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Monday, November 24, 2014

Who Will Fill Their Shoes? The Aging of the Folk Dance Community

To live is to dance, to dance is to live.
--Charles Schulz [in Peanuts (Snoopy speaking)]

Why don't more young people go to folk dances?

That is something that has been plaguing folk dance groups in recent years. The dancers get grayer by the year.  When they die, who will fill their shoes?

According to what I've read on the Internet, and from speaking with veteran dancers, the peak years of international folk dance were during the 1960's and 1970's, when they were college students.

If this trend continues, the only place to find folk dance groups will be in retirement communities.

Part of the problem could be that the young are too busy doing other things.  Or maybe dancing with people their grandparents' age is just not for them.

Another issue was budget cuts: courses in folk dancing have been cut from school curriculums.  In my opinion, dance should be offered as a physical education class as an alternative to team sports.(See the link to my post below: "On Ethnic Dance and Exercise.")

A variety of reasons were mentioned and listed here.

There was a time, not so many years ago, when ballroom dancing was primarily an activity for seniors. Dancing With the Stars changed all that. Now people of all ages take classes and participate in ballroom dancing. 

Check out the video and you'll see what I'm talking about:  the majority of the dancers are 50+. This was taken during a live music event when attendance is higher than during regular dance nights.

This group from Canada is at a workshop taught by Yves Moreau.   Many of the participants are also seniors.

Fortunately, Balkan folk dancing has taken a foothold in communities with large ethnic populations, such as New York City and Boston. Balkan Music Night, held annually in Concord (a suburb) of Boston has a large turnout of young people. In 2010 I went to a Zlatne Uste event in New York city that had a very youthful crowd, so there is hope. These young people may well be the future of folk dancing as we know it.

And in Bulgaria, young people have taken up an interest in folk dance because of the TV show Nadigrai Me, a show which features dancers from folk dance clubs all over the country. This show has finished its fifth season. It is one of the most popular shows in Bulgaria.

In 2012, a folk dance club opened in Sofia,  Club na Horoto.  The idea behind it was to have a place for dancers to congregate any hour of the day or night. This concept might work in a city with a large Eastern European immigrant population like Boston or Toronto.

Club Na Horoto reminds me of a of those places I used to frequent years ago. I would love to see a venue like this open up in the United States. They look like they're having a great time!  From what I've read on their website, this venue is extremely popular. Right now they're taking reservations for their New Year's Eve party.

If you have been successful in attracting young dancers to your group, please post your ideas in the "comments" section.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World

Why Dancing Makes You Smart

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise 

A One of a Kind Club for Folk Dancers

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune: Dospatsko Horo

Today's music features different versions of the music for the Bulgarian folk dance Dospatsko Horo.  Like many Bulgarian dances, it's named after a town,  Dospat, in the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria.  Dospatsko was originally a men's dance.

The video below is from the Chinese "Bonding Folk Dance Class" and uses the music familiar to recreational folk dancers.

Here is the entire piece; the artist listed is the orchestra of Anastas Naumov.  The dominant instrument here is the gadulka, a Bulgarian version of a fiddle, with the gaida and kaval in the background. You get to watch some beautiful scenery at the same time.  You can even dance to it if you want.

Version two is a modern and mellow Dospatsko, from a Bulgarian dance music album.  The dominant instrument here is the kaval.

I have noticed many different renditions of Dospatsko on YouTube. Some are good and some are just awful, like version #3, which sounds like elevator music.  I know art is subjective, but this album cover is ugly!

It took some time for me to warm up to version # 4, which is the most unusual Dospatsko I've heard. It was recorded in a synogogue in Poland with excellent acoustics, and played on a cello, accordion, organ and a kaval. The music alternates between being slow and fast, solemn and dramatic. This version isn't meant for dancing but it's definitely worth a listen.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dances Named After Cities and Towns

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune Gankino Horo

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part One and Part Two

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Golden Record, Rhodope Folk Songs, and Valya Balkanska in Concert

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
Carl Sagan

Today's post is about  Bulgarian folk singer Valya Balkanska and her connection with an exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. (I was in Washington, D.C. recently and had paid a visit to several of the Smithsonian museums).

The exhibit (see photo above) is a copy of the Golden Record sent up into space on the Voyager in 1977 for the purpose of contacting intelligent life somewhere in the universe.

The hauntingly beautiful song Izlel e Delio Haidutin was on on that record, along with many other sounds from Planet Earth.

