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© Massís del Montgrí Fotografia de Jordi Gamero
 

«A l'estiu els crepuscles són llargs. Les sardanes començaven, a plaça, quan la tarda iniciava la seva declinació. La llum era encara molt viva, però era ja tocada d'un punt de frescor suau, d'una inflexió de densitat daurada.»
Josep Pla, El meu país

«In summertime, the twilight hours are long. As the afternoons drew to a close, the sardanas would start up in the town square. The light would still be very bright, but touched now by a gentle cool and the hint of a golden heaviness.»
Josep Pla, My country

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En les primeres dècades del segle XIX, l'alternança de contrapàs i sardana organitzava el ball de festa dels pobles empordanesos. El contrapàs disposava meticulosament l'espai públic a través d'una coreografia complexa en semicercle dirigida per un capdanser, i tenia un ordre de balladors extremament jeràrquic segons les normes de l'Antic Règim. La sardana, en canvi, era el moment de màxima gresca i començava a ser símbol dels joves i de la renovació. D'estructura binària limitada a un motiu melòdic per cada part, la música de les sardanes era de transmissió oral, i els passos sempre encaixaven amb la música sense necessitat d'un líder.

Cap a la dècada de 1840, les sardanes van començar a incloure melodies romàntiques i el cicle de passos va deixar de coincidir amb la música. Melodia i ball ja no acabaven junts, i els joves balladors van enginyar un nou sistema per solucionar-ho: el «comptar i repartir». El capdanser era un home que assumia el lideratge d'una rotllana, però fora de l'antiga lògica d'autoritat o poder econòmic del contrapàs. Era un home emprenedor qui dirigia el recompte i demostrava les seves capacitats i habilitats a la plaça.

El primer opuscle que explicava el procediment, Método per apendrer á ballar sardanas llargas, publicat el 1850, aclaria que el ballador havia de calcular com un botiguer o un negociant de la nova època, que no es podia equivocar ni d'un cèntim. Així s'arribava a la satisfacció d'acabar junts, que encara avui s'expressa amb un «visca!». L'objectiu del comptar i repartir va fer de les sardanes un ball diferent que permetia als joves agosarats ensenyar llur capacitat i vàlua, al mateix temps que l'habilitat en els moviments del cos. No fou per casualitat que el primer ballador a descriure-ho fos Miquel Pardas, un jove singular: negociant de rellotges i armes, de vida aventurera, jugador, mudat i exhibicionista. Conegut com «el rei dels sardanistes», era un selfmade man, un nou model masculí que sorgia en aquelles dècades.

Les dones, en canvi, eren considerades incapaces de saber comptar i repartir i s'havien de deixar portar pel ballador. Encara hi ha record de les primeres noies que saberen comptar a Palafrugell, en els anys 1930, i de com els homes hi anaven per comprovar si era veritat. Les colles de nois es distribuïen la feina: qui tenia una noia bonica a la dreta, deixava el comptar a un company per a poder xerrar amb ella tot ballant. Una construcció de gènere que, tot i reformulada, al segle XXI manté algunes d'aquestes actituds.

During the early decades of the 20th century, popular dances in the towns and villages of the Empordà would alternate between the contrapàs (a Catalan folk dance) and the sardanas. The contrapàs would make meticulous use of the public space. Forming a semi-circle, the leader would take the dancers through a complex choreography. There was also a strict hierarchy of dancers, in keeping with the rules and standards of the Old Régime. The Sardana, on the other hand, was great fun and came to be seen as a symbol of youth and renewal. The binary structure of sardana music was limited to one melodic theme for each part, and was passed on to others orally. Also, since the steps of the dance matched the music so well, there was no need for a leader.

During the 1840s, sardanas began to include romantic melodies and the cycle of dance steps ceased to coincide with the music. The melody and the dance no longer concluded at the same time, and so the young dancers came up with a new system to solve the problem: «counting and distributing [the steps]». The lead dancer was still a man, and he was still in charge of the dance circle, but he was not bound by the old, authoritarian logic nor by the tight restraints of the contrapàs. Instead, it was a bold and energetic man who led the count and demonstrated his skills and abilities out on the square.

The first pamphlet of instructions, published in 1850 and entitled A method for learning to dance long sardanas made it clear that the dancer needed to be able to add up like a shopkeeper or a vendor of the new age, and he certainly could not afford to miscalculate – not even by a single cent. As a result, the satisfaction the dancers felt when they reached the end of the sardana together was expressed by single shout of «Visca!», just as it is today. By counting and distributing, the sardana was turned into something distinctive. It was now a dance that gave daring young men the chance to show off their talents, as well as their skilful body movements. It was no coincidence that the first dancer to mention it was Miquel Pardàs; a singular, well-dressed young man who dealt in timepieces and armoury and was both a gambler and an exhibitionist. Known as «The Sardana King», he was a self-made man; a type of new-age man that was emerging at the time.

Women, however, were considered to be incapable of learning how to count and distribute and had to be guided by the male dancers. The first women to «learn» how to count were from Palafrugell. People today still recall how, during the 1930s, men would travel to the town to see for themselves if this were true. The young men of the sardana clubs had a particular system for sharing out the job of counting: if one of them had a pretty girl on his right, he could pass the counting on to another fellow so that he could chat to her while he was dancing. Despite undergoing many changes, this gender-based construct still retains some of these attitudes, even in the 21st century.

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Quan els curts i els llargs començaven de manera molt semblant, qui comptava tenia grans dubtes. D'aquí van néixer les sardanes revesses, les complicades de repartir. Pep Ventura en va compondre dues amb la intenció de fer-ho difícil als balladors, com bé insinuen els títols: La embustera i La enfadosa. Aquests testimonis demostren que a la dècada de 1860 el sistema de comptar i repartir estava plenament consolidat, i s'encetava un joc especulatiu que ha estat un dels atractius dels concursos de sardanes fins a l'actualitat.



llargues Al segle XIX no era gaire habitual que les dones ballessin sardanes, motiu pel qual l'autor de la fotografia va remarcar aquest fet excepcional al títol. Vilasacra. Mujeres bailando sardanas en la carretera, Josep Maria Cañellas, procedent de l'Àlbum Rubaudonadeu núm. 481 (Biblioteca Fages de Climent)

During the 19th century, it was uncommon for women to dance sardanas, which is why the title of the photograph emphasises the exceptional nature of such an event. Vilasacra. Women dancing sardanas in the street. Josep Maria Cañellas, from the Rubaudonadeu Album no. 481

When the start of a short sardana was very similar to a long sardana, the person counting would be full of doubt and uncertainty, and this gave rise to the sardanas revesses (reverse sardanas) - a type of sardana that is difficult to distribute. Pep Ventura composed two of these sardanas: The trickster and Vexatious. His aim, as their titles suggest, was to make them tricky for the dancers. By the1860s, the system of counting and distributing had become fully consolidated, which started off a guessing game that has remained one of the main attractions of sardana competitions ever since.