Burning witches on April 30-May 1 is an ancient pagan tradition which developed in various European countries including the Czech Republic. People believed witches were especially active on that night and that they flew above people’s heads and later trampled all the crops sown in the fields. That’s the reason why fires were lit with the express aim of burning the witches.
Many musical projects have noteworthy origin stories. But Dálava’s is truly one of a kind. Julia Úlehla and her musical and life partner Aram Bajakian began performing ancient Moravian folk songs – which they hadn’t heard – after happening upon them in a book named Živá píseň (Living Song). It had been compiled in the early 20th century by the former’s great-grandfather Vladimír Úlehla, a remarkable polymath.
Easter celebrations in the Czech Republic, which combine both Christian traditions and ancient pagan customs, are today mostly associated with painting eggs, whipping girls as well as eating loads of chocolates. But for dancer Antonie Svobodová, this time of year symbolizes a deep connection with the Earth. For more than 20 years, she has been marking the return of Spring by a ritual dance, based on age-old pagan rituals:
The Czech Republic has a rather unusual tradition on Easter Monday. Boys get willow branches, braid them together into whips and decorate them with ribbons to whip girls with for luck and fertility. The word for this whip in Czech is pomlázka, which has also become the name of the tradition itself. To learn more about pomlázka I interviewed three Czechs. The first is a 17 year-old-girl with several brothers, the second is an active feminist and the third is an expert on Czech folklore.
Czechoslovakia gained independence in 1918. But even now, after nearly a century you can find customs and traditions that are very similar to most countries that formed the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire. What Czechia shares with Austria and especially Vienna, is the tradition of classical dance classes that are still considered something of a “rite of passage” in both neighboring countries.
The Ride of the Kings – a unique and colourful tradition practiced in only four south-east Moravian villages took place in the village of Hluk on Sunday. The ride refers to the flight of Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus from Czech King George of Podébrady in the 15th century and involves a festive ride through the village with a boy portraying the monarch dresses in a traditional women’s folk costume to ‘mask’ his identity. The event which involves months of preparations end with a big celebration, dancing, drinking and merrymaking. The Ride of the Kings is on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.
Haka is a traditional Māori dance, which became world-famous thanks to the New Zealand rugby team All Blacks, who perform the dance during their pre-match ritual. It was recently performed by the Whakaari Rotorua group from New Zealand at the Prague folklore festival. Kristýna Maková met with the group’s leader, Frank Tomas Grapl Junior, who has both Māori and Czech roots. She first asked him what kind of music they brought to the Czech Republic:
The international ballet star Sergei Polunin is set to perform in the Czech Republic for the first time on Monday. The Ukrainian will give two shows at Prague’s National Theatre that will be preceded by a documentary about his career entitled Dancer. Tickets for both appearances sold out in less than five minutes. Formerly principal dancer with the British Royal Ballet, Polunin, who is 27, is today at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre.
Events were held around the Czech Republic on Saturday marking International Dance Day. The gatherings included large-scale dances that members of the public were able to learn in advance via internet videos. The choreography was put together by leading dancers from the National Theatre. In Prague a mass event took place on the plaza Václav Havel Square, which is beside the National Theatre.
Taking part in the carnival parade in Rio is an unforgettable experience and all you need to do is don a mask and costume and join in the revelry. But only the very best dancers have the privilege of dancing at the Sambódromo. Among the few foreigners to join this elite group of Brazilian dancers for the 2017 parade competition was Czech actor and dancer Viktor Polášek.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
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“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery
Valentine’s Day 1945 - When the Americans bombed Prague