Five years ago, when I visited the tap dance school for dancers 60 and above, I was amazed. With great passion those 60-90 year-olds were beating a rhythm on the floor with their feet. What is it that makes people stomp on the floor with so much enjoyment?
During my search for stamping and stomping in Swiss dances, I discovered the folk dances of Central Switzerland. Dance forms such as Bödälä and Gäuerlen are hardly known in Switzerland although they originate from our own cultural tradition. Only in recent years has a recollection and rediscovery of the folk culture taken place, as a result of globalization and «western cultural unity». I have tried to assemble some of these «treasures of the primitive folk culture» before they are totally lost through modernization. There are varying opinions as to whether the folk dance should be maintained in its original form or if and how it should and must develop further. For the «modernizers» the folk dance must not grow stiff and stale and become a museum piece. For the «traditionalists» it must not be misused as a show for the public or for competitive purposes. In «Bödälä – Dance the Rhythm» I have sought out dancers who move within this area of tension.
When we look at the four dance forms presented in the film, the question quickly arises – what is tradition and how do we as modern human beings deal with it? We come closest to the original folk dance with the archaic Bödälä dancers in their traditional costumes. Here we perceive its ritualistic aspects through the repeated stomping of the shoes as their feet move in circles. With each of the other dance forms, we are removed a bit more from the roots of the dance. When the competitors perform the Irish dance at the world championship, dancing and jumping to the limits of their abilities, it reminds us of serious sport competition. When the tap dancers in glamorous costumes synchronously dance their complicated step routines and figures, we find ourselves in the midst of show dancing. And when the Flamenco dancer plays her Xala, the acoustic floor, in the turbine room of the Grimsel power plant, we feel the meditative and artistic spirit of her performance. Yet with each of these dance forms we can feel the origins.
Forms of dance that do not belong to ballet or modern dance are often considered unimportant in terms of aesthetics and beauty and thus are given little recognition. But dance forms like ballet are still very young compared to the «primitive, natural» folk dances. The folk dance is full of energy and power. No matter how the dances portrayed in the film are performed, their origins are perceptible and have, through their loud stomping, something archaic about them – even today – striking a nerve in our innermost being.