History of the Dubrovnik poskočica - Linđo

The poskočica is a traditional wheel dance danced in pairs in the area of the former Dubrovnik Republic. The names kolo and poskočica, or kolo poskočica, are older, while the name linđo for the same dance came into use at the end of the19th century. According to oral history, the expression Linđo was originally simply a nickname of the famous parish lijerica player Nikola Lale from Petrača (4th October 1843 – 17th January 1907). At the end of the 19th century, due to Lale's superb skill and recognisability, his nickname became the general appellation for a rural musician who played the three-string instrument lijerica or lijera, and after that, the name for the poskočica. Literary sources from the 18th century contain references to the provenance of this archaic name. In his work Satir iliti divji čovik, a critique of the society of the time, the Slavonian Matija Antun Relković uses the expression lindovanje to describe the lounging about and leisure of the populace, which engaged in entertainment and dancing during festivities dedicated to saints. Relković writes: Kad se kolo u troje zaniše, i majka se sama u seb' niše čini joj se da će poletiti, što kćer vidi s ašikom igrati. A od sveca ni spomena nije, da bi išla pivat litanije. One misle da se tako sveti dan svetačni i Bogu posveti, što ne smije ništa poslovati, a grihota nije lindovati … I u svetac i u poslendane oni šeću pak još lindovane, a posao neurađen stoji.

“When the wheel dance in threes starts to sway, the mother herself is swaying with happiness to see her daughter dancing with her suitor. There's no saint on her mind, and no litanies will she sing. They think that the way to celebrate a saint and dedicate the day to God is to do nothing and lay about like it is no sin… And so, on the saint's day and after, they still laze about, leaving the work undone.”

