About MORESKA – a traditional sword dance

The town of Korcula is well known for MORESKA – a traditional sword dance and drama that was common through the Mediterranean in 12th and 13th century, reaching Korcula in 16th century from Italy and Dubrovnik.

The dance originated in Spain is associated to the conflict between Moors and Christians. In Dalmatia its popularity was almost certainly linked with the struggles against Ottoman Empire, above all with the victory over a Battle of Lepanto, the first major Ottoman defeat by the Christian powers, which ended the myth of Ottoman naval invincibility. Through the centuries Moreska vanished from the Mediterranean and nowadays is only to be find in Korcula, where it is performed for over 400 yrs.

Briefly, the dance follows the story of the conflict between the Red King (locally called “White”) versus Black King and their soldiers, as Bula – the Red King’s fiancée is captured by Black army. Following the dialogues between Kings, the romantic and ritualized sword battle starts, and is performed in seven circles representing seven different dances with swords. Finally Black King is conquered and Bula happily returns into arms of her bellowed Red King.

Moreska video clip from film – click to watch

Together with growth in tourist industry in Korcula, Moreska become one of the most important tourist attraction and its yearly performance on day of Sv.Todor (29/07) has been transformed into a regular event during the summer season, held every Monday and Thursday in ‘Ljetno Kino’ (Open air cinema) – a small open-air stage right on the edge of the Old Town, or in the case of rain, the Dom Kulture – an indoor stage in the center of the town.

In the other places on Island of Korcula there are other traditional sword dances too, accompanied by more traditional instruments, as opposed to Moreska’s brass-band music. These are MOSTRA – the sword dance from ZrnovoPostrana, performed on 16/08 for feast of Sv.Roko, and KUMPANJIJA, performed in Pupnat, Cara, Smokvica and Blato on various occasions, but not as regular as Moreska.

The tradition of beheading of an ox after the dances, which was practiced for long time, was banned after WW2, and it’s reappearance in Pupnat in 1999 was heavily publicly criticized, so let’s hope it will never become tradition again.

Photos of Moreska:

  1. Angry Negotiations – Moreska
  2. Black King Moro in Action – Moreska
  3. Bula and Moro
  4. Coversation between Bula and Moro
  5. Desperate Bula
  6. Fourth Movement of Moreska
  7. Moreska dancers
  8. Moreska – black and red army
  9. Moreska Movement
  10. Moreska Detail
  11. Moreska Dancers
  12. Moreska
  13. Moreska – 7th Movement
  14. Moreska – Black King Dance
  15. Moreska – Happy End
  16. Moreska – The Beginning
  17. Moreska – The First Movement
  18. Moreska Dance Movement
  19. Moreska in full swing
  20. Moro the Black King of Moreska
  21. The Defeat of the Black Army Moreska – Moreska’s home page (english text) / Kumpanjija Smokvica – home page (croatian text only) / Kumpanjija Blato – home page(croatian text only)

Extract from Moreska Dialogues:

Bula: Leave me alone! Your demands are in vain
My charms belong to another man.

Sweet Osman, my beloved,

If you could see now

How my heart is breaking

And full of sorrow for you!

Although this odious steel


my hands,

My heart is always with you

And yours with me.

I shall bear you in my heart

As long as I have life.

Moro: Stop wailing, my lady

I have had enough!

It is painful for me to listen

When you call my opponent your pride

Here, in front of my face

But I bear and endure it all

For the love I feel for you

My dear nymph, I give you my heart

For your sweet charms.

Bula: If you will

But one favour grant me,

All I ask

Is that you stop loving me.

Of far more pain for me

Is your unwanted love

Than the steel

That weighs upon my hands.

Moro: I will not leave you

Nor will I stop loving you.

I love honorably your everlasting beauty.

Ask whatever you wish,

Even my father’s kingdom.


are heard.

Enter the White Army.

Otmanovic: There is no fear in Otmanovic!

Osman: Do not trust your sword

Without honour and without honesty.

Treacherously, you wished to steal

My betrothed, by torturing her.

Where is your knightly honesty,

Where your bravery?

How did you dare to enslave her?

Let me remind you

That the army from my court

Is ready to rescue her.

Moro: You ask me to return her

To your hands. Never!

I would rather lose my head.

Bula: Ah, you wicked man!


If it were not that I disdain

To darken my sword with your blood,

And stoop from my might,

I should destroy you.

Otmanovic: Useless to be angry, Osman,

Listen to me.

There is no difference

Between our two crowns,

Both are full of glory

I am an emperor as you are!

Osman: How dare you compare

My crown with yours

Me, who reign over all the world,

From East to West, and fear nobody.

Moro: Ah! I cannot bear

Your offenses any more.

Fall then!

Osman: Now defend, come my army.

Bula: From this sharp sword I will willingly receive

The wound of death;

Come, deadly steel

If it will stop their mutual rage.

Moro: Console yourself, dear Nymph,

I could not bear to look

At your dead body in my lap.

Now, knight, gather your armour.

A fierce war is about to begin.

Bula: Then render me to him

I my death would afflict you.

My affliction is the greatest

Because I would rather choose death

Than your unwanted love.


To your arms, my soldiers,

Let everyone be witness to my honesty,

Which is as big as my empire.

Now, knight, gather your armour.

A fierce war is about to begin.

Moro: Willingly, oh knight,

I shall be fighting for the nymph.


I am ready to fight for the damsel

Who arouses my love and noble passion;

Willingly, oh knight.


the end of the 4th Kolap:

Bula: Oh, knights!

Do something to stop your wars

Which wound my heart and draw tears of

Blood from my eyes.

Turn your sword on me

And let him live

Take my life

But my beloved spare.


As long as I have

Power in my hands

I will cause him strife

Rather than lose you.

Osman: You are going to lose

Either by defeat or by slavery.

My strength and courage

Will force you to relinquish her to me.


the end of the 7th Kolap:

Osman: You’ve lost all your dignity

And now you are my slave for good.


I readily to you my sword surrender

It has grown heavy in my hands.

And with it I return your Bula.

Bula: My dear, sweet love,

For whom my heart is longing,

Receive the gift of my eternal faith,

Take me, your constant love.


Let this chaste kiss

Be a reward for all my suffering

More info about Moreska: