Majorettes – Belgian baton twirler girls

(VOVWORLD) - “A touch of Belgium” cultural event took place on Saturday afternoon at Ly Thai To Garden, Hanoi, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Belgium and Vietnam. 11 members of the Brussels-based Majoretteketet performed some of their best parade routines around Hoan Kiem Lake. Today, VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous will talk to Anke Van Lancker, Deputy Head of Mission at the Belgian Embassy in Vietnam, to learn more about her country’s baton twirling performance.  

Hello, Ms. Anke! Thanks for joining us today on VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. Tell us about the Majorettes.

It’s a bit of a tradition in Belgium. Every village has its marching band, and accompanying this marching band is a small group of girls with batons. They twirl the batons and then throw them into the air. In Belgium we like parades. People march behind the band. It’s the band that gives the rhythm for the Majorettes to twirl their batons and to march to the rhythm of the music.

How many performers are there on a team?

There are girls and in front of them is the “Major”. We have 11, 1 Major and 10 Majorettes. I think they are linked with the army. The Major has a big baton and he sets the rhythm: “One! Two! Three! Four! Up!” The “Majorettes”, the feminine word for Major, are accompanied by a Vietnamese band called the Hanoi Brass Band. It’ll be nice to put some Vietnamese influence into the dance.

So is it actually a dance or a march?

Actually they are marching in the street. They take small steps. It always goes together with throwing up the batons and twirling them around. It’s an old tradition. The group performing for us now uses this tradition because there are not so many of them anymore and they turn it into something modern. They are more like street theater engaging the public and trying to make it into something more theatrical like a circus. It’s not the traditional art of the Majorette anymore. It’s more fun. They’ll go over to the kids and do some funny things. The audience will surely have fun.

What kind of clothes do they wear when performing?

Usually they dress identically. They wear short skirts and boots. These are white and black costumes. They also wear a marine kind of hat on their head.

Majorettes – Belgian baton twirler girls  - ảnh 1The Majorettes wear black and white costume and a marine hat when performing

(Photo: Embassy of Belgium in Vietnam) 

Are they the Belgian royal team?

No. They’re a team from Brussels. They were founded by the Cultural Center in the heart of Brussels. They have their own brass band. They are subsidized by the government. They get an allowance to practice. They are amateurs, so it’s not their profession. They may have a profession, but they practice twirling on the weekend. In Belgium, people engage in a lot of associative activities. On the weekend or the evening, people send their kids to a sports club, a culture club, or something like that. It’s something very common in Belgium, where we have a tight community and the people of a small village come together. They play the music, they dance, and they act. We like to go out together, work together, show something to the audience, and share our culture.

Where do they perform?

They perform at cultural events. For example, you have a big classical music festival in Brussels, they will perform there. This weekend, on Saturday, they’re in the Zinneke parade in Brussels. A Zinneke is a stray dog in the Brussels’ dialect but we also use it for people who live in Brussels because there is a mix here of all kinds of people. It’s a very diverse population and we try to show this diversity in this parade. Years ago, they decided to organize the parade. You have groups of people that organize themselves for the parade, dress in costumes, and parade through Brussels. The Majorettes will march and if there is a fair, they will also perform.   

Majorettes – Belgian baton twirler girls  - ảnh 2The Majorettes often perform in cultural events and fairs  

(Photo: Embassy of Belgium in Vietnam)

What can we expect at this week’s event?

The idea of our event is transforming Ly Thai To Square into Belgian fair. We will have Belgian food, activities around the Smurfs, and a parade, as well as a Belgian choreographer and DJ. It’s a bit like what you would have in a normal Belgian village. That’s something we want to share with our Vietnamese audience. In Dutch we call it “Gezelligheid”, “coziness”. We like to be together, we like to drink beer together, we like to eat fries together, and that’s what we want to share with the Vietnamese people. We are very sociable people. We like to be together, talk all the time in a bar where we spend our evening. I think Vietnamese people do exactly the same. They sit on the street on tiny chairs. They chat and drink coffee and then go away and then come back. It’s a bit like that, you know, when we have a fair. It’s really like everyone is taking off from work, and everybody will sit together.

Thank you, Anke, for talking to us today!