The large bagpipe is a kaba gaida, used as accompaniment for folk songs from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria.

Although Izlel e Delyu Haidutin is Valya Balkanska's  most popular song, there are many others in her repertoire. You can sample some of them in today's post.

The next two videos were part of a Bulgaria Liberation Day concert that took place in Toronto, Canada. It featured Valya Balkanska and Peter Yanev (on kaba gaida).

In the first video the audience dances a very long Pravo Horo. Afterwards the song Izlel e Delio Haidutin starts at 10:22 and goes into the next video. The person who recorded this performance had to do it in installments, which is a bit of a distraction.

Video #2  is a continuation of the first (on YouTube they are listed as 8 and 9).  After a short speech in Bulgarian, there is more singing and dancing at 2:55. The video concludes with the song  Tih bjal Dunav se valnuva, (also known as the Botev March) which commemorates Hristo Botev's historic crossing of the Danube from Romania to Bulgaria during the April Uprising of 1876. The lyrics are based on a poem by Ivan Vazov.

The other installments from this concert are on You Tube, for your watching and listening pleasure.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe in Bulgarian Folk Music

Outer Space: The Bulgarian Connection

The Rebels (Haidouks) in Bulgarian Folk Songs

Hristo Botev, Poet and Revolutionary

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Serbian Folk Dance Around the World

The world's most famous and popular language is music.

What I like about the Universe of YouTube is that you can travel around the world without leaving your home. This is especially good during the fall and winter when it is sometimes too cold to venture outside.

Today's post features Serbian folk dance videos from the following countries: the United States, Canada, Israel, China and of course, Serbia!

Video #1 is from the United States. It took place at a festival in Sacramento, California and includes four dances: Groznica, Prekid, Treskavac, and Cicino from central Serbia.  The performers are the Asna Kolo Ensemble.

Their version of Prekid Kolo is different from the one done by recreational folk dancers. It also known as "Kolo Interruptus."

Many Serbs emigrated to Canada, which is even colder than New England :) Folk dancing keeps them from getting the winter blues and gnerates heat.  (Have you ever been to a dance in the middle of winter and watched people turn the fans and open the windows?)

The group, Kolo, from Hamilton, Ontario performs at halftime during a basketball game. One of my daughters played basketball in high school, and the most annoying thing was that damned buzzer at the end of every quarter.

This is one of the best halftime shows I've seen. 

The dancers perform Vransko Polje, from the region of Vranje. Vranje is in southern Serbia near the borders of the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria.

If you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries, you will recognize this group, Dunav from Jerusalem in Israel. The lady on the right, Mika, has a kolo named after her. It was created from two Serbian dances:  Liljano Kolo and  Kolo iz Dubrave.  It must be really cool to be named after a dance :)

This Chinese "Bonding Folk Dance Class" has been featured on this blog many times. Here they perform the very popular Popovicanka.

The final video in this post is a performance from the group Akud Branko Krsmanovic.  They are from the capital of  Serbia, Belgrade, and do a medley of dances from the region of Å umadija. I recognized Moravac (at 2:49) and Cacak  (at 4:32). If anyone out there can tell me the names of the other dances in this medley it would be very much appreciated.

If you can ignore the chatter in the background, this is a very good video. 

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

The "Flavors of Serbian Cacak"

Folk Ensembles Named After Dances

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break next week; look for the next post sometime in early November.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Tribute to Georgi Petrov

When I'm dead, I want to be remembered as a musician of some worth and substance.
― Freddie Mercury

Today's post features several memorable performances of Georgi Petrov, a musician who played the gadulka, the Bulgarian version of a fiddle. He died of a brain tumor in February 2014 at the age of 52. Unfortunately, I didn't know anything about this musician or his music until shortly after he had passed on, when I found this article (in Bulgarian) on the Vidin affiliate of the Bulgarian National Radio.

I read the article (via Google Translate)and listened to the audio file.

Georgi Petrov was from northwestern Bulgaria, Vidin region, and he is best known for playing music from that area. On video #1 you'll hear  Sinagovsko Horo, named after the village, Sinagovtsi, where Petrov lived. It is also known as Dunavsko Horo, the dance done to this music.

Video #2 is a performance of Georgi Petrov from 2003. Here he's accompanied by a group of folk musicians on tambura, kaval, and tupan.  The piece is Dzanguritsa, a tune from the Pirin region.

