Civil dances in the 18th and 19th centuries

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Dubrovnik was at the height of its power, and various impacts from Europe, mostly from Italy and Spain, formed its urban dance culture. From the 1573 records of a visitor from Vatican, Giovanni Sormana, we find that in the Cathedral, on organs, in addition to liturgical and other festive music, dance melodies were also performed, mostly at the behest of the Senate (Consilium rogatorum) during the visits of Turkish guests. For their entertainment and to their honour, dance compositions were performed, such as saltareli, pavane, passamezi, balli de torce and other dance melodies. The mentioned dances, along with branle, torurdillon, galigarda, and minuette, modelled after the European dance fashion of the 18th century, were danced in Dubrovnik public areas, for example in the building of the Grand Council, in the old theatre (the former orsan) and in spacious palace salons. Dance was an integral part of education of young landowners, who were educated under dance teachers from abroad, mostly from Italy. In the 19th century, kontradanca was especially popular in Europe. This dance developed from English country dance in the 17th century, and was danced by only one or two couples. However, in Italy, already at the beginning of the 17th century, kontradancas were danced in en ligne figure, i.e. male dancers on one, and female dancers on the other side, whereby they performed dance elements of walk and various forms of movement. As early as 1710, one English dancing-master brought kontradanca (contredanse) to France and arranged it so that eight couples were positioned in a shape of a quadrangle, and he joined the elements of particular kontradancas in one, by which he extended the complexity and time of performance. In the 19th and 20th centuries, kontradancas were integral parts of salon dances. By the end of the 19th century, the steps in kontradancas slightly changed, and the movements became more graceful and slower, in the form of courteous walks and bows. During that period, kontradancas in Croatia follow the French style framework with certain adaptations according to local peculiarities. The musical accompaniment to kontradancas was performed by smaller chamber orchestras, then lutes, mandolins, and later accordions, depending on the context of performance and the type of ballroom. From kontradanca a new dance form developed – quadrille (quadruplet), which started to take momentum in the region. According to the data of a Franciscan Ivan (Vanđo) Evangelist Kuzmić, from his catalogue Catalogo – Musica vocale ed instromentale nel conveto dei E.F. Francescani in Ragusa, from the music records of the Small Brethren, in Dubrovnik in the 18th and 19th centuries the following dances were performed – Galloppe, Polke, Polke Mazurke, Ballo nazionale istriano, Ciardasc, Ballo savojardo, Schottisc, Cotiglione, Ballo nazionale spagnuolo, Monferina, Contradanza, Eccosese, Minuetti, Tarantelle. According to don Miho Demović's records, minuettes in Dubrovnik were composed by Angelo Frezza and Domenico Antonietti, who also composed about twenty kontradancas. The largest collection of kontradancas in the Dubrovnik area was collected by the already mentioned Vanđo Kuzmić, and they were called as follows: Contradanza il trionfo, Marmont (on the island of Brač Marmontin was performed), Bella ragusea, Ballo di barcha, La ballata delle Copie, Ballo di Zattara, Viva sempre, Il fioretto, Canzon brovatta, Poviruscia (Poviruša), Salta Boscho (perhapts that was the origin of the Mljet dance Škampa Boško), Ballo Grecho, La Lavandera, Polonese, La stella, Ballo Capestre, Ballo nuovo, Trasborghese, La bella russa, Inglese, Inglesina, La fratellanza, Varaviza (Varavica), Francase, La biondina, La scievasja (Sjevača), La baracola, Caccia d'amore, Majcka Maru (Majka Maru), La Savojarda (or Ballo Ebreo, according to the creator of dance manuals, the Italian Guglielmo Ebreo), La Bella rosa, Triuscun (Triškun), San Giorgio. Among all those dances, Poviruša, Sjevača, Varavica and Majka Maru stood out, carrying Croatian titles and originating from Dalmatia, i.e. Dubrovnik, as well as Bella ragusea kontradancas. In Dubrovnik surroundings, there remained until the first half of the 20th century a live song with musical accompaniment, entitled Majka Maru preko mora zvala, as recorded by Vinko Žganec in the Dubrovnik parish with the accompaniment of lijerica. As in choreographies of the European kontradancas, the Dubrovnik kontradancas also had line forms, unlimited number of couples, simple steps and geometric forms, i.e. elements of quadrangles and en ligne. In the 18th century, other European dances were also performed in Dubrovnik, so that Vanđo Kuzmić recorded Curazzata, Bella Rosa, Carbonara, Sangue allegro, S. Giorgio, La Casta, Bigatone, Gioia Casta, Amore in ballo, Diavolelja (Đavolja?) Ballo del Re, Bal di vilano, Minuetto in quatro, Riverenza inglese, Strichitto, Stoccata, Cavaliere e Dama, Ballo di Pulicinella, Sincereta, Contradanza milanese, Pace in Amore, Catena, Robison, Ballo delle gnachare, Ballo de Tamburri, Ballo Brettagna. In 1869, Franjo Kuhač obtained from a Dubrovnik musician transcripts of 7 kontradancas, which he recorded. They were the already mentioned Poviruša, Majka Maru, Sievača, La barcola, Ragusea (in Kuzmić: Bella ragusea) and Pobjeda (in Kuzmić: Contradanza il trionfo). He, however, recorded a new one, called Kala-Majka. It was a version of a Ukrainian kolomeyka, which found its way to Dubrovnik. In his on-site research in Dubrovnik in 1967, a choreographer Branko Šegović recorded tales about three kontradancas, the already noted Ragusea, Victoria or Pobjeda and Prelipaja, which was also mentioned by Kuhač, although he did not count it in kontradancas (it was probably a kontradanca which Kuzmić recorded as La bella russa, later also known as Rusa). He obtained data about those kontradancas from a mother of a sea-captain Ivo Šišević, a married couple Anka and Tonko Helda, Vlaho and Gracija Peruđini, and members of Luka Kalmeta's family. According to the obtained data, Šegović created a choreography for kontradancas Victoria and Ragusea, which were performed by the Linđo Folklore Ensemble.

