La Festa Catalana
is a programme of activities relating to the more prominent folkloric elements of Catalonia and will take place every Saturday evening until the end of August with the exception of the 1st and 22nd of June and the 15th and 24th of August. A variety of locations in the old part of the city will be playing host to these displays of local culture which, in addition, will be described in a number of languages for the benefit of tourists as well as local audiences.
Among other displays, the programme includes sardanes (a Catalan dance), bastoners (ritual weapons dances), other cultural dance groups, and giants. Apart from the session on the 20th of July, which will be performed exclusively by the Ballets de Catalunya group, each session will include performances by a local colla castellera (human tower group), an invited colla castellera, and another group of either dance or cultural imagery.
The closure of the final session will be at the hands of the Colla Sardanista Mare Nostrum who will be focusing on the Catalan traditional dance par excellence, the Sardana. The origin of this popular dance is uncertain and may even have begun in ancient Greece, where circular dances were popular. Pep Ventura (1817-1875), who is considered the founder of the modern Sardana, introduced innovations into the music by lengthening the pieces and increasing the size of the cobla from 3 to 11 musicians, thereby imposing adaptations to the dance in order to coincide with the additional measures. The Sardana became popular towards the end of the 19th century, partly for political reasons, as it came to symbolise opposition to the conservative Carlist supporters, who remained faithful to the traditional counterstep. This symbolism survived until the Franco dictatorship, when it was prohibited, thereby aiding its current consideration as the national dance of Catalonia.
The music and dance of the sardana has been of interest to many creators, both foreign (Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky, among others) and local. Among the latter, Joan Maragall was the composer of some memorable lyrics such as "Empordà" and "La Santa Espina", as well as the poem La Sardana, which begins with the famous verse "la sardana és la dansa més bella de les que es fan i es desfan " (The Sardana is the most beautiful dance / Of all dances that are done and undone- referring directly to a specific movement in the dance). Within the world of plastic arts, Salvador Dalí praised the dance and represented it in a number of works at different stages of his career.
Today Sardana is a living tradition in the city and popular dances are the Cathedral on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, and during traditional festivals and celebrations