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Bartók

Romanian Dances

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part One Chapter 3

So this is Bartók’s distillation of village ritual, this is ‘Fast Steps’: I delight in your rhythmic élan and the sight of your body swaying; as your legs push up from the floor, I imagine you on your back in a barn. Matteo drives the dance forward; a final flourish, then it’s done. As the applause erupts I realize that in barely five minutes you’ve drawn from your violin centuries of tradition: Nourished by a millennial culture, Bartók’s roots run deep.

Helvetians, Gauls and Romans,
Vandals and Franks,
Conspired to create you, Marietta.

Your roots run deep,
Very deep: Have I any chance
Of sweeping you off your feet?

I have no roots,
I am a nomad; my genealogy
Is a mystery to me.

But watch out, woman!
Home is where the heart is,
And my heart is set on you!

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Peasant Dance, 1567

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