Abstract Dance surrounded on all sides of azorean folkloreThe folklore, in Azorean islands, represents one of the main and most widely enjoyed cultural manifestations of the archipelago and the groups, in reality, serve as schools of music and dance, promoting intergenerational relations, strengthening the social component and encouraging the practice of habits conducive to a healthy life. Through dance, many people have found an alternative to a sedentary life by exploring the limits of their physical potential and social relationships and by cultivating a healthy lifestyle.
This research, with quantitative and qualitative characteristics, sustains two main objectives: on the one hand to gain knowledge of the main reasons why people join in this type of activity and on the other hand to identify some of their beliefs and the importance this experience has had in the context of their development as a person. It is clear that a greater investment in the educational component is necessary, with regular closer involvement between the school and the community since these corporal dances, which are specific to these communities should be cherished and relevance should be given to the physical motor activities that are practised, in a recreational manner, throughout the dancers lives, many of whom would not otherwise not do such activities.
IntroductionSince the original settlers populated the islands, dance has been present in the lives of the people of the Azores, an archipelago of nine islands located in the middle of the Atlantic, on the western edge of Europe looking towards America, the destination of many for whom the islands has become too small to guarantee that they can support their family. Men and women, old and young, rich and poor all danced together as part of the same circle, to the sound of these same guitars that even today echo throughout all the parties and local dances & country festivals, delighting those who have remained, all those who visit and those for whom the poverty of the land and rage of the volcanoes once forced their departure but who now return, to lull to sleep the yearning that brought them back to the island.
These days, the same island from where this yearning created unique harmonies, ripped from the guitar strings by the calloused fingers for the labourers of the land and for those who toiled on the sea, takes on a new life. The threshing floors and public squares where they danced merrily after slaughtering a pig, husking the corn and many other toils of the countryside, have given way to hotel terraces and folklore now represents one of the main and most widely enjoyed cultural manifestations of the region, visited annually by thousands of tourists from all over the world. For the young, folklore is starting to become an alternative to a sedentary life of consoles and video games. Folklore groups in reality, serve as schools of music and dance, supporting intergenerational relations, strengthening the social component and encouraging the practice of habits that are conducive to a healthy life, in which physical activity blends together with the vestiges of the cultural heritage, inherited from our ancestors. In reality, regional dances, since they require repetitive movements in order to maintain a certain rhythm, are part of a set of physical activities which guarantee that a certain level of intensity is controlled and these activities are both healthy and done by individuals under favourable conditions: of a recreational nature, done in the open air, accompanied by a musical rhythm and integrated into a group (Dévis, 2000).For these reasons, schools are also challenged to intervene, adapting their curriculums to this trend/tendency, which they intend to further implant in the younger population. This is the trend/pattern that we have seen taking place in the ambit of the Azorean curriculum. Of the eight key competencies that make up the core of the Azorean curricular for basic education (aged between 6 & 12 years old), we draw attention to cultural & artistic skills and physical-motor skills, which stand out as they echo these principles in the way in which they attempt to foster the ability to understand an insular culture, in the Azorean context and also as a global citizen, developing both a sense of identity and respect for cultural diversity.
In fact, as Naul (2003) argues, “cultural identity” takes on added importance, when you speak of the curriculum for physical education. However, there is a tendency these days in societies around the world, be it either for the globalisation of practices or of customs and ways of living, for tradition to take on a significant role in the transmission of culture through physical and motor skills. Corporal cultures specific to the community and involving schools, or even the nation, be it in the physical activities practiced through games and cultural dances, or be it in the numerous sports activities practised and valued by society, should be cherished and relevance should be given to the physical motor activities that are practised through them. In the same context, Mota e Sallis (2002) advocate that the habit of doing regular physical activities throughout childhood and adolescence, may continue into adulthood (tracking), influencing the population and leading them towards concepts of an active life.This was the scenario, that served as the motive for our work, the objectives of which centre around, on the one hand, the collection and analysis of information regarding the cultural heritage of the Azores, in its traditional and artistic manifestations, and on the other hand, the study of their educational valences and pedagogical potential, namely the ability to reintroduce that heritage at the heart of new decision making concerning curriculums, contributing towards a social investment in the strengthening of physical activity and consequently increasing the quality of life of the population.
MethodsIn the first phase of the study, 112 individuals, belonging to folklore groups from all of the islands, were interviewed, with the aims of: Firstly – finding out the main reasons why people join in this type of activity; Secondly – identifying some of their childhood experiences and understanding the importance placed on these experiences in the context of their development as a person. In an initial phase, a questionnaire was used which included questions that allowed an analysis of the following indicators. (Table 1).
