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Thursday, February 22, 2024

AP PHOTOS: Dancing with the bears lives on as a novel customized in Romania

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COMANESTI, Romania — A small industrial city in northeast Romania could look like an unlikely vacationer vacation spot, however Comanesti is the place enormous numbers of tourists from as distant as Japan select to spend a part of the winter vacation season.

They converge right here to see an annual occasion that grew out of a millennia-old custom within the Moldavia area: Bearskin-clad individuals of all ages, organized in packs, marching and dancing to the deafening sound of drums in a number of rows of gaping jaws and claws.

The Dancing Bears Pageant, because the customized has turn out to be recognized, begins within the days earlier than Christmas and ends with a spectacular finale in Comanesti on Dec. 30. A number of the “bears” jokingly growl or mock an assault on spectators.

The bearskins the dancers put on, which might weigh as a lot as 50 kilograms (110 kilos), are handed on from technology to technology. The packs rigorously guard the strategies they use to maintain the furs in good situation and able to put on the subsequent yr.

One of many extra established teams is the Sipoteni Bear Pack, named after a neighborhood of Comanesti, the place its founder, Costel Dascalu, was born. It has as much as 120 members, some who began taking part at age 3.

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“My kids, Amalia and David, are already within the pack,” mentioned Dascalu, who was 8 years {old} when he first danced dressed as a bear when Romania was nonetheless a communist dictatorship. Again then, he recalled, it was a way more low-key spectacle, with the “bears” solely visiting personal properties round Christmas.

Locals say the customized dates to earlier than Christianity, when it was believed that wild animals guarded individuals from misfortune and hazard. Dancing bears, subsequently, went to individuals’s properties and knocked on their doorways for luck and a cheerful new yr.

Whereas having their portraits taken, members of the Sipoteni Bear Pack shared with the The Related Press a few of their causes for ensuring the ritual continues.

Preserving custom was a recurring theme. However some pack members mentioned they get an adrenaline rush from sporting an animal’s fur, dancing to tribal drum rhythms and socializing with different younger individuals in actual life as an alternative of on-line. Many mentioned they really feel they’re briefly embodying a bear’s spirit.

“I really feel liberated, The bear frees our souls,” mentioned one participant, Maria, who joined the Sipoteni Bear Pack as a 5-year-old and is now 22. “I additionally connect with my departed father who launched me to the custom 17 years in the past.”

Residents are comfortable that the custom lived on because the area misplaced a lot of its inhabitants beginning within the Nineteen Nineties, when many individuals left to search for jobs in Western Europe after the autumn of communism.

A 35-year-old, Marian, returns yearly from overseas to bounce with the pack she has belonged to since age 6.

“I hope our youngsters will make this distinctive customized final without end,” she mentioned. “I can think about quitting something, however I’ll by no means give up doing this”

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