The Welsh and the Breton culture 









The dance:  

In Wales...  

There are three groups of traditional dances: the clog dance, the fair dances and the court dances.

The clog dance is usually danced with clogs and a broomstick. The men may compete with each other, showing off their dance skills and with impressive jumps and acrobatics.

The fair dances are traditionally accompanied by violin. They are rhythmic dances. Rali Twm Sion and Gwyl Ifan are two examples of these.

The court dances are usually accompanied by the harp. They are more formal. Llanofer reel, Meillionner and Rhisiat Annwyl are included in this group.

The piano, the flute and the accordion can also accompany the dances.

There are not many places to learn these dances. For the last thirty years, they are becoming popular again especially with the young people. Societies sometimes organize Twmpathau (dance evenings) where the participants can learn to dance. The dance groups also make demonstration and take part in Eisteddfodau. There are different kinds of Eisteddfodau, the local and the national. The Urdd organizes one for young people. The national Eisteddfod is for everybody. There are also festivals for singing and dance (Gwyl Cerdd Dant).

The materials for the clothes are made in the mills of the area. They are still more or less identical to those used in past centuries and vary with the dances.

In Brittany...  

Formerly, weddings were the big opportunity for dancing in the Breton countryside. Each part of Brittany had its own dances and people met to dances for hours. During the forties, after the war, some “cercles celtiques” (group of dancers) and bagadoù (group of traditional music) were created. Today, more and more people are attracted by the fest-noz (evening of Breton dances) and the fest-deiz (if it happens during the day), beginners or not, young or older people.

The fest-noz and fest-deiz give people the chance to dance and to share their passion and interest for Breton dance. It is always impressive to see the people rush to the dance floor (sometimes a simple farmyard) at the first note of music. There are plenty of fest-noz in the summer, especially in west of Brittany , where we can find one nearly every night.

The “cercles celtiques” take part in many of the competitions during the festivals (Festival of Cornouaille in Quimper , Festival de la Saint-Loup for example) and demonstrate Breton dances. They wear the same kind of clothes as in the old days and some of the girls embroider their own. The clothes are different in the different part of Brittany .

The gavotte, the An dro, the Laridé, the Plinn, the rond de Saint-Vincent, are some well known examples of dances. Some dances have variants coming from different parts of Brittany (gavotte des montagnes, gavotte de l’Aven…)

Music and songs :

In Wales,  

Singing is an important part of  the Welsh culture. Early in primary school, children learn to sing and choirs are numerous. They compete against each other during Eisteddfodau and sing together in the chapels.

In the musical field, the Celtic harp is coming back into fashion. Sometimes it is played during poetry recitations. We can find traditional music groups, but also group of rock or techno using the Welsh language.

The annual Gwyl Cerdd Dant is a festival of the voice singing, recitation and also dancing. As with the Eisteddfodau, it moves to a different site every year.


In Brittany,

As well as dance, the Breton music is experiencing a revival and many of the bagadoù compete as well as playing during festivals and in fest-noz.

The bagadoù comprise bombardes, binious (bagpipe) and percussions but also sometimes violin, harps, guitars… The Penn Soner is the main sonneur and directs the other sonneurs (a sonneur is someone playing bombarde or biniou).

The fest-noz and fest-deiz are livened up by some other musicians who take turn through the night: the sonneurs, the singers of kan ha diskan and traditional groups. The sonneurs play wind instruments, often bombarde and biniou. The Kan ha diskan is a way of singing. The kaner starts the sentence alone. The diskaner ends it with the kaner before repeating it alone. The kaner then ends the sentence with the diskanner before starting the next sentence.

The traditional groups became increasingly popular in the seventies. They used traditional instruments. Today, many of them add guitars and synthesizers… Some groups still play traditional music, some other play more “Breton rock” or a mix of music of the world.

Poetry :

In Wales :

The poetry in Wales started in about the 6th century. It is a very important part of the Welsh culture and thus of the Eisteddfod. During the national Eisteddfod, there are two trophies to win in poetry: the chair and the crown. They are two different competitions.  

To compete for the chair, you need to follow very strict rules. These rules can be learnt in evening lessons in Cardiff or Carmarthen for example. Only about ten people compete for the trophy. For the crown, about forty people take part in the competition. The rules are less strict and the poetry is more open. Every year, a theme is proposed. The one who wants to compete has to follow this theme.

Some “Stomps” are organized during the evenings. Each poet has a few minutes to read his poem in front of the audience, who are the judges. They decide who will be in the following round.

In Brittany :

Until the 19th century, the poetry in Brittany belonged to the ordinary people, the leaders of Brittany started giving up the language in the 10th century. The poetry was transmitted orally. The popular songs collected at the end of the 19th century by de La Villemarqué in the “Barzaz Breiz” are examples of this poetry.

In the Breton poetry, the rhymes are not only at the end of the verse, but also inside the lines, as in Welsh poetry.

Today, poetical expression is still present in Brittany . Unfortunately it is not well known by the people because it is not heard on radio or television, or seen in newspaper. Poetry is written in both Breton and French languages.




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