Video #3 is from a Bulgarian TV show back in 1995 (can you believe that was almost 20 years ago?) of Georgi Petrov playing Kraĭdunavska prikazka; the English translation is A Danubean Tale. It is a beautiful piece and one for which he is best known. Here, he's accompanied by the folk music orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio.The radio station celebrates its 80th anniversary in January 2015.

Video #4  is from a concert in Morocco.. It's a half hour long but worth a listen  It starts with Petrov playing a solo on gadulka, to be accompanied by musicians on  kaval  and tambura. Two vocalists join in at 19:00.  You'll also hear the music from video #1 (at 14:54) and video #2 (21:45)  If you watch closely, you'll also see an artist painting Bulgarian musical instruments. The eye candy is there if you know where to look :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music

Same Dance, Different Music, Dunavkso Horo

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Romanian Folk Dance in the United States

When you're dancing, you're dancing for people to see.
Pharrell Williams

Today's post features a costumed folk dance group, Hora Romaneasca, from Boulder, Colorado, USA.  I found them totally by accident, during a search for the dance Hora de Mina on YouTube.

I found several of their videos posted in the sidebar, and I had to share them, they were so good.  These were taken during a festival in 2011.

Video #1 is the graceful Hora Spoitorilor.

Video #2 is something a bit more animated;  Alunelul de Briu, accented by shouts (strigaturi). Strigaturi are a feature of many Romanian folk dances, along with stamps. Should Romanian dancing be stamped out?  I don't think so.

Video #3 is of a dance some find intimidating because it's fast and has sudden changes of direction.  The name is Cimpoi, which means "bagpipe" in Romanian.

Video #4 is Trei Pazeste. It translates into "three times beware"; something about the sudden changes of direction and speed. There is a family of dances with the name Trei Pazeste, with different music and choreography, from other towns in Romania. You can read about them in one of the posts on the bottom of the page.

Notice how how the group uses different formations; first the men, then the women, then the entire group in a circle. (Check out the cute little girl in costume, running in front of them! I think she wanted to join the dancers.)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Three Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance Trei Pazeste

Two Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance Hora de Mina

The Different "Flavors" of the Romanian Folk Dance Alunelul

Another Country Heard From:  The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

This month's post on Light and Shadow is about the autumn season.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Best of Bulgarika

Music happens to be an art form that transcends language.
Herbie Hancock

Although I understand very little Bulgarian, their folk music speaks to me, and to many other fans of it as well.  When a Bulgarian folk ensemble comes to play, few people sit down (except perhaps to rest for the next dance).  The rhythms are compelling and sometimes hypnotic; it is easy to get into a trance while dancing.

Bulgarika is a folk ensemble that played last month in Amherst, Massachusetts, and I was at their dance party in early September. Right now they are on tour in the United States.If you do a Google search on them, you can find a performance somewhere near you.

Nikolai Kolev and his wife Donka, originally from Bulgaria, now reside in New York City, and a number of years ago played in the Kabile Bulgarian Band.

The Bulgarika ensemble on tour this year consists of four musicians:  Nikolai Kolev, gadulka, Donka Koleva, vocals, Vasil Bebelekov, gaida and Dragni Dragnev, who plays several instruments: gaida, keyboard, kaval and tupan.  He just doesn't play them all at the same time :)

Although it was very hot and humid, and the hall had no air conditioning (for cooling we had the windows wide open and fans running at full blast) everyone had a great time dancing and sweating to Bulgarian folk tunes. I felt bad for the musicians who wore long pants and long sleeve embroidered shirts because performing in the heat is hard work. They absolutely love what they do, and played for us (with a short break) for about three hours.

Here is a sample from that evening that I captured in video: the dance is a slow pravo.

This was another dance event with Bulgarika which took place recently in Pennsylvania.  The music is a medley of songs from the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria; the dance is Pravo Rhodopsko Horo.

And finally, an older video of Bulgarika from 2011 with Ivan Milev on accordion, and Donka Koleva's daughter Maria (vocals). It took place at an outdoor festival in Indiana. The dances are Pravo Trakiisko Horo, Devetorka, and Trite Puti.  

 It also happened to be Donka Koleva's birthday.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

An Unforgettable Evening With Kabile at Mt. Holyoke College

A Multi-Ethnic Weekend and Some Bulgarian "Free Software"

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

Don't forget to visit my other blog Light and Shadow.  The post this month is "Some Thoughts on the Autumn Equinox."

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