Table 1. Questionnaire Contents
Table 1. Dance surrounded on all sides by the sea the pedegogical and social role of azorean folklore
ResultsAfter observing the figure 1, it is clear that our sample, made up of those belonging to folklore groups from the Azores, was selected from only 8 of the 9 islands of the archipelago, proportionally the population of each island, the reason being that Corvo island is the smallest of the archipelago with only five hundred inhabitants and has no organized folklore groups.
Figure 1. The islands that those involved in the study belonged to.
Figure 1. Dance surrounded on all sides by the sea the pedegogical and social role of azorean folklore
Figure 2. Academic Education of those involved in the study
Figure 2. Dance surrounded on all sides by the sea the pedegogical and social role of azorean folklore
Table 2. Azoreans’ reason for join in this type of activity
Table 2. Dance surrounded on all sides by the sea the pedegogical and social role of azorean folklore
In the same way, we have found differences between individuals belonging to different islands (Kruskal- Wallis - H=13.263 a p=.001). We would like to highlight the importance that the dancers from São Miguel (SM) and Terceira (T) islands placed on preserving the culture and tradition of their region (SM - 46.9%; T - 37%), a love of learning to dance on Santa Maria island (StªM - 53.8%) and leisure and getting together with people on Terceira island (T - 37%).Comments made regarding reasons for belonging to the dance group:
“ (…) I joined the folklore group because I always liked those traditional dances and the stories that lies behind them (…)” (Dancer , 24 years old, Almagreira Folklore Band, Santa Maria Island – The Azores/ Portugal, 2008)
“ (…) The dances are out of this world and I have more fun than you could possibly imagine (…)” (Dancer , 27 years old, Ribeirinha Folklore Group , Terceira Island – The Azores / Portugal, 2008)
“ (…) an interest in ethnography after participating in a project for the Organisation of Young People’s Free Time Activities” (Dancer , 25 years old , Agualva Folklore Group , Terceira Island – The Azores / Portugal, 2008)
“ (…) reasons to do with family traditions ” (Dancer , 29 years old , Praia da Vitória Dances & Balls Group, Terceira Island – The Azores / Portugal, 2008)“ (…) what drew me to the folklore band was a love of folklore dancing and also a love of culture ” (Dancer , 49 years old, Santa Cecília Folklore Group, Fajã de Baixo - São Miguel Island – The Azores Portugal, 2008)
In this context, we aim to better understand the importance of these types of activities in an educational context. Regarding guided/structured activities, since basic education (6 to 12 years old) is very often integrated into activities that children do in their freetime, that reflect on the growth of the child in order for him/her to become a balanced adult, we have found that there is a considerable consensus (table 3), that a greater emphasis is needed on activities concerned with childhood and the need for socio-affective development, while stressing the importance of the relational component, more specifically of interaction and making friends with their peers.Table 3. Azoreans’ beliefs regarding “the most important benefits of these childhood activities in their adult lives”
Table 3. Dance surrounded on all sides by the sea the pedegogical and social role of azorean folklore
“Dance includes a series of skills and abilities: allowing the individual to explore their body; introduce the notion of rhythm, of agility in space; and also allowing the individual to understand the way in which the individual relates with his/her own body when dancing alone as well as how he/she relates with others when dancing in a pair or group.” (Interviewee 1: Dancer, 21 years old, São João Folklore Group - Pico Island – The Azores/ Portugal, 2010)“Dance is and excellent way for us develop physically. Without us even being aware of it our rehearsals and actions are just like a gym work out, however as well as doing physical exercise, we’re also required to be with others and develop relationship skills, which are essential to developing socially, something that should be worked on in schools.” (Interviewee 2 Dancer, 51 years old:, Salão Folklore Group - Faial Island – The Azores / Portugal, 2010)
Some argue that this activity is important for the young, as they believe that through having had the opportunity to dance folklore in their childhood, they became different people.