In the Academy Dictionary, also known as the Dictionary of the Yugoslav Academy of Science and Art, published from 1880 to 1976, the expression lindovanje is defined as lounging about and the expression lindovan as a man who engages in lindovanje. These words originate from the Turkish words lejn – soft and linet – softness, weakness. On the basis of the abovementioned, the Turkism linđo is interpreted as a hypocoristic of the word lindovan and denotes an idle man, a merry fellow, an entertainer. Interestingly, the word lindje in Albanian denotes the east, birth, dawn, elevation, namely, initiation or procreation, which is what each new life, as well as the sun appearing anew at the dawn of each new day, brings. Unlike the popular term linđo, the older familiar expression poskočica or kolo tells us much more about the dance's origin and structure. This name has remained in use in Konavle and Župa dubrovačka, while the newer name linđo has prevailed in the Dubrovnik coastal region. In the dictionaries Dictionar by Juraj Habdelić from 1670 and Gazophylacium by Ivan Belostenec from 1740, the term poskočnica is closely connected with songs accompanying wheel dances, especially those of a "shameless" (as stated in these works) character, i.e. those on the subject of love. These were humorous and spirited songs and fast-moving wheel dances centred around the symbolic regeneration of nature and love affairs, which indicates that they were often remnants of the earlier ritual dances accompanied by song, often of mythological content. In the 18th century, Jesuit Juraj Mulih characterized these songs as dishonest, rude and dangerous. The poskočnicas were songs, as well as wheel dances accompanied by songs usually sung by female dancers. One person would start singing the main verses, while the others would join in by repeating the verses during the wheel dance. Proof that the poskočicas were once wheel dances accompanied by song can be found in the term reći kolo ("speak the wheel dance"), which refers both to the musical and vocal accompaniment to the wheel dance. Thus, Marin Držić writes in Dundo Maroje: Ah, ah, za rane božije, gdje su mješnjice, da ju (kolo, poskočicu, nap. aut.) uz mješnjice rečeš? ("Alas, where is the bagpipe, so you can say it [author's note: "it" refers to the kolo, poskočica] with the bagpipe playing?"). Poskočicas can be found in Sinj (Pasla Mara konja vrana, Jagluk kruška, Jela, Jezero etc.), Vrgorac (Soko i djevojka), the Makarska coastal region (Kruška Gjinger, Žuta žaba bili platno, Da me vidi mlado momče etc.) and elsewhere. Franjo Kuhač writes that these songs accompanied wheel dances, during which the young men and women would be introduced to each other before courting, and that such wheel dances were not as flamboyant the female or the heroic male wheel dances, but rather, in them the dancers would only sway so as not to become tired. Songs which today form part of the Christmas and New Year kolendas once accompanied wheel dances, as examples from the Croatian coast reveal. Eventually, i.e. in the 18th century, when the figures and tempo of the poskočica changed, these songs were no longer sung by the dancers themselves, but as a vocal accompaniment to the wheel dance sung by non-dancers. An example of this is the custom of bonfires – the radovanja, svitnjaci or kraljevi on the Elaphiti Islands, in the Dubrovnik coastal region and on the Pelješac peninsula, which were organised just before the spring and summer festivities of the saints – St. John, St. Vitus, St. Peter, St. Elias, St. Stephen. The poskočica was also danced on the occasion of a bonfire. It is known that during the festivity of St. John in Konal, Gusto Agazzi and Vlaho the Blind played the poskočica in front of the church and afterwards visited people's houses to wish them well. According to Andro Murat, on the occasion of a radovanje on Šipan, the wheel dance was danced around a pine tree decorated with ribbons and around a fire, to the accompaniment of the lijerica, while the women stood on the side singing the poskočnica songs. On account of their antiquity and great significance for the community, these songs were often sung on other festive occasions, leading to many kolendas being included in the cycle of Christmas and New Year customs. In the 19th century, there was a complete separation of dance and song in the poskočica wheel dance, so that the vocal performance was preserved only as a precursor to the wheel dancing, i.e. as a kind of announcement of the dance, and, in some cases, it was abandoned altogether. The poskočica preserved to this day is only such in name, having been stripped of lyrical accompaniment or, in some areas, accompanied only by the lead dancer's shouting of commands. As early as in the 19th century, in his classification of dances according to their musical and style properties, the Croatian ethnomusicologist Franjo Kuhač mentions, apart from youth dances, the male heroic wheel dances, the female wheel dances, the tanac dance and the poskočnica wheel dances (humorous and spirited wheel dances), while in the 20th century, the philologist Nikola Andrić describes the poskočnica as a type of female love song. It is believed that the first description of a poskočica, although it was not named as such, comes from Đuro Ferić in his work Poslanica slavnome mužu Johannesu Mülleru, printed in 1791. He describes a wheel dance in Dubrovnik, writing that men and women hold hands to form a circle and start by slowly swaying in the circle, after which the circle loses its shape, as commanded by the lead dancer, and becomes a square, then elongated, oval and snakelike, and finally falls apart into pairs. Then, each man-woman pair starts hopping, the most appreciated dancers being the ones that persist in it. The women do not shrink from hopping and turbulently turn while doing so, and this fiery dancing can go on for hours. The wheel dance is accompanied by songs sung by non-dancers, with the dancers themselves joining in, which creates even more excitement. If we accept the opinion that this is a description of a Dubrovnik poskočica, we will first be surprised by the wheel dance figures and then by the singing outside of the wheel. This leads to the conclusion that these are either two different dances or, if it is a poskočica, that it is a transitional phase between the wheel dance and the wheel dance in pairs, that is, a variation of the old wheel dance and the poskočica. Although it is hard to determine precisely when the poskočica took the form of a wheel dance in pairs, it must have existed in some form at the very end of the 17th or the beginning of the 18th century, whereas in the 19th century, it obtained a definite dance structure with the figures that we know today. In his 1689 work Glory of the Duchy of Carnolia, in which he described the Croatian dances from Istria, Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor wrote about dancing and hopping in pairs (probably as part of the balun dance), stating that Venice had influenced such dances, while the type of dance itself was known as "Croatian". The development of the poskočica and its figures was very much shaped by influences from Spain and southern Italy, which reached every corner of the Republic through Dubrovnik. Thus, the snapping of fingers (resembling the sound of castanets), the holding of hands, the relationship between dance partners and other style features indicate Neapolitan or Spanish origins. The first known description of a poskočica in its present form was provided by the Prussian Ida von Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, who travelled through Dalmatia with her husband Otto and gathered her impressions in the book Aus Dalmatien, published in Prague in 1857. She gives the following description of a Župa poskočica performed in 1854 in the courtyard of the Convent of St. James in Višnjica in Dubrovnik: Divlja glazba, divlji ples. Je li u njoj bilo umjetnosti i ritma? To nisam mogla razlikovati. Glas lijere, tog zrikavca među glazbalima, učinio mi se strastveno trzanje divljeg ognja i derviša. Parovi skaču i drhću jedan pred drugim, štuckaju prstima po zraku, hvataju se i njišu, a to sve u krug, neumorno, bez oduška, kao da su im pera pod nogama, a tako ozbiljna lica i strastveno u isti mah. I lijeričar je gudio na život i smrt. Svi oni koji su oznojeni igrali nisu opažali gustih redova gledaoca. Bogata šarolikost što je protkivala kolo činila je prizor još zanimljivijim. Suknja, pregača, rubac, haljetak, sve je šareno, a papuče i vrpce na glavi crvene se kao grimiz. Bilo je kao da oživjela gredica pleše planetarni ples.

