Monday, February 24, 2014

Louisiana: Courir de Mardi Gras: Introduction


Vermilionville courir de Mardi Gras, Lafayette, February 2014


The Mardi Gras come from all around, all around the center of town.
They come by once per year, asking for charity.
Sometimes it's a sweet potato, a sweet potato or pork rinds.

The Mardi Gras are on a great journey, all around the center of town.
They come by once per year, asking for charity.
Sometimes it's a skinny chicken, or three or four corn cobs.

Captain, captain, wave your flag, let's go to another neighbor's.
Asking for charity for everyone who'll come join us later,
Everyone who'll come join us later at the gumbo tonight!
Danse de Mardi Gras, English lyrics


Vermilionville courir de Mardi Gras, Lafayette, February 2014


To tell about the courir de Mardi Gras. ... Where to begin?


Vermilionville courir de Mardi Gras, Lafayette, February 2014


Here's where you can begin - by watching this one-hour documentary by Pat Mire, Dance for a Chicken:





Mardi Gras is essentially a game, and spectators are fair game for the players.
Source: Dance for a Chicken, Pat Mire



The song, Danse de Mardi Gras, is one of the songs traditionally sung during the courir.





Courir means run.

Mardi Gras is about more than what happens on that day
Source: Dance for a Chicken, Pat Mire


Vermilionville courir de Mardi Gras, Lafayette, February 2014



The complexity of the courir de Mardi Gras story reminds me of the matachine dance tradition in New Mexico. Both have origins that go back many centuries and both are an admixture of culture and time and place.

The courir de Mardi Gras is about: 
  • The lean times toward the end of the long winter
  • Communal assistance - the gathering of ingredients for one good meal
  • Begging, humility
  • Altered state via alcohol
  • Becoming the "other" - black becomes white; white becomes black; men become women; women, men
  • Parodying of those who have by those who haven't
  • Tricksters
  • Shedding the societal rules for a day  

Vermilionville courir de Mardi Gras, Lafayette, February 2014


When we participate in - and to watch is also to participate - the courir de Mardi Gras, we are participating in rituals that pre-date Roman times.   

Another version of the Danse de Mardi Gras for you, this one by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys:




A slide show of the courir de Mardi Gras at Vermilionville earlier this month:


#30




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