Čoroje, Vila and Turica and their rozzo ballo campestre

Čoroje, Vila and Turica were old Dubrovnik masks which, from the 15th to the 19thh century, made their appearance in the city from the festivity of St. Blaise throughout the Carnival period, predominantly on Ash Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The Turica is first mentioned in a decision of the Small Council from the 15th century, according to which actors playing the Turica were to be given four perpera, while data from the 17th century reveals that actors behind the other two masks were also rewarded with money. During the 17th and 18th century, public performances involving these masks were at their peak. They were at their height on the Day of St. Blaise. According to Appendini, after the masks' procession through the city, three hours before nightfall, on the square before the Duke's Palace, they would dance, to the accompaniment of pipe instruments (probably the diple bagpipe or oboe), a long flute and drums, their rozzo ballo campestre or villereccia danza, i.e. a lively rural dance involving twirling and hopping, scaring the children and spectators, which was immediately followed by a big military review—the previously mentioned rassegna. Consequently, the question could be raised of whether the three masks were once part of the review or a weapon dance, such as the moreška, or of the moreška as a court ballet. Besides, these three characters used to go on procession through the city prior to their main appearance before the Palace, just as military formations had done, bowing and performing Spanish-style dances along the way. Therefore, it can be concluded that the mentioned three masks also participated in certain stages of these performances or dances along with the army. In his book, Sv. Vlaho u Dubrovniku ("St. Blaise in Dubrovnik") from 1923, Vućetić describes a military review, stating that the government had ordered all the guilds, especially the woolmakers, to determine what was necessary for a weapon dance and instructed the Guild of Sheepskin Tanners to make the mask of Turica, and recounts that the music, the actors, the singers and the masks were all procured. The masks are illustrated in the engraving by Antonio Sandi, printed in the 1803 work by Francesco Maria Appendini under the title Notizie istorico-critiche sulle antichità, storia e letteratura de' Ragusei, and in an 1892 aquarelle depicting the three masks, from the Petar F. Martecchini collection of the National Archives in Dubrovnik. It is worth noting that these aquarelles contain, along with the masks' Slavic names, their Italian names according to the interpretatio romana, associating these characters with antique deities in the following way: Turica – Marte (Mars), Čoroje – Bacco (Bacchus) and Vila – Diana. Rather than take them seriously, many authors considered these names Martecchini's own interpretations of Slavic Carnival characters in the light of antique deities. Others still looked for the latter's substitutes among Slavic deities. We can see from several examples that the Renaissance court theatre of pastoral, allegorical and mythological content featured antique deities and fantastic characters, as well as the moreška as a figure of conflict among the characters. One need only think of Cupid or the fairy from Gundulić's Tirena. Such characters were topoi or emblematic characters in Renaissance dramaturgy and, as such, together with the moreška, found their place in street theatre, amongst the commoners and artisans, within the carnival games, dances and pantomimes. We can, therefore, assume that in the 15th century, and possibly even before then, the figures of Čoroje, Vila and Turica participated in a chain dance, possibly the moreška, performed at the festivity of St. Blaise, or the cerchiata, just as Bembelj was part of the shoemakers' dance or Cupid of the tailors' dance. Moreover, in the first of the three sonnets which preceded the sword dance of Split artisans in 1784, the sword dance is described as giuoco sacro a Marte – a holy dance dedicated to Mars, which might imply that the Dubrovnik Turica overo Marte was once part of the moreška, in which it represented the horse, encountered in other similar dances. The actor who played Turica was completely covered in dark-brown wool, hands included, under which he held a long staff on top of which was a stylised horse head with accentuated eyes, nostrils, ears, a red tongue and a small goat beard on the lower jaw. The man under the woollen cover moved the jaws on the staff, which clicked, and on his feet he wore shoes resembling claws. One or two such horses that circle around the dancers carrying sticks, handkerchiefs or swords can be seen in the English moriss dance, which developed from the moreška. The horses would entertain the assembled viewers by dancing around and often using their clicking jaws to collect money. We also encounter the horse figures in the English hobby horse dance and the Balearic ball de cavaletts dance. Apart from the horse, in the morris dance and the ball de cavaletts we can also encounter the boy disguised as a girl (Mayde Maryan), resembling the fairy character in our region. Since it is known that the Carnival and theatre performances of the time were given almost exclusively by men, it is likely that the Dubrovnik Diana or Vila was also played by a man. He would be dressed in a long greyish-white short-sleeved dress tightened under the chest and a veil made from the same material, which covered the hair and had a floral wreath on top. In his hands, he would hold a stylised triangle with flowers and leaves. Since this dance prop is very similar to the bows in the cerchiatas, we can trace its origin to the chain dances. Another Balearic dance, the cossié, also features a man disguised as a lady, as well as the figure of the devil – diablo, which can be associated with the Dubrovnik Čoroje or Bacchus. Čoroje was dressed in a fur dress with his hands peeping out of it and a linen mask with an accentuated mouth opening. His shoes were shaped like claws and in his hand he held a stick decorated with flowers and leaves. This stick decorated with flowers recalls Bacchus' staff, that is, points to phallic symbolism. It is well-known that, due to his characteristics, Bacchus was likened to the character of the devil. In addition, the name Čoroje refers to the colour of his blackened face, which could have reflected the meanings attributed to the other – the Moors – in the moreška. Similarly to the Dubrovnik Čoroje, the folklore of the Dinaric area contains a Christmas and Carnival custom of masking of men into women or animals, known as Čarojice, which is a remnant of the vegetal fertility rites rooted in the antique cult of Dionysus, i.e. Bacchus. The name itself spread in the area through Romanian Vlach cattle breeders, for whom cioroiu, cioroe meant "crow", "Gipsy" or "black". Therefore, this Carnival name is a syncretism of the rural culture of Dinaric cattle breeders from the wider Dubrovnik hinterland, reinterpreted in the context of the Renaissance urban cultural repertoire. Čoroje also contains a ludic component, which we can recognise in the figure of the fool, whose face was also sometimes blackened in German sword dances. He dances between and around the dancers and gets hurt in the end.