“Wild music, wild dancing. Was there art and rhythm to it? I was unable to discern. The voice of the lijera, that cricket among instruments, seemed like the impassioned flickering of a wild fire and the jerking of a dervish. The couples spring and shudder one in front of the other, snap their fingers through the air, catch each other and sway, all in a circle, tirelessly, without pause, as if they had feathers under their feet, with faces so serious and passionate at the same time. The lijera player, meanwhile, fiddles as if for dear life. In their sweaty dance, they take no note of the thick crowd of spectators. The lavish colours that pervade the wheel dance make the spectacle even more interesting. Skirts, pinafores, scarves, jerkins, all is multi-coloured, while the slippers and the ribbons on the heads blaze red as scarlet. It is as if a flower-bed came to life and danced the dance of the spheres.”

After Ida Von Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, in his work Putne uspomene iz Hrvatske, Dalmacije, Arbanije, Krfa i Italije printed in 1873, the Croatian writer and historian Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski mentions the name of a dance in pairs – poskočica, which he saw performed in Župa in 1856. Franjo Kuhač called the poskočica the "Croatian dance" and wrote that the residents of Župa also called it kose. A dance called konse was well-known in Nerežišća on the island of Brač and was recorded by Vladimir Bersa at the end of the 19th century. The name of the dance was probably derived from ecossaise, which was a type of contra dance or schottische  danced in England and France in the late 18th and early 19th century. It is not completely clear whether the name refers to a dance like the poskočica or to a different type of dance, a schottische such as the Župa dubrovačka due passi, which Kuhač associated with the poskočica. During his travels in 1980 and 1982, the famous Czech folklorist and melographer Ludovik (Ljudevit) Kuba described the lijerica and met with lijerica player Nikola Lale Linđo, who played him the poskočica, the polka and the balsem – waltz. In addition, he recorded the poskočica wheel dance and polka from Ston and the wheel dance (poskočica) from Cavtat. Valuable recordings of the musical accompaniment to poskočicas, other dances and spoken poems from the area of Župa dubrovačka and Konavle were made in the 1950s and 1960s by Vinko Žganec, who was director general of the Institute for Folk Art since 1948. Apart from him, an exceptional contribution to the research of Croatian folklore, particularly in the field of ethnochoreology, was made by Ivan Ivančan, PhD, also employed in the Institute for Folk Art from 1955 to 1974. Ivančan conducted his field research and recording in the 1960s in the area around Dubrovnik , just like Stjepan Stepanov, who collaborated with the Institute for Folk Art as an ethnomusicologist from 1954 to 1965. Numerous recorded and registered materials are kept today in the Archives of the Institute for Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb.

Along with the written sources and archive materials, visual representations are another valuable contribution to the study of the history of the poskočica. The oldest visual representation of a dance in pairs from Župa is an 1873 aquarelle under the title of Podskocsiza by Nikola Arsenović, the description of which reads: “How the residents of Župa dubrovačka in Dalmatia dance the folk poskočnica on St. Helena's”. Newer illustrations come from the album Costumi dei dintorni di Ragusa by Salvatore Kosić from 1890, the aquarelle Ballo brennese ("The Župa Dance") from the 1892 Albumo di Ragusa by Petar Frano Martecchini and from a drawing by Vlaho Bukovac named Von Breno, published in the book Die Österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild in 1892 in Vienna. An early-20th-century illustration of the poskočica from the Dubrovnik coastal area by painter Zanida Bandur is the oldest known illustration from that area, while the oldest film recording of the coastal linđo from the village of Doli is featured in the film Jugoslavenski narodni plesovi ("Yugoslav Folk Dances") produced by Jadran film.