They want to get together to dance and that the law does not persecute them. They want to dance together and not end up fined. They want the dance to be declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) Intangible by the Community of Madrid and to be able to practice it without fear and in defense of a traditional heritage that is in danger of public extinction. The Ciudad Bailar platform, which unites dance, art and thought since 2018 has just started the bureaucratic procedures to achieve recognition, but above all to open the door to a taboo debate: why is it forbidden to get together in the street to dance? Laws such as Citizen Security and the ordinance to protect against noise pollution prevent the meeting of urban dances such as hip-hop, break-dance or dancehall, voguing groups, salsa and swing collectives, promoters of music parties electronics or regional dance learning communities.
“Dancing in public spaces is a Madrid tradition, which is persecuted by legal repression,” says Massimiliano Casu, spokesperson for Ciudad Bailar. “Why doesn’t getting together to dance have the same support as amateur sports if it defends very similar values? Why do you find a ping-pong table or a basketball court in every park but not a dance floor? Better the authorities and the Administration think that music in the public space is a reason for conflict and sports practices are not, “Casu answered with irony.
In the request for the statement, to which this newspaper has had access, it is stated that getting together to dance has “an intention of a communicative nature regarding ways of life, beliefs and values.” “It responds to the need and desire of certain people to collectively create with the movement of their bodies a series of affects, perceptions, feelings and images expressing what words cannot do, not individually,” adds the letter. They also insist on the fact that the people who dance “affect each other”, reinforce and even modify the personal values of each other, collectivizing other ways of seeing the world, helping and collaborating in other aspects of their lives. They also consider that dancing a type of dance implies claiming the power of the middle or lower classes, minorities or dissidents, or alternative relational formulas to the normative ones.
At the moment the list of intangible assets that the Community of Madrid protects is limited to 13 assets -declared or initiated since 2010- and among them are the patron saint festivities of San Isidro, the feast of “la vaquilla” in Fresnedillas de la Oliva, the transhumance, Holy Week, Carnival, purebred Spanish horse breeding, esparto grass, manual bell ringing, blown glass technique or tapas.
A collective action
The group that promotes the candidacy of dance as an immaterial BIC has been organizing a dance activity in Matadero for years, but wants to return to the public space to generate social fabric in the community in which it operates. They talk about the promotion of healthy habits, but also about the meeting between people who organize and agree. They speak of a project of collective dimensions with which to build communities to provide care of all kinds. They speak of producing and disseminating cultures, new and old heritages that enrich the city. And, above all, to “open social laboratories in which to build a more egalitarian and joyful world.”
They want to dance freely while building a neighborhood. As has happened throughout the confinement, the neighbors have recognized and helped each other, they have delivered the best version of each one to help others. “We want to open this debate and dialogue with the Administration so that public policies are activated that protect dance practices and do not fine. We want more social groups than private initiatives. It is not about dancing in a closed space, we want to meet to dance together “, explains Vanesa Vilora, also a spokesperson for Bailar Ciudad. “Although a lot is practiced, dancing in Madrid is in constant danger, because getting together to dance is not easy. It requires a lot of organization and care in a city that has been reducing the spaces in which to dance. Currently, in the city there is only one public court, in the park of the Casino de la Reina “, adds Vilora.
Matías Daporta and Begoña Cuquejo investigate the limits of cultural law and how the bureaucracy promotes cultural homogenization. These two artists and cultural researchers are the origin of the claim. They denounce that the Spanish State maintains that patrimonialization is outside of citizen participation. “This is not happening in Spain. Citizenship is the only one that can protect intangible heritage. Movable and immovable property require economic funds, but intangible assets only need people. That is why we need citizenship to be empowered and not persecuted by That is why Unesco proposes citizenship as the protagonist of the declaration, “explains Daporta. It also recalls the politicization to which these assets are being subjected, as the PP did with the bulls when declaring them immaterial in 2015. He maintains that this was against the mission proposed by Unesco.
This mobilization is unprecedented in the Spanish State and was born to break with the clandestinity and the invisibility of dance. Health regulations passed during the coronavirus pandemic have not helped end the stigma either. “I think that the administrations see a conflict in dance, and yet dance is a way of managing it,” says Casu. Now they open a signature collection that will accompany the submitted application. In six months the General Directorate of Heritage should respond and if not, administrative silence. This petition also questions the idea of heritage, what it is and how it has evolved. For all this they want to achieve a change of perspective around the practice of dance.