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Winter holidays traditions in Neamţ. Moldavian customs enjoy recognition beyond the country’s borders

30 December 2020 No Comment

Masks dancing, plough and Bear dancing in Neamţ

If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, we would have been celebrating a new edition of “Steaua sus răsare” Festival of customs and traditions, here in Piatra Neamț. This year the festival would have reached its 52 edition!

Photo Gallery: “Carmen Saeculare” Culture and Arts Centre in Neamț, December 2019

Part of the Christmas Fair in Neamț, a large cultural artistic project, organized by “Carmen Saeculare” Centre for Culture and Arts and funded by Neamț County Council, “Steaua Sus Rasare” Festival has been held until this year in the form of a parade of traditions and customs, which has been going on for five decades. Year after year, the streets in the center of Piatra Neamț were “invaded” by groups of young and old men alike, greeting their audiences with carols and religious theme dramas, and also spectacular mask dances – she-goat, stag, bear, young horsemen dance and more. The festival used to gather the most spectacular folklore groups and ensambles of winter customs and traditions from all around Neamţ County, from other counties like Bacău, Suceava, Botoşani, Iaşi, as well as from the Republic of Moldova or Ukraine.

Photo Gallery: “Carmen Saeculare” Culture and Arts Centre in Neamț, December 2019

Founded in 1971, “Floricica de la Munte” Folk Ensemble that is part of “Carmen Saeculare” Centre for Culture and Arts in Neamț is one of the most significant ensembles that really puts on scene the choreography, music and literature folklore of the area.

As one of the most important conservators of Romanian traditional culture, “Floricica de la Munte” Folk Ensemble travels around Europe, carrying with it the beauty of the Romanian folk dances, songs and costumes. Among the awards and distinctions  the ensemble received, in time, we recall the prizes obtained at prestigious events in the country and across Europe, namely: Reims International Folklore Festival (France), Zakopane Folklore Festival (Poland), Zavet and Lovec festivals (Bulgaria), the International Folklore Festival in Krakow (Poland), Kikinda International Folklore Festival (Serbia), Champtoce Festival (France), Quartu Sant’Elena Festival (Sardinia, Italy),  “Olympus” International Festival (Katerini, Greece) or Anapazari Festival (Turkey).

Renowned nationally and internationally has also become the spectacular bears dancing  from Asău, Bacău County. The origin of the Asău bears dancing goes far back in time. In the 60s, Gavrilă Nicodim, a well-known organizer of mask-dancing bands, introduced for the first time the play of two beating hammers on a larger drum, a custom taken from some friends in Dărmăneşti. Now his original musical creation, consisting of the rhythmic beat, specific to Asău, remains unique and representative. Gavrilă Nicodim was also the first to collect 8 real bear skins and propose the audiences the bears dance where each bear holds and dances around a rod, a scheme passed on from generation to generation and proudly practiced until this day by the locals in Asău area, thus becoming specific to the commune. Nowadays his son, Daniel Nicodim, is trying to take on the legacy of his father, reaching an impressive number of band members – 60. The bears band in Asău is now taking part in each Romanian customs and traditions significant festival.

Romanian traditions promoted in the heart of Europe. Neamț County attends the EUROPALIA Festival

Last year, in December 2019, the documentary “And the story continues – Gavrilă’s Dancing Bears from Asău” was released and received high appreciation at Europalia Festival in Belgium.

The project was realized by Brîndușa Balan, a young director from Neamț, in co-production with two Belgian artists who fell in love with the authentic Romanian customs  and traditions, Bart Van Dijck and Casper Fitzhue, representing Interzone Productions. During the festival, they exhibited various objects and original artistic compositions, as a result on a documentary trip to Romania. Their works aim to bring to the surface ancient traditions and rituals, as they appear through the sensitive prism of contemporary living. The two artists also presented, during the festival, a live performance displaying  elements of ancient Dacian rituals, which revolve around the bear as the central character. The film directed by Brîndușa Balan ran at the end of the evening, following the closing of the performative installation “Urs Geest”.

Photo gallery: Photo credit: Brîndușa Balan, motionARThoughts

Since 2020 brought a totally new the approach with regard to the tradition of going caroling and mask-dancing from house to house, the short documentary “And the story continues – Gavrilă’s Dancing Bears from Asău” is able to connect us again with the ancient customs and traditions and bring us together, so to speak, in an online community. Watch below a story told by Teo, an 11-year-old kid at that time, and beautifully illustrated by young director from Neamţ, Brîndușa Balan, in a “playful” way, as she calls it, as part of a motionARThoughts project.

“The mission of the documentary is to reconnect us through dear memories of good times, when we were together, enjoying the special traditions of Neamţ County and the entire region of ​​Moldavia and Romania.

The story goes on … from house to house, year after year. Let’s stick TOGETHER! ” Brândușa Maria Balan

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