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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet Letter X:

Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together.
Edgar Winter

I couldn't find any Balkan dances for this week's post that begin with the letter "X" (although I did find a song from Albania with the totally unpronounceable name of  Xhimixhi) The name is a real tongue twister. 

Today's theme will be traditional and modern versions of a Bulgarian folk song from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria:  Sabrali sa se Sabrali.  Judging from what I've seen on the Universe of YouTube, it is quite popular.

Version one is the one we dance to, the beautiful traditional version performed by the Rhodopea Kaba Trio. The song is about three young women who fall asleep under a tree. They each wake up to find something missing: a necklace, a belt, and an apron. Someone has been engaging in petty theft under the stars.



Version two features a modern Sabrali performed by the singer Neli Andreeva and a group of dancers from the Bulgarian TV show Ide Nashenskata Muzika  (here comes our music). The Bulgarian National Television uploads a new show online each week, which features folk artists from past and present.



Version three is performed by Rositsa Peycheva, this time featuring dancers in traditional Bulgarian elaborate embroidered costumes with some beautiful scenery in the background. The large bagpipe is a kaba gaida, native to the Rhodope region.



The bonus video is of a band from Western Massachusetts whose specialty is music from the Balkans.  Their name begins with the letter "X" and they and their fans pronounce it zo-po. The group is Xopo and to make things even more confusing, "X" in Bulgarian is pronounced like our letter "H." Xopo is the Bulgarian word for "horo." 

The video was taken at a party in Wethersfield, Connecticut and the dance is a tropanka from the Bulgarian region of Dobrudja.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

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

Nusha, A Family Music Project With Neli Andreeva and her Daughters

Folk Ensembles Named Horo

Several years ago I wrote a post about Nestinari (fire dancers) who dance on hot coals for the feast day of Saints Constantine and Helen.  Their feast day falls on May 21. There is also a MythBusters video that explains the science of walking on hot coals.

Fire Walking: Myth or Magic?

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet Letter W: A Waltz From Slovenia

Today's post is about a Balkan country that seldom seems to make the news: Slovenia. Slovenia used to be a part of the multi-ethnic, multicultural nation of Yugoslavia, which fell apart after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Before there was a Yugoslavia, Slovenia belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The folk music of Slovenia has been strongly influenced by its neighbor to the north, Austria.

The video features a waltz from Slovenia, played on an accordion,  which. according to some, is an instrument of torture. It was most likely invented in a German speaking country. Since accordions were easy for traveling musicians to carry around,  their popularity spread over Europe. 

Other Balkan countries have also included waltzes in their folk music, for example: Croatia and Bulgaria.  You can find them in one of the links below.

This piece sounds more Germanic than Slavic.



The bonus video features Cookie Monster and the Letter of the Day.  Guess what that is?



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Waltzing Through the Balkans

Classical Composers Inspired by Balkan Folk Dances

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter V

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
Mother Theresa

Albania was virtually isolated from the world until after the fall of Communism.  It was an oddity among the countries of Eastern Europe in that it deviated away from the Soviet Bloc (the Russians had a heavy hand in most of Eastern Europe until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989). Albania allied itself with Communist China for a while and then went its own way.  It was a closed country that few outsiders were allowed to visit and even fewer were allowed to emigrate from until 1991. 

Albanian is totally unrelated to any other language spoken on the Balkan peninsula.  

Albanian folk dance borrows some elements from Greek and South Slavic music, and some of the dances that they do are similar to those of their neighbors in Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia.  An example is Valle Pogonishte, related to the Greek dance Pogonisios.

The dance shown in the video below is Valle E Burrave; in English it translates to "Men's Dance."  Originally only the men were allowed to perform this dance,  and they are the ones who do the fancy choreography.  The women get to participate, however, so this is an "equal opportunity" dance.



Today's bonus video features Mother Theresa, one of the greatest humanitarians in the world, who was of Albanian heritage.  She was born in Skopje in 1910.  At that time, Albania and Macedonia were still part of the Ottoman Empire.

She left home at the age of 18 to become a nun and spent the rest of her life in India, ministering to the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta.

The video shows her as a young woman in an Albanian folk costume, and you can hear her speak her native language.  Albania's Communist government was against any form of religious expression and Mother Theresa was not allowed to visit until the government relaxed its stance on religion. It was a very joyous occasion for her.

If anyone out there speaks Albanian, it would be much appreciated if you could post a translation of her speech in the "comments" section.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Two Variations on an Albanian Folk Dance: Valle Pogonishte

The Dance of Osman Taka

A Taste of Albania at Balkan Music Night 2013

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dancing Through The Alphabet: Letter U

This week's dance is Užicka Carlama from the Sumadija region of Serbia. There aren't too many dances from the Balkans that begin with the letter U (with the exception of U Sest, which is probably one of the most popular dances in Serbia).

You've probably noticed I've featured two Serbian dances in two weeks. Next week's dance will be from a different country so you won't think this blog is stuck in central Serbia.

