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 and 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 now days 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.
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 Thursday in 'Ljetno Kino' - 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 Zrnovo-Podstrana, 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.
Moreska Photo Album - The Moreska sword dance photo album is uploaded and ready to browse. All photos in this album were taken at Sveti Todor’s Day in Korcula in July 2007, when Moreska was traditionally performed:
The Moreška in London - The Moreška, a traditional sword dance from the island of Korcula, comes to Croatia Exclusive Exhibition at London’s Earls Court from 7th – 9th April 2006. The exhibition features a great number of exhibitors to showcase the very best in travel and tourism, food and drink, culture and property from regions all over Croatia. There will be two daily performances of The Moreška Dance during the show, performed by the Korcula Singing Society St Cecily and accompanied by a brass band... read more.. + Moreska in UK 1966 and 1980
For more info about sword dances of Island of Korcula see following links:
Extract from Moreska Dialogues:
Bula: Leave me alone! Your demands are in vain
Moro: Stop wailing, my lady
Bula: If you will
Moro: I will not leave you
Otmanovic: There is no fear in Otmanovic!
Osman: Do not trust your sword
Moro: You ask me to return her
Bula: Ah, you wicked man!
If it were not that I disdain
Otmanovic: Useless to be angry, Osman,
Osman: How dare you compare
Moro: Ah! I cannot bear
Osman: Now defend, come my army.
Bula: From this sharp sword I will willingly receive
Moro: Console yourself, dear Nymph,
Bula: Then render me to him
To your arms, my soldiers,
Moro: Willingly, oh knight,
At the end of the 4th Kolap:
Bula: Oh, knights!
As long as I have
Osman: You are going to lose
At the end of the 7th Kolap:
Osman: You've lost all your dignity
I readily to you my sword surrender
Bula: My dear, sweet love,
Let this chaste kiss