Europe dances the Dance of Death again

* The contents have been prepared with the contributions of members of the community of readers of La Vanguardia.

This Easter, freer from the restrictions of the Covid pandemic, a tradition that connects with our medieval past has been recovered: the Dance of Death. Although the truth is that it has been many days, too many, that people have been dancing about the Ukraine War. John Carlin writes that “Putin is still in the Middle Ages”, that “his rules of the game are the same as those of Vladimir the Great or Ivan the Terrible”.

The theme of death, so tragically alive in these days of the 21st century in Eastern Europe, dominated the Late Middle Ages. Facing her there was no Christian resignation, but terror at the loss of earthly pleasures. But, the Dance of Death came to remind us that worldly pleasures are far from forever and that the end comes to all of us sooner or later, at any age and whatever our social position. It is something that Covid has also reminded us of.

Transferred to our days, every leader who sends young people to a war and causes pain in the weakest must be aware of the equalizing power of death. No one escapes his last breath. It’s universal. Therefore, in the Dance of Death, human skeletons are represented, calling people of different social position or in different stages of life to dance around a grave.


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The Verges Dance of Death.

Susi Chinchilla / @susi_chinchilla

The artist Susi Chinchilla has portrayed in The Reader’s Trickster from The vanguard the traditional Dance of Death of Verges, with its characters from the three Tietes as spectators. “It is the theatrical representation of the life and passion of Jesus Christ”, he details, “the medieval quarter facilitates the atmosphere of the festival and takes advantage of the scenic space of the Plaça Major and the natural decoration of the walls and fortification towers of the town medieval”.

And, in Girona, “the Procession of the Holy Burial returns to the streets of the city after the pandemic prevented massive acts from being held on public roads during the last two Holy Weeks”, recalls Susi Chinchilla.


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Las Tietes following the Holy Burial Procession in Girona.

Las Tietes following the Holy Burial Procession in Girona.

Susi Chinchilla / @susi_chinchilla

Another of the scenes of this Holy Week that arrives in a context of war in Europe is the staging of the via crucis

This “painful way” is a path of prayer, which refers to the different moments experienced by Jesus of Nazareth from his capture to his crucifixion, burial and subsequent resurrection.

The artist Susi Chinchilla also shows her characters from Las Tietes in the Living Via Crucis of Sant Hilari Sacalm, which, as he points out, “has a documented history of more than 250 years”. “Before 1731, processions were already held in this town in the region of La Selva, in which they participated, in addition to the Steps either mysteriessome characters from the Passion (living mysteries), such as María Magdalena, María de Betania and María La Pecadora”, details the artist when sharing her illustration.


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Living Way of the Cross of Sant Hilari Sacalm.

Living Way of the Cross of Sant Hilari Sacalm.

Susi Chinchilla / @susi_chinchilla

The “viacrucis” is also an expression that we have incorporated into our vocabulary to refer to all kinds of difficulties that arise in life. Many Ukrainians are going through it. That is why the Asturian artist Maimuny has also wanted to share in The Reader’s Trickster “This animated video clip, which does not respond to any release, only to the need to do something (if anything can be done) and do a tiny grain of sand in the face of so much barbarity”.

The wish that this Holy Week would become a Holy Week santa claus, that he brought peace in Ukraine as a gift seems utopian (or perhaps, an act of unrequited faith). One of the most famous allusions to the Dance of Death (today very current) occurs at the end of the film the seventh sealby Ingmar Bergman, when the character of Jof comments to his wife: “Death, stern, invites them to dance. They go hand in hand making a long chain and the dance begins. Death himself goes in front with his scythe and their hourglass (…) Everyone is already marching, towards the darkness, in a strange dance. They are already marching fleeing the dawn, while the rain washes their faces, furrowed by the salt of tears”.

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The extreme right in France

This Holy Week also brings us another viacrucis, in this case, electoral, where the extreme right in France, with Marine Le Pen, has armed itself to attempt the assault on the Elysee. But, it turns out that these presidential elections have given rise to a new wave of indignant in the country that saw them born. “Neither Macron nor Le Pen!”, the hundreds of students who have occupied the Sorbonne University have shouted as a slogan.


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Poster of Marine Le Pen in Paris.

JOEL SAGET / AFP

Jaume Collell, with irony and humour, analyzes the Le Pen phenomenon in France from the perspective of the PP’s recent pact to govern Castilla y León with the extreme right of Vox. “Marine Le Pen, leader of the French extreme right, will address the Cortes of Castilla y León by videoconference to gather support with the aim of defeating Emmanuel Macron,” writes Collell. “Le Pen has already intervened telematically in the parliaments of Hungary, Brazil and North Korea,” he says, before referring to arguments reminiscent of those put forward by Putin: “The bombings against the French presidential candidate are incessant. In recent weeks the level of cruelty has increased. The main excuse used by the enemy is that it should be denazified and demanded that she renounce being part of any alliance”.

It is clear, the medieval Dance of Death has returned to the Europe of the 21st century. He will dance before, during and after Holy Week.



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