Formani ethnographic ensemble offers more than just song and dance

The dancers are wearing a replica of a ceremonial costume from the second half of the 19th century

The ethnographic ensemble Formani was established twenty years ago by local folk music enthusiasts. Based on historical records, they compose music, create their own choreographies and sew costumes, helping to preserve the folk traditions of the Pardubice region, east of Prague.

Twenty years ago the Koutek family in Slatiňany decided they would take their love of folk music and traditions outside of the closed family circle and aside from their own enjoyment of singing and dancing would do something to preserve the region’s traditions for future generations.

They established the ethnographic ensemble Formani and use their talent to the full to document and maintain the folk traditions of their region. Based on historical records, they compose music, invent choreographies and sew costumes for their performances.

The dance is complemented by other elements such as singing,  clapping or stomping | Photo: Barbora Slezáková,  Czech Radio

“Originally it was a small family choir gathered around a piano in the living room, and gradually it grew to its present form, with about twenty dancers and twelve musicians. But we are still kind of a family ensemble. The basis of the ensemble is actually four families," says the ensemble’s artistic director Stanislava Sejkorová.

The ensemble consists of musicians and dancers of all ages who are very creative in planning their costumes and performances. They find inspiration for their work in libraries, antique shops and from ethnographers.

"Being an ethnographic ensemble, we pride ourselves in the fact that we not only sing and dance, but also document the traditions and customs of our region. We try to preserve everything so that our costumes and dances really show where we come from," Stanislava says.

The ensemble performs in exact replicas of costumes from the second half of the 19th century. Researching them and making them takes both great skill and time, with great attention paid to detail. For instance, female dancers wear several skirts during the performance. First, they don a small petticoat, which used to function as underwear, then a wide petticoat, a taffeta skirt and an embroidered apron. The width of the skirts was to highlight the tiny size of the dancer’s waist. Stanislava says the clothes reflected a person’s status and differed for formal and informal occasions.

“The costume of a married woman must have a bonnet. Once a girl got married, she was not allowed to show her hair to other men. That's why at the wedding they used to say 'let's cap the bride', because from then on she had to wear a bonnet. The bonnets were either ceremonial, in different colours, embroidered with gold and decorated with garnets, or for work or day wear, which were pure white,” Stanislava explains.

The Formani ensemble appears at music festivals and Easter and Christmas gatherings and cooperates with the local Sokol organization as well as two schools in the region, giving the young generation some insight into the region’s culture and traditions.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Barbora Slezáková
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