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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter A

This week's post is part of a new series called "Dancing Through the Alphabet." Today's Alien Diaries has been brought to you by the letter A.  Where have you heard a similar saying before?  Hint: It is a popular children's TV show. Trivia fans should know the answer.  You have 30 seconds to write it down and don't forget to phrase it in the form of a question :)

The Alphabet Series, will, for the most part, spotlight lesser-known Balkan dances. Most of the popular ones have been featured on this blog at one time or another. 

Today's dance is from Bulgaria, a daichovo variation called Abdala. In the notes it's described as a Vlach version of daichovo. It has stamping (a requirement for Vlach dances) and it's fast. 

The dancers are members of the International Folk Dancers of Ottawa.

By the way, the answer to today's trivia question was Sesame Street.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Daichovo, Plain or Fancy, Take Your Pick

Bits and Pieces: More Folklore and Pop Culture from the Universe of You Tube (features Miss Piggy on the Muppet Show singing Never on Sunday)

Folklore and Pop Culture Again! (features the Count from Sesame Street)

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Women's Dances from Macedonia, Led by Men

Heterosexual men HATE dancing. We HATE it. We do it because there's a chance it might lead to sex. I mean, let's face it- if we LIKED dancing, we'd do it with other guys! (found in Psychology Today comment section in response to "65 Quotes on Dance."  The remark was attributed to an anonymous standup comic.)

“A man does what he can; a woman does what a man cannot.”
Isabel Allende, Inés of My Soul 

Sure, there are  men out there who dance primarily to meet women. And there are some who actually like to dance.  They like dancing so much that gender roles don't bother them.  In today's post there are men leading what are traditionally known as women's dances.

The gender line has been crossed, at least with these two dances from Macedonia.

The first dance is Zensko za Raka, led by the teacher Sasko Atanasov.  .  This is an fairly easy dance but it requires a lot of concentration for the leader because the music doesn't exactly tell you what to do. I find it amazing that this guy can beat a drum and lead a dance at the same time.  He is really good.

Staro Zensko Krsteno means "old women's crossing dance. The crossover steps are similar to Zensko Za Raka, although the rhythm is a little more complicated and there are more embellishments.

 I don't see a time signature on the sheet music. Does anyone know what it is? Inquiring minds want to know :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Some Equal Opportunity Folk Dances

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa Part Two: Masculine, Feminine, and Flirty

More Quirky, Odd Rhythms in Balkan Dance

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Bulgarian Folk Songs Reincarnated

"Reincarnation is making a comeback."
British Slogan

Reincarnation is a fascinating concept.  Many people believe that they have lived more than one life. It is the same with songs.

Today's post features two popular Bulgarian folk songs that were reincarnated:  the older version (sung by a male) and the newer one (sung by a female).

Chia e Tova Mominche was originally performed by Kaicho Kamenov, who lived from 1923-1983.  I've heard a number of his recordings on the Bulgarian National Radio. He was from the town of Vinarovo (near Vidin) in northwestern Bulgaria and his specialty was songs from the northern folklore region.

The video is an excerpt from the Bulgarian TV program Ide Nashenskata Muzika, hosted by Daniel Spasov (the guy at the end of the video with the microphone) and Milen Ivanov.  The hosts of the show are also folk singers.

They devote a part of the show to artists from the past. It's broadcast most Saturdays and uploaded onto the Bulgarian National Television website by early afternoon, and features music from every folklore region of the country.  I don't understand what the melting ice has to do with the song, but it sure looks wintry out there!

This is the same song by Lyuti Chushki, a group of folk musicians from the Washington DC area. They paid a visit to Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley some years ago. During the day, they gave tupan and singing lessons, an intro to Bulgarian ethnomusicology, and in the evening a concert and a dance party. I enjoyed it very much.

The next song is Myatalo Lenche Jabuka, performed by two great artists of the mid-20th century, Boris Mashalov (vocals) and Boris Karlov (accordion).

Nikolina Chakardakova's version of Myatalo Lenche  is the one we play at dances. The link goes to her website (in Bulgarian), and you can find videos of her songs there.

Unfortunately, you won't see the artist in the video, although her recording was used for the performance.  The song is about a girl, Lenche, who throws an apple in the hope of finding a man to marry.  An old man catches it instead.  The plot revolves around the girl's mother sending the old man into the woods hoping that a bear will eat him.(In the stage performance the "bear" removes his "head", revealing a handsome young man.)

The dance is a rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

A Visit to Bulgaria by way of Mt. Holyoke College

Kaicho Kamenov and the Folk Songs of Northern Bulgaria

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Here Comes the Brass Band! Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs Performed by Daniel Spasov

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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 Šumadija. 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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