“Very often when children join the group, it is clear to see how difficult it is for them to learn the dance steps and I think this is due to the fact that they can’t yet completely dominate their body’s potential. After a number of rehearsals, their individual development is remarkable. It’s interesting to watch this development because this learning takes place in a very relaxed and recreational manner, and also in a way in which the children develop their motor skills.” (Interviewee 1)“I had a very happy childhood and dance contributed to this. I rarely played alone. There were lots of children in my area, unlike today, which is why we used to get together and play in the street. We played spinning tops, we played football and we danced a lot in groups. Today I consider myself to be a very happy and cheerful person. Whenever I’m around there is always music and a cheerful atmosphere there has to be a connection between this. A great deal of who I am, I owe to my childhood and the way in which I played, danced and spent my time with others.” (Interviewee 2)
The folklore groups, aware of their importance in the social and cultural life of their local areas, serve as schools of music and dance, involving the young in their activities, a factor which has contributed greatly to reversing the generally observed tendency of a more sedentary lifestyle, in which physical activity was not always considered.“Perhaps because of the influence of the dance and folklore school, more and more young people show an interest in joining the group. In the past, only the dancers’ children went there with their parents but now, generally speaking, there has been quite a lot of interest shown (…) It’s strange that something that they considered to be embarrassing a few years ago is now a matter of pride for them and even makes them more popular amongst their peers. It’s interesting that folklore that has managed to drag them away from their computers and playstations. It’s a way of getting them moving about and having a more active and healthier life” (Interviewee 1)
In this way, folklore has become an important means of encouraging physical activity in the young, who through dance, have come to find a healthy alternative to their usual lifestyle.“The fact that we have noticed that folklore is serving as an alternative to consoles and video games is also an excellent indicator of the fact that we can use it to provide periods of physical activity for the young, contributing to a healthier lifestyle for them. The energy they use while dancing a “Chamarrita” or a “Lira”, is similar to that which they would spend while playing football or basketball for a quite long time.” (Interviewee 2)
Discussion and ConclusionAs is already known, dance is intrinsic to human beings. It is a common domain through which, since as far back as can be remembered, people have felt the need to physically express an act of communication, while sometimes simultaneously expressing pleasure and happiness (Pinto, 2000: 6). In general, from the data collected and analysed, we can conclude that there is a belief that regional dances, when first tried in childhood, are a very important factor for one’s individual development, whether from the perspective of individual knowledge and learning or from a relational dimension, in what concerns interaction with one’s peers. We have also noted that the members of the folklore groups, although still a little vague on this matter, are starting to become aware of the benefits of this activity in terms of their “physical well being”. Concerning this, Dévis (2000) states that through any activity designed for our well being, health benefits can also be gained, from a multidimensional perspective (physical, psychological and social aspects).
The actual social involvement that takes place between us and between us and other folklore groups, made possible through interaction between individuals of the same community or other communities, confirms that involvement in associations is essentially the main motivation leading to learning in different areas - cultural, sport or artistic (Simões, 2006). Considering these fundamental issues, we reinforce the idea that these cultural bodies which are characteristic of the community and involve the schools or even the actual nation through cultural dances, should be cherished and relevance should be given to the physical motor activity that is practised, in a recreational manner, throughout the dancers lives, many of whom would not otherwise not do this physical motor activityIn this sense, Batalha (2009: 131) argues that dance, as well as encouraging diverse knowledge of basic displacements, an understanding of different spatial developments, the first notions of rhythm , it also develops a consciousness awareness of a first community For this reason, it is very important to instill this local knowledge in the young so that they do not forget their origins and fulfill their cultural role, through offering it as a physical activity as part of the basic education of Azorean children (6 to 12 years old). Motivating the younger population towards this type of local knowledge permits physical and motor development, which as well as being a vehicle of socialization, would also greatly contribute towards guaranteeing the well being of future generations. This was a general pattern that we found through our research into the participants opinions. Perhaps inspired by this general trend, some of the regional folklore groups have in effect been serving as dance schools, motivating the young to become involved in these activities.
It is evident that Azorean dances, with their vast repertoire and slight differences between the islands, have characteristics which require physical activity ranging from moderate to intense, therefore the rehearsals require ongoing practice, intensifying as the actual presentations approach, and furthermore they even allow positive interaction between individuals of different ages, genders and socio-economic conditions, allowing the continuity and transmission of culture between various generations. In general, from the data collected and analysed we can conclude that:
- Regional dance (folklore) brings about positive interaction between individuals of different ages, genders and socio-economic conditions, allowing the continuity and transmission of culture between various generations.
- Azorean dances, with their vast repertoire and slight differences between the islands, have characteristics which require physical activity ranging from moderate to intense, therefore the rehearsals require ongoing practice, intensifying as the actual presentations approach
- It is believed that when the regional dances (folklore) and these types of activities are introduced in childhood, they are a very important factor in the development of the individual.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, dance can be regarded as an excellent vehicle to encourage physical activity and as an important challenge for schools and teachers alike, and therefore, there should be a greater curricular development in this area, which would significantly contribute to increasing the quality of life of the population.
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