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Blackened Faces and a Veiled Woman: The Early Korcula Moreska Max Harris and Lada Cale Feldman Mock battles between Moors (or Turks) and Christians are one of the most popular features ofthe folk theatrical repertoire almost anywhere that Spanish culture was once dominant. Beginning, perhaps, in the late thirteenth century, and varying in form from small dances to massive street theater, they are still immensely popular along Spain's Mediterranean coast and throughout much of Latin America. Scholars have tended to pay most attention to the tradition's westward travels from Spain to the Americas, where the conquered peoples often insinuated a "hidden transcript" of indigenous resistance into the "public transcript" ofEuropean Catholic triumph.1 But the tradition also traveled eastward to parts of Italy and Germany under Spanish rule and, further, to parts ofeastern Europe not ruled bybut engaged in trade and diplomatic relations with Spain. One such place in eastern Europe where the tradition still thrives is the medieval walled city of Korcula on the Croatian island of the same name. The island of Korcula sits in the Adriatic Sea, close to the mainland and about equidistant between Split and Dubrovnik. Known to Greek antiquity,because ofits thick woods, as Korkyra Melaina (Black Korcula) and to the Romans as Corcyra Nigra, its strategic position on theAdriatic trade route between Europe and the East has meant that the island has been governed byexternal imperial powers for much ofits history.Venice, the most frequent and longstanding of these, ruled the island for a brief period after 1000 and, again, in 1125/29-1180, 1254-1358, and 14201797 .2 Korculan attitudes to Venetian rule were ambivalent at best. In the last and longest ofthese periods,the only realistic alternative to Christian rule by Venice was Muslim rule by the Ottoman Turks. Koréulans, 297 298Comparative Drama according to Vinko Foretic, grudgingly preferred the former,"with all its evils," to the latter.3 Testimony to an enduring Korôulan resentment of Venetian rule can also be found in the still popularlegend ofthe Crnomiri (Black Peace) brothers, reputed to have led an uprising against the first Venetian duke of Korcula, Petar Orseolo, in 1000.4 The island has a rich heritage of traditional sword dances. Five villages boast kumpanije (companies) whose members perform a linked sword dance, varying slightly from one village to the next.5 The city of Koréulahas two groups mat perform a traditional morelka,a mock-combat sword dance in which two sides,variously identified asWhites and Blacks, Christians and Moors, or Turks and Moors, clash swords over the fate of a veiled young woman. The dramatic narrative of the morelka clearly locates the dance in the widespread tradition of mock battles among Muslims and Christians mentioned earlier. The autiiors ofdiis article have seen die morelka performed on several different occasions: at the opening ceremony ofthe Dubrovnik Summer Festival; at the opening of Korcula's annual Festival of Sword Dances, organized since 1997 by the island's Tourist Board; and in its traditional setting on 29 July, the feast day of Sveti Todor (St. Theodore). The traditional moreska on the feast day of Sveti Todor used to last a full two hours. To cater to the recent influx of tourists, the dance is now performed some fifty times a year in a shortened version, lasting only half an hour. The longer version,which involved more repetitions ofthe same dance figures, is no longer staged.6 Today's morelka begins with a scene in which the Black (Moorish) King drags the chained and veiled Bula (Muslim woman) into the playing area. He pleads his love. She protests her allegiance to theWhite King, whom she calls by the distinctively Turkish name Osman. The two "armies" follow, each consisting of an equal number of dancers, usually between eight and twelve apiece.After a vaunting exchange between the Black and White Kings, the two sides perform a series of seven figures, in which clashing swords cause frequent sparks to fly. After the fourth figure,the Bula pleads for peace between the two factions,but is rebuffed. After the seventh figure, in which the Black army is defeated, the White King and the Buia...