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Friday, March 30, 2012 (read 2445 times)
 

Danza de los Zancos - Stilt Dancers Festival in Spain

by Kimberly

In the town of Anguiano, Spain in the La Rioja region, a famous folkloric traditional celebration called the Danza de los Zancos takes place. The small village is famous for its splendid Rioja wines, mountainous terrain and its famous brave dancers. During the celebration, 8 young villagers take to the street with a dizzying dance routine as they whirl around on 45 centimeter high stilts (zancos) dressed in wide skirts.  The festival is in honor of Mary Magdalene, the town saint. 

The stilt dancers are usually from the oldest families of Anguiano and the tradition has been passed down from parents to children for centuries. Their outfit is also very traditional; consisting of a white or light blue button up shirt, a colorful waistcoat vest and a long flowing damask yellow skirt.

The Danza de los Zancos takes place several times a year, one of which is during the Magdalene festival on July 22, after mass and the rosary. During this festival they will also dance another 2 days. 

In September they also make several appearances. The Sunday prior to Ascension Day, the 8 zanco dancers bring the Mary Magdalene image from the hermitage to the town church where it will remain until the festival on the last Saturday of September, when it will go back to the hermitage for the winter. The stilt dancers perform several times throughout this last weekend of September.

The Spanish stilt dancers’ skills are exemplified by the task of transporting the Mary Magdalene image from the hermitage to the church.  They “dance” her image the rough narrow cobblestone streets, down 7 steep stairs of Alta Street and a narrow 58 meter long hill with a 20% grade known as the “Cuesta de los danzadores”.  Throughout the whole decent they maneuver expertly while spinning and playing castañuelas (traditional Spanish hand instrument).  The dancers are trained at fixing their gaze ahead of them to maintain their balance, but their long wide skirts also help to maintain their equilibrium through the routine.

These talented human tops rarely spin out of control as they amaze crowds with their bravery and balance as they dance their way into a trancelike state in honor of Mary Magdalene. Exactly how the stilt dancers became involved in the celebration is unknown, but the first reference to the Danza de los Zancos appeared in May of 1603.


Keywords: danza de los zancos, stilt dancers, la rioja festival, stilt dancers spain, stilt dance, la rioja fiesta, la rioja dance, anguiano spain, anguiano stilt dancers, fiesta de la rioja, dance on stilts

Posted In: Spain, Culture

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