Too bad, right? Not so fast.

Out of the blue, a friend invited me to come watch them dance at a village (Feldkirchen) near the city. I jumped at the chance, and here are my photos:

First the band arrives. You can hear the drumming from far away as they make their way through the snowy streets. You can see glimpses of red behind the band. Those are the dancers who're about to perform the Schäfflertanz.

There they are. Can you see how happy they look? It really is an honour to be able to do this traditional dance. This group of dancers comes from neighbouring village called Kirchheim.

And here they are processing...I assure you I wasn't trying to get the guy in front when his eyes were closed.

And here they begin the Schäfflertanz in earnest. There's a lot of complicated steps and spinning and twisting. They've most certainly practised carefully. The precision is admirable.

While they're dancing and the band is playing, there are two clowns going round painting some of the spectators' noses red.

Before I went to see this, one of my Bavarian friends assured me that getting one's nose painted red would bring good luck. Doesn't sound bad, does it? Your blogger with the reddest of noses.

This dancer praised our host, and said a few ceremonial things. Every official German gathering has this sort of speech. He did well, but I was curious what came next.

Then this guy told a moderately filthy joke, but the punch line was in indecipherable Bairisch (Bavarian), so I could only guess what it was. The rest of the joke was funny I guess...but I do wonder what made all the others laugh.

Then the dancers line up and march back from whence they came. And the band plays on...

Best of all? I remember my other camera (that takes decent video) in the last moment, and am able to shoot this little video: 

Now that you hear the music with the video, you can scroll back through the photos above while listening. The band plays the same tune the entire time.

So there you have it. Am pleased I needn't wait another seven years to see the Schäfflertanz. Oh, remember the photo back at the very beginning? I panned out a bit more to get this shot:

The green dragon crawling up from below is meant to symbolise the plague. Remember? The one we've recently survived. That was a relief, wasn't it?