Marc Pedraza, dancer and leader of the Nou Ritme Carnival troupe: 'Carnival is the greatest wedding in Tarragona'

Marc Pedraza / ©Rafael López-Monné

The King wears feathers in Tarragona. Since the popular restoration of the festivity in the early 1980s, Carnival in the city has become one the most characteristic street celebrations in Catalonia, a ritual cocktail where one can find the most provocative, wild and irreverent nature of the traditional festivity living together with the textile filigrees, ostentation and the more fantasist glamour of the great choreographies. Marc Pedraza, professional dancer and pro carnivalier, identifies the most spectacular side of a soirée, which is capable of turning Tarragona people into party animals. Being a professional of rhythm, rumba and chachachá, Marc got hooked eight years ago by the magic of the parades. And in 2013, he played the pompous role of the Carnival’s King.

Marc Pedraza / ©Rafael L—ópez-MonnŽé

Tarragona has not a sambodrome: it has ramblas. Carriages, costumes, confetti and rhythm, a lot of musical rhythm gather thousands of people in the streets of the city, on a party full of symbolism, which gets to the core of Tarragona’s Latin character original of the ancient pagan celebration. From the glamorous Rua d’Artesania (artisan parade) to the crazy Baixada del Pajaritu (descent of the little bird); from the alcoholic solutions of Doctor Mistela to the expiating fire of the Bóta, Tarragona’s Carnival really hooks. To prove it, just ask Marc Pedraza, aged 24, and who has now put his ballroom dancing career aside in order to turn this city revelry into his way of life. His dance school, Nou Ritme, has been preparing the costumes and choreographies for the whole year, which will be garnishing about sixty people taking part on a troupe name after it.

Marc Pedraza / ©Rafael L—ópez-MonnéŽ

Pedraza, a very demanding and competitive man, is the leader of his people despite his youth, the undisputable referent, Nou Ritme’s messiah. His artistic criteria made this school become the chosen one for the organization the so-called Seguici del Rei Carnestoltes in 2013 (Carnival’s King entourage), and he was honoured with being the actual Carnival’s King. Assisted by a small group of contributors, Marc designs the shows, makes the customs and directs the rehearsals of a very varied group of people, for both their age and their social origin, and yet, they’re all united by the passion for parades. “Carnival is the greatest wedding in Tarragona. Everyone wants to feel beautiful and special. My target is to make it happen, make people enjoy it”, he says.

Disfressa d'Or 2013 / ©Rafael Ló—pez-MonnŽé

As people say though, no pain, no gain. In tune with other troupes of the city, Nou Ritme is standing up for quality, which implies a great number of hours focused on artistic creation, preparations and rehearsals. For what the troupe led by Marc is concerned, one should highlight the dancers’ superb body language, which can only be explained thanks to those evenings of hard work in the rehearsal studio. The healthy –and not so healthy– competition between the different troupes in search for public recognition and some of the prizes by the Carnival’s organisation gets many people involved and it is raising the artistic and technical standards of the celebration. Despite the traditional projection this festivity has always had on other cities, Pedraza is saying with no hesitation: “our Carnival is currently, in terms of quality, one of the three most important ones in Spain”.

Disfressa d'Or 2013 / Rafael Ló—pez-MonnéŽ

In fact, everyone is recognizing the spectacular growth of the Carnival of Tarragona, particularly the thronged parades due on Saturday and Sunday, which gather thousands of people in the streets of the city centre, and the great gala of the so-called Disfressa d’Or (Golden Custom), the attractive exhibition by the kings and the queens of the troupes which is selling out every single year in the Palau de Congressos.

The pompousness of the events, soirées and shows of the Carnival of Tarragona are drawing more and more every year; an effect which goes beyond the actual surroundings of the city, and which fuelling the troupe’s self-motivation. Nonetheless, the debate is still open to the city. The defenders of the satirical spirit of the festivity are condemning the lack of critical content, the superficiality of ostentation for no reason. Marc Pedraza highlights the positive coexistence of the two different ways those days can be experienced, and is reclaiming the “social purpose” of a more elegant Carnival. “Thanks to everyone’s effort, we are providing the city with the greatest show Tarragona can offer. A lot of people are really suffering the crisis, and the Carnival is providing them with some release”. Conclusion: you’re not happy unless you really want it; fasting for Lent is still far away!

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Text: Oriol Margalef (@OhMargalef on Twitter)
Translation: Artur Santos (@artur_1983 on Twitter)
Photos: Rafael López-Monné (@lopezmonne on Twitter)