Monday, March 10, 2014

Traditional German Dance - Mardi Gras

Can you jump into the splits? Traditional German dance routines often contain a jump or two into the splits, as well as cartwheels, straddle jumps and lots of aerobic-like jumping dance. Dancers move into many different formations while marching and bouncing to march music.

Here's a video of my daughter performing at the supermarket.

Fasching in the Supermarket

Fasching is the time of year the dances are performed. Fasching is the German word for Carnival. The competitive season lasts from November through March and groups can qualify to compete at the National level. Teams are judged on their costume, music, routines, gymnastic ability, flexibility, accuracy of their formations and similarity of dancers.

Dancers must look exactly alike. Therefore, they whiten their shoes, wear wigs, hats and lots of make-up. (At first I wasn't excited about the make-up, but my girls have learned to dread this part of the costume and never want to wear make-up.)

My daughter is the one in the middle of the photo. Parents learn to recognize their children by facial features, height and voice.

Here's my other daughter. She's easy to find since she is so much smaller than the others.

I'm not sure if my girls are in this photo or not? But I can tell you they are getting ready to dance while watching other performances in the back of the show hall.

Just before Fat Tuesday, or Faschings Dienstag as it is called in German, dances are performed all over the area. Several shows are open to the public. They usually begin at 8:11 and contain a variety of music, dance, and skit entertainment. Carnival is the traditional time to speak out against the government and make fun of life's daily routines. Much like the sketches on Saturday Night Live, many acts are funny and politically incorrect.

In addition to the gardetanze, there are couples dances and dancers who perform similar routines alone.

Show dance is the other type of traditional German dance. They are meant to tell stories and could be thought of as scenes from theatrical performances which are danced based.

My seven year old performed a rocket ship dance. They blasted off into outer space to a medley of fast-paced music both English and German, with a space theme.

Tarzan searches for a Super Woman was the theme for my dance. One girl dressed up as Tarzan and rejected Barbi, the Rocker Girl, and the transvestite before finding her love - Antonia from Tyrol. Antonia wore a dirndl and was a big hit, but I think the audience really liked the transvestite.

There are also shows for kids, seniors, as well as special appearances. In the six days leading up to Faschings Dienstag, my girls and I performed at 10 different venues which included two trips to homes for handicapped, one supermarket, three kinder fasching, one senior fasching, and three shows for the public. All the performances were followed up with a parade to mark the end of the season.

In the parade this group beat their djembe drums.

Drinking is aloud, and many in the audience as well as people in the parade partake. Quite often, people watching the parade will offer shots to those walking.

The princess from our group rode in a convertible just like princesses in American parades.

Accompanying our princess was the senate. They wear red jackets, black pants and jester-like hats. They play a crucial role in our club by preparing our hall for performances, organizing food and drinks, handling the club's finances, scheduling performances at other locations, as well as handling stage music, lights and props.

Our Tarzan from parade day was very entertaining. He interacted with the audience quite extensively. Speaking in "Uga, Uga's," he examined the music this girl was listening to and began to dance as well.

He borrowed lots of head gear from the crowd like this princess crown, obtained a bratwurst from someone grilling while watching, and got down on hands and knees to talk to dogs.

He even met Elvis!

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  1. Hi!
    If you ever have the chance to visit Fasnet (Fasching) in the Bodensee-area you will see it is very different to Fasching in your area.
    Many greetings,

    1. Sabine - I'm very curious about regional Fasching differences. What's it like in Bodensee?

  2. So much fun! What a great way to be a part of the community and enjoy the festivities!

  3. Love watching your daughter dance, my kids were very impressed she could do the splits. Loved reading about the dancing and custumes

  4. Hello,
    here at the Bodensee we celebrate the "Swabian-Alemannic" (Schwäbisch-Alemannisch) Fasnacht. The costumes of the groups has usually a very old tradition, like the "Überlinger Hänsele" or the "Schnabelgiere-Zunft" in Meersburg (where I live). We also have a "Narrenbaum".
    During Fasnacht season there are several parades than shows. (In Meersburg are only three shows before Fat Thursday). On the evening of the Fat Thursday is the Hemdglonker ( and everybody wears a white nightdress. At Sunday after Ash Wednesday (Funkensonntag) almost every village and city burn a big bonfire, its called "the Funken", that means, that the winter is banished. Many regions has also "Scheibenschagen" (, Meersburg too.
    It was hard to explain in english and I hope you did understood my english. :)
    Many greetings,

    1. My German is improving, but it is difficult to write in the language. You did a fantastic job. The traditions sound very different. I've never seen white dresses or bonfires here.


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