In the 19th century, particularly popular were carnival dances which were mostly held in private houses, but also in the Bonda theatre. Among numerous dances the cotillion, or kotiljun, was the most prominent, as a group dance which developed in France in the 18th century from the already mentioned kontradanca, and related to the quadrille. Kotiljun was the height of dance ceremonies, in which women chose their dance partners and gave them small gifts at the end of the dance. Its name originates from the French cotillon, meaning a petticoat, a dress. Except as the dance name, kotiljun sometimes denoted the entertainment as such, for example the Cavtat kotiljun. In addition to kotiljun, the evening dances during the carnival were denoted by the expression veljun, from the Italian veglióne. One such dance was presented at the beginning of the 20th century in a famous picture by Vlaho Bukovac – “The Epidaurus Carnival”.

Well-off citizens and traders in Dubrovnik and its surroundings prepared private carnival balls, which were attended by selected guests to whom invitations were sent. In the Dubrovnik parish, such dance was called Bal od Dinvita (from the Italian inviti – invitations). Such balls were attended by girls accompanied by their parents or older brothers, and those who had many daughters organized such parties themselves. With the appearance of the French in Dubrovnik in the 19th century, kavalkinas and ferms – the dancing parties, were organised in inns and taverns, with tickets being sold for dancing, eating and drinking. During Lent, that is, on the first Sunday or in the middle of the Lent, dances were organised under the titles of Lopižice, Razbijanje lopižica or Po korizme. In Dubrovnik it was the dance of the couples. At the end of the joint dance, a dice or random selection were used to chose a man, who would then be blindfolded, and then danced a waltz with one of skilful female dancers. At the end of the dance, a disoriented male dancer would be given a wooden stick with which he had to hit one of three clay pots – lopižice, which hung on a wooden stick from the middle of the ceiling. Lopižice were filled with sweets – zahars, dried fruit (figs, walnuts and almonds) and bran – palje. Clay pots were eventually replaced by bags – soklini, and in Cavtat they held a rooster, ash etc. The custom is related to breaking pots in which animal food was cooked so that none of it would enter Lent. It probably originated from Spain, where on the first Sunday of Lent – the Piñata Sunday – cooking pots were hit with sticks. However, this custom was also known in Florence, Italy, where in the 15th and 16th centuries, in the middle of Lent, there was a custom of cutting a doll representing an elderly woman which hang from the top of the ladder and was filled with walnuts and dry figs.