Folklore and Tourism

Tourism and Folk Dance: Conceptual Developments

Heritage tourism, as a cultural tourism segment, is “the evocation of the past and inherently about visions or understanding of the present, and a key justification for the preservation of both material cultures and traditional practices, in what they can tell contemporary communities or tourists about themselves and others. It is something of a paradox of modernity that at the same time that relentlessly seeks modern people, also hankers after something older, more authentic, or traditional”

Folklore, and its various expressions, namely folk dance, is considered as an intangible cultural heritage3(ICH) or living heritage, built over the triple conjunction of the conceptual framework: folk, nation5 and tradition6. The relationship of folklore with tourism, places it in a touristification process, as a reality in accordance to the post-modern, post-fordist and globalized society we live in.

However, tourism, as an economic activity, must appropriate culture, and namely this kind of heritage – simultaneously traditional and living, in a context “where Economics, Culture and Space are symbiotic of each other” (Santagata 2004). With the recognition that tourists are changing trying to achieve deeper and more meaningful experiences by changing their role – engaging in volunteer tourism or creative tourism, it is important to be aware that folk dance is loosing its traditional role in local/regional communities. But, in post-modernity, it’s not only the memory that is in a loosing risk, identity is too. Recognising identity as a non neutral and evolutionary process,

Folklore, as a body of expressive culture, has been developed as part of the 19th century ideology of romantic nationalism. It was linked with a sense of belonging and cohesion related to a particular local/regional community and to a particular place. In that perspective it was an element of the spirit of place. However, in post-modernity, the tendency is to use folklore with consumption ends, a context in which we explore the relation between folkloric dance and cultural tourism. In post-modernity, folk dance tends to be involved in a touristification process and many of its intrinsic characteristics are getting lost in time.

This has to do with two major aspects. The first one is the use of folk-dance as an entertainment performance oriented to tourist consumption. In the tourist industry, destinations appear as an answer to the expectations of the experience the tourist wishes to live. Folklore groups have then a tendency to acquire the shape of the tourist experience since it is not possible to perform a show without a relationship between actors and public. Any folk-dancing played today will never be a retake of the original because it has been adapted to the needs of new publics, and consequently it gains new uses, functions and values.

The second one concerns the characteristics of resident population that is urban or urbanized to a considerable extent. Consequently, it is embodied in a globalization process that eventually leads to the disintegration of local cultures. This process is related to cultural homogenization and the prevalence of mainly Western consumer culture in which everything is evaluated in terms of its market value. In this context, university students revealed some lack of interest about this kind of dancing showed in the low frequency in their attendance to folklore performances.

Places and local communities are also their cultural past which should be valued it in the present, as our respondents point out. It is our belief that only through a participated cultural and territory planning and management it will be possible to value cultural identity and consequently value the tourist experience. Planning and management should lay on a local/regional cultural dynamic concerned with educational values based on the various expressions of art. Regarding folk dance, it should be recognized that once it is closely linked to many other expressions such as music, rituals, festivities, musical instruments, objects, artefacts, ornaments, to promote the folk dance knowledge is to promote knowledge about identity.

In this context, folk dance valorisation, as a touristic resource, should be rethought over so that not only young people but also the ones of other age fringes might integrate this expression of the popular culture as their own more than for the others. This demands several educational dynamics.