Monday, 17 February 2014

A traditional Breton fest-noz.

This weekend our neighbours invited us to a fest-noz organised by the local school committee. We had heard of this Breton festival but had not been to one before so we jumped at the chance. With the time to meet up that evening organised the next problem was digging out some ‘decent’ clothing for all of us, we even got the iron out – that is a very rare occurrence!

 The fest-noz or night festival is a traditional Breton dancing and live music event. It has apparently been included on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. No, we’ve never heard of that list either!

 The evening started with the children from the school demonstrating the dance they had been practising. After that the first of the three bands came on and the dancing proper began.

 No-one was in charge or calling out instructions, everyone just seemed to know what to do. Strings of people followed each other in a feverish dance across the floor making intricate patterns of humanity. Some were very serious with pointed kicks and flicks. Others were obviously just enjoying the music, the movement and being part of such an effervescent group. People were glowing with the effort.

 The room filled with the heat of so many bodies pressed together. Lines of dancers were pulsing in time to the music. The children ran amongst the dancers, chasing, giggling and just playing with a joyfulness that a language barrier was not going to stop. The noise of the music and the people combined to make the room throb with happiness and conversation.

We watched the dancing, joined in one dance, watched the making of krampouezh (buck wheat pancakes with savoury fillings) and then enjoyed eating them. We also learnt new bits of the Breton language. We chatted and laughed mainly in English, sometimes in a little French and all these things combined to make a really special evening. Being invited to join in this local festival was a privilege and made for a fantastic night out.


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