Knowledge preserves the legacy of ancestors
14 old dances as intangible cultural property
 Dances that are protected as intangible cultural property are: Šećer; Šibljika; Što Drijemaš, Jadna; Kaloper; Dobro Veče, Gospo; Đidije; Sitan Tanac; Oj, Jovo, Jovo; Stambol; Glas se Čuje u Glavici; Leše Gora, Maglica; U Vukića Brankovića and Trusa

In European countries, the north is usually more developed than the south. However, that is not the case in Montenegro. Mountains, rivers, ecovillages with their beauty and challenges attract curious nature lovers. However, the burden of development and care for the culture of the north is borne solely by individuals, enthusiasts, who invest their knowledge and skills to explore and preserve the cultural heritage of ancestors for some new generations. The director of the Cultural Center Kolašin, Branislav Jeknić, his associate Davro Sedlarević, the head of KUD (cultural-artisticensemble)“MijatMašković” and other associatesare rare examples of excellent results achieved in the domain of research of the intangible cultural heritage, its protection and preservation as an intangible cultural property and Ethno Camp they organize with eminent experts from Montenegro and the region.

Every place in the Montenegrin mountain crags longs for such researchers because it has to offer substance and people who are unselfishly willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

Guardians of the cultural heritage

Ensemble KUD “Mijat Bošković” was founded in 1943 in Kolašin, with the purpose of boosting fighters’ morale. Now 75 years later, there is almost no family that did not contribute to the ensemble with at least one member. Today, being member of ensemble is kind of a status symbol. Thanks to the well planned education process led by Branislav Jeknić, director of the Cultural Center Kolašin, the ensemble is experiencing renaissance.  The case of student Davor Sedlarević who received support to study traditional dances at the College of Vocational Studies in Kikinda while he in return promised to share the knowledge to the members of ensemble is a good example of team work in order to preserve tradition.

Sedlarević graduated in top of his class and his mentor was Dr. Olivera Vasić, at the time the greatest expert for dances in Serbia. Soon, Sedlarević become first Montenegrin specialized in traditional dance. He decided to dedicate himself to research work in the area of Montenegrin dances.Prior to researches done by the Cultural Center Kolašin, it was widely believed that Montenegrin dances in ceremonial costumes were performed with vocal-instrumental or instrumental accompaniment. However, according to the generally available scientific material, the data indicate that dances were performed only with a song or with the rhythm of steps, "silently". There was very little data on dances of the Kolašin region or the former Montenegrin Hills. With the support of KUD's assistant Danica Scepanovic and several senior members of the ensemble, they completely changed the repertoire and introduced some novelties. All dance choreographies related to the Montenegrin heritage are rearranged so that they are performed in the old, forgotten way. Forgotten dances from the Kolašin region reappeared again, modified only to meet the basic rules of the stage. Vladislav Vlado Medenica, one of the last representatives of the old heritage, joined the ensemble.


Photo by: Branislav Jeknić

Continuity of tradition

 Being declared a custodian of a cultural heritage is one of the greatest awards that the micro-community can receive. Since those were almost forgotten dances, in danger of completely disappearing, even from our memory, giving the status of intangible cultural property to 14 dances is of immense importance from several aspects. First, from the aspect of cultural continuity and the acknowledgment of the rich dance creativity the community transmitted over time, then, from the aspect of the local and national identity, and finally, from the aspect of extensively documented data on dances and music of the region. Population and parts of a culture that do not have preserved data and archive material have poor chances for confirming and proving continuity. Since these dances are declared as cultural heritage, such danger doesn’t exist in Kolašin anymoreand furthermore extensive data also proves the survival sphere much wider than dances and songs. If it starts to disappear cultural heritage is hard to revive.  

Dances that are protected as intangible cultural property are: Šećer; Šibljika; Što drijemaš, Jadna;  Kaloper; Dobro veče  gospo;  Đidije;  Sitan tanac; Oj, Jovo, Jovo; Stambol; Glas se čuje u glavici; Leše gora, Maglica; U Vukića Brankovića and Trusa. The origin of dances “Sitan tanac” and “Oj Jovo, Jovo” is mystical and they are associated to the funeral procession or ritual of purification which was characteristic of certain community initiations or changes in nature - for example, winter to spring transition.Certain dance elements like “gates of kolo” and “entangle” and “unravel” have a deep ritual meaning in ethnocoreology. What makes these dances interesting is a fact that they are depicted in monumental medieval tombstones that lie scattered across Bosnia and Hercegovina. Famous dance “Ljeljenovo kolo” (Deer’s kolo) – according to the scientists most probably implies crossing over to the world of the dead (deer in Celtic mythology is a magical creature that helps souls move between the worlds).  

Dances “Dobro veče”, “Gospo”, “Kaloper” and “Đidije” wereonce mandatory part of a wedding ritual. Dr. Olivera Vasić associates “Kaloper” – named after a flower which is used in a tea that is believedto improve fertility of the bride - to the conflicts between the higher medieval classes. Trusa dance is the only kolo in Montenegro that involves both men and women and it is performed “silently” without vocal or instrumental accompaniment, exclusively with the rhythm of steps. Kolo from Crmnica, danced in Old Montenegro, is also “silent”, but it is performed by couples not as a circle formed by dancers. It was discovered by accident by Davor Sedlarević during his research in Kruščić, and later he received confirmation in the Gornja Morača and in Uskok-Drobnjak region. A special aspect of the old dance practice is the fact that the dance is accompanied solely by the song or rhythm of the steps, without any instrumental gig.That is described in one of the key documents found by Branislav Jeknić, in the transcript of the interview from 1935 for the MilmanParry collection. In that document Rade Danilović, musician from Đurđevine in Lower Morača who played a single-stringed traditional instrument, describes almost all dances protected as intangible property. One sentence from the interview is especially striking: Instruments were our tongue, arms and legs and we had our songs”. A recording of that conversation is kept at Harvard. As far as the public is aware this is the only cultural and artistic ensemble in the wider area, which is the bearer of the cultural property.

Photo by: Vedran Vujisić

Awarded authenticity

The most important awards in recent years are related to the skills of performing old dances and songs. The award for the best municipal practice in Montenegro was presented to KUD "Mijat Mašković" in 2012 for the concept "Traditional dance and song as a segment of cultural and artistic offer in tourism". It was the first time that someone mentioned the possibility of presenting Montenegrin dances in the so-called "original" form to the tourists.Till then traditional dances were presented only in the entertaining context.One of the greatest tributes to the ensemble was when it was included in the program of the Ceremonial Academy for the blessing ceremony at the opening of the Memorial Cathedral of Christ's Resurrection in Podgorica.As the only ensemble from Montenegro in that part of the program, they performed dance and songs asa scenic reconstruction of the authentic heritage from Morača and Rovci.At the competition announced by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism - "All Wonders of Montenegro" - three awards were presented: Valorization of the Mrtvica and Morača canyon - by Bransilav Jeknić and the idea of Davor Sedlarević “The ring game” as an addition to the winter season.For three years in a row, the juniorsinging group won awards at the Vocal Ethno Festival in Negotin, and in 2017 the group won the first place.

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