Rocca Grimalda's inhabitants trace back this old tradition, together dance, rite and theatre piece, to a rebellion against the village's feudatory who claimed to exercise his right of Jus Primae Noctis over the village brides by forcing them to spend the first night after marriage within his castle. Contaminations from really happened historical events can not be excluded but La Lachera originates from old spring propitiatory rites: fests related to the natural succession of seasons which were then enriched with epic and social contents during the centuries.

The ritual performance takes place in the carnival period, and it consists of an animated and coloured nuptial train with a crescendo of sounds, cracks of whips, jingling harness bells, whirls of flowers and ribbons: its characters are armed with swords, others with whips, bells and high hats covered of flowers and dance around a married couple, while an odd red dressed personage (maybe the Devil himself) bounds and jokes among people.

Fusion between war and nuptial elements is typical of myths and ballads all throughout Europe, often mixed with a gay and festive spirit: they originate as real dramatizations of ancestral spring rites. Probably supernatural beings in the beginning, the actors of such pieces assumed then nature and appearance of real characters: the tyrant, the couple, the jester, the warriors and so on.

As a consequence it is not surprising to find out characters coming from different historical periods: La Lachera has been essentially folk feast from the very beginning and costumes were made up with available fabrics and cloths that villagers could collect each time.

That's why every stage of La Lachera's long lasting history left an enduring trace on its characters and choreography.

La Lachera traditionally develops around three dances: Lachera itself, Giga and Calisun. The first dance is incessantly danced during the nuptial train by the two Lachè, who trip elegantly along going forward and back reciprocally. Then both Lachè, the Bride and the Husband execute Giga followed by Calisun, when the Bride ritually chases twice each Lachè. Two other dances, "Curenta di Butej" and "Monferrina", were added only during the second half of last century and they are nowadays danced by country girls and muleteers, common figures in Rocca Grimalda's past.


O.N.D. : Danze tradizionali del popolo italiano, Roma 1935
B.M.Galanti: La danza della spada in Italia, Roma 1942
G. Perfumo: La Lachera di Rocca Grimalda in URBS Ovada, 1992
P. Giardelli: Le tradizioni popolari dei liguri, Genova 1991
F. Castelli: La danza contro il tiranno, leggenda storia e memoria della Lachera di Rocca     Grimalda, Ovada 1995

Texts: Giorgio Perfumo
Images: Lachera's Historical Archive