Some additional notes for  Uzicka Carlama can be found here. Notice the heel clicks; the notes describe this as a dance with "movements that were fun to do in boots."

This group is from Toronto, Canada.



Since the word "carlama" is derived from the Turkish "to strike" this week's bonus video is the "world's fastest 300 game." For those who aren't knowledgeable about the sport of bowling, 300 is a perfect game (twelve strikes in a row).  The reason this guy can do it so fast is that he has the entire bowling alley to himself.  In an actual game, he would be using two lanes and waiting for the pins to reset, which could get really boring after a while. He would also be playing against a competitor and you'd probably go to sleep before the game is over unless you're a true bowling aficionado.

Bowling is one of the few sports that's fun because you can get rid of stress without hurting anyone.  In that respect it's a lot like Romanian folk dancing (stamp, stamp, stamp).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Serbian Folk Dance Around the World

The Different "Flavors" of the Romanian Folk Dance Alunelul


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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter T

Once I am in the square circle, I am in my home.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Today's dance is a bouncy number from Serbia, Toicevo Kolo.  I found it by accident on  Dunavfolk's channel on the Universe of YouTube. 

There are two Balkan dance groups in Israel: Balkanitsa from Haifa and Dunav from Jerusalem.  Dunav has a great website with resources, information, dance notes, lyrics and best of all, videos. Balkanitsa's YouTube channel is also a good resource for dance videos.

However, I couldn't find any notes for Toicevo Kolo anywhere on the Web.. It reminds me of another dance from Serbia, U Sest.

I don't know of any groups in my area that have it in their repertoire.  It looks like a fun (and relatively easy) dance.  Kolo means circle in Serbian, but sometimes it is danced in a line. Both are considered geometric figures.  And when you have only two people you have no choice but to dance in a line.



Here is a slightly different version of the same dance performed by two members of Kolo Dragan, also known as KoloKoalition. They, too have an extensive collection of Balkan dance videos on YouTube. The situation is the same as the previous video: only two people doing the dance. They are making it as circular as they possibly can.



The bonus video is vintage Sesame Street, from the 1990's.  There are funky circles, but no kolos :)



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

Balkan Folk Dancing and its Relationship to Math

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter S


I had a very simple, unremarkable and happy life. And I grew up in a very small town. And so my life was made up of, you know, in the morning going to the river to fetch water - no tap water, and no electricity - and, you know, bathing in the river, and then going to school, and playing soccer afterwards.
Ishmael Baeh

Today's dance is Staro Gradesnisko Horo. According to the notes it's from the Pirin region, southwest Bulgaria. Bulgarian folk dances are often named after towns or regions; this one is named for the town of Doina Gradesniska.

The song is about a common theme in Bulgarian folklore: a girl who goes out to fetch water.  Back in the days before indoor plumbing, the girls and young women had the tedious chore of getting water from the well or the spring for cooking and cleaning.

While fetching water, this girl has an encounter with a young man who makes trouble (but he is actually in love with her).  I couldn't get an exact translation, but if you understand German or Bulgarian you can find the lyrics here.

The dance starts is unusual in that it starts with a hesitation after the introduction. It's very short, just over two minutes long.



Today's bonus video is by the Bisserov Sisters. It is a performance dating from 1989, and the song is about the dangers of going to the well late at night.  Included are English subtitles.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Best of the Bisserov Sisters (and family).  The Pirin style of singing features beautiful and unusual harmonies.  These ladies have been singing together for a very long time; and the entire family is involved with making music.  How do they deal with sibling rivalry? I have yet to find out how they get along so well...

Bulgarian Dances Folk Dances Named After Cities and Towns

The Bulgarian Fascination with Water, Evidence from Folklore, Music and Proverbs

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter R

What is important is to spread confusion, not eliminate it.
Salvador Dalí

This week's dance is Ravno Oro from the Republic of Macedonia. The name is very easily confused with another Macedonian dance, Bavno Oro.

Ravno is a bit more challenging than Bavno.  Like a number of Macedonian folk dances; it starts off slow and speeds up as it progresses.  There are different patterns for the slow part and the fast part. The time signature is 7/8 (pineapple-apple-apple).

In this video the lines are gender-segregated. Traditionally the dance was done that way, but nowadays people do it in mixed lines. Sometimes dancing in the men's line is more fun; they tend to get a little crazier than the women. I have gotten away with it on more than a few occasions :)



Video 2 is the "equal opportunity" version, led by Yves Moreau.  Check out his fancy moves; he is a well-known teacher of Bulgarian and Balkan folk dances and gives workshops all over the world.



I skipped the letter "q" because there are no Balkan dances that begin with "q." The bonus video supplies the missing letter in a very quirky way.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Some Equal Opportunity Folk Dances

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist (many people confuse him with Boris Karloff, the movie actor).  His version of Bavno Oro is still used at folk dances more than 50 years after his death.

Folklore as a Destiny: Yves Moreau and Bulgarian Folk Music

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