Dances and expressions associated with the Corpus Christi Festivity


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Inscribed in 2021 (16.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© MICI, 2019

The Corpus Christi festival is a religious festival in Panama that celebrates the body and blood of Christ. The festival combines Catholic tradition with popular practices and festivities and is characterized by theatre, music, burlesque dances and colourful costumes and masks. A day before the festival, a theatrical and musical performance depicts the battle between good (St. Michael the Archangel) and evil (the great devil and his legion) in the fight over the human soul. Participants then dance in a procession that follows a priest carrying the monstrance, a metal receptacle in which the Host is exposed. (In Catholic tradition, the Host is the consecrated bread of the Eucharist, representing the sacrifice of the Body of Christ.) In some communities, the dancing is performed on a carpet made of flowers. After the procession, participants dance freely and gather on the streets and in family homes, where food and drinks are shared. The knowledge and skills related to the festival are passed on through participation in the festival and the involvement of youth in dance groups, mask-making teams and sawdust carpet teams.