Bastons For The Banks

Posted on February 1st, 2011 by Valerie

Have you seen the video of flamenco artists protesting with all their hallmark defiant passion and sensuality at the Banco de Santander? Banquero, banquero… How we loved their threatening wails. We shared it on Facebook and someone commented : we won’t see this in Catalunya.  But there’s lots of flamenco in Catalunya, someone else responded. That got me thinking about what Catalunya could offer in the way of a more autochthonous protest. The sardana is far too sedate.  The castellers would be awesome but they’d have to knock a hole in the ceiling. How about the bastoners?

El ball de bastons –Stick Dance – is the oldest traditional dance still performed in Catalunya. The first written references date to 1151, when it was danced at the wedding feast of count Ramon Berenguer IV. The key feature is that the dancers bang sticks together, which is certainly noisy enough for a popular protest.

The ball de bastons, though, can hardly lay claim to being indigenous. Its origin, for want of a less cheesy metaphor, is lost in the mists of time: possibly an ancient farming ritual or a sword dance of the ancient Greeks.  (According to legend, the first inhabitants of Crete danced around clashing their swords to hide the whimpering infant Zeus from his father Chronos, who devoured his own children.)  The sword dance theory is the most widely accepted. Whatever, these dances were very popular in the 15th century and live on in France, Italy, England and Wales (as Morris Dancing),  Spain  (paloteo or troqueado) and Portugal (dança de pauliteiros).

There are lots of stick dance groups all over Catalunya (since the 1960s woman have also taken part: only in a few places is it still exclusively male.)

You can check out all things bastoner – including a dedicated encyclopaedia – here.

But we need something to sing or shout as we bang our sticks: something defiant and taunting, like the Banquero lyrics. Any ideas?

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