Monday, March 22, 2010

Let the Carnavales Begin!

Let the Carnavales Begin!

Before I came to Barranquilla, the best thing I heard about it was that it was the place for Carnaval. Supposedly Barranquilla has a Carnaval without equal in South America (outside Rio de Janeiro) and I was looking forward to see what it was all about.

It was Friday, February 12, Carnavales started this day and went on until the following Tuesday night. That day at school was Carnaval and nothing else. I did not exactly know what this meant, but soon found out it was an unbelievable display of dance, music, costumes, and colors. Mainly though, Carnaval is all about dance.

One thing my school does very well is put on a good show. Watching the students dance in their costumes was like watching ‘Mad, Hot, Ballroom’ on steroids. Each class, grades 2 – 12, had a Carnaval king and queen. The queen is the most important and she has to be an amazing dancer. The king and queen wear the most elaborate costumes, but everyone in the class has a costume and is part of the dance routine. I feel sorry for any Colombian who is uncoordinated, but oddly, it just doesn’t seem like these people exist. Are Colombians born good dancers? I think it’s quite possibly in their blood. That being said, I found out that students had professional choreographers for their dances.

boys and girls...

...dancing together happily

Each class had a mix of music that each had a different dance: Cumbia, Mapalé, and some hit of the day. Almost everyone had a part of the song El Celular, which was the song for Carnaval 2010. The thing is, I can show pictures, I can try to describe it in writing, but the best is to see and hear a bit of this in action.

Cumbia is a slower dance to music with drums and a reed instrument that sounds like the high scale of the clarinet. It's one of the few dances in the world that I might have a chance of learning because of its slower pace. Here is a Cumbia video.

Profesional Cumbia from a colleague in Barranquilla's Carnaval

On the other hand there is Mapalé. It is the dance from the Afro Colombian culture of the Caribbean Region of Colombia. It has a fast drum beat and is a lot more frenetic. There is no way I will ever be able to learn this dance. Here is a Mapalé video.

the queen of mapalé

The whole school day was full of things you would never see in the US – little boys and girls dancing together in coordination, some of the costumes were a bit risqué, and one act even had highschool students breathing out fire with what smelled like actual gas.


...¿donde estás?...

...¿qué pasó?... apagaste el celular"

costume details that would make Michael Jackson jealous

Judges watched the entire show, and I couldn’t agree more with their choices for la Coronación of the kings and queens.

the judges

post-coronation rumba

Once again I will reference Wikipedia: “The Carnival of Barranquilla was proclaimed by UNESCO, in November 2003, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”

Intangible, yes, that it is.

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