It’s Panjim's Red and Black dance with dollops of nostalgia

For many, Carnival in Goa is incomplete without attending the Red and Black dance which is happening tonight
The Carnival fun hits the peak at the Red and Black dance in Panjim.
The Carnival fun hits the peak at the Red and Black dance in Panjim. Gomantak Times

The ghosts of our pasts are not always unpleasant. Very often, they’re nostalgic souvenirs, not meant to scare or startle us, but rather to remind us of how much time has passed and how many things have permanently changed, for better or worse.

Goa is home to many traditions. Some, we create for ourselves, and some we honour in unison. Such a Carnival tradition is the Red and Black dance that is happening tonight at the Samba Square in Panjim.

This dance is one that marks the end of the Carnival festivities and is organised by Clube Nacional.

The Carnival fun hits the peak at the Red and Black dance in Panjim.
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Still one of the most anticipated events of the Goa Carnival, in the past, the Red and Black dance would have people grooving on the streets till the wee hours of the morning.

Oldtimers recall how the gentle morning breeze would set in at around 4 am but was whisked away by the high spirits and music that would make couples cling to each other and the singles wish upon the morning start for a love like that.  

But somethings never change. Even today, the echoes of laughter fill the area, and walking through the street is like tuning into various radio stations of chatter. Some reuniting after years and others singing in unison whilst sipping on their favourite seasonal drink, Urrak!

Still one of the most anticipated events of the Goa Carnival, in the past, the Red and Black dance would have people grooving on the streets till the wee hours of the morning.

To the tourists this particular dance is just like any other day of the Samba Square, but for Goans it is more special than the rest.

Apart from some of the best bands having been saved for the last day, it could be because of the sense of uniformity it brings or simply the fact that it is the last hurrah!

Right from the flurry of rummaging through the cupboards for red and black clothing to watching the coordination among youngsters who help each other jump over the wall instead of paying the entry fee, the excitement begins way before entering the Samba Square.

The Carnival fun hits the peak at the Red and Black dance in Panjim.
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Although these are community events, there are always individual experiences that latch onto memory and create narratives of how individuals remember things.

And, truth be told, the Red and Black dance was never solely about the dance, but rather all the little traditions that the dance brought along.

Carnival was strategically designed to end just before the season of Lent marked its arrival. As for the Goan Catholic community, that means stepping into the season of Lent at the stroke of midnight and officially entering Ash Wednesday.

And, truth be told, the Red and Black dance was never solely about the dance, but rather all the little traditions that the dance brought along.

Essentially, Ash Wednesday is a day of obligation and you can always count on Goans to be as devout as possible. Even if that meant going to Church to attend the first mass in the morning.

“The dance would end early in the morning and we would go directly to Church to attend the first mass, while dozing away to glory,” reminisced a Panjimite who still attends the dance every year.

Essentially, Ash Wednesday is a day of obligation and you can always count on Goans to be as devout as possible. Even if that meant going to Church to attend the first mass in the morning.

“The fear of the priest calling us out was always there, but all was forgotten once we took the first bite of the bhaji-puri after the mass had ended,” she smiled. As for 2024, the dance comes to an end by approximately 2 to 3 am due to sound and other restrictions.

Although lost in the hustle of commercialization, old habits die hard, and the Red and Black dance, which is happening tonight, February 13, 2024, is all set to dazzle.

The Carnival fun hits the peak at the Red and Black dance in Panjim.
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Maybe someday, we will all have added traditions of our own, but for today, we will dance our hearts away with the best people we know.

The bands will still strum away, the people, although a little older, will still attend the dance with passionate zeal, and the dress code – remains as always, red and black.

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