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Friday, April 21, 2017

Variations on the Greek Folk Dance: Tai Tai

Choreography isn't written in stone, nor does it exist in a vacuum.
-Katley

My approach to folk dance is one of flexibility.  I find that too many people focus on one choreography whereas I focus more on "feeling the music" and letting it take you where you want to go. The basic choreography is a guide, the variations are like frosting on a cake. There is room for creativity in folk dance, and different "villages" have their variations on a basic theme.

Today's dance is Tai Tai from the Greek region of Thessaly, usually performed around Easter.

Video #1 is the version done by recreational folk dancers.

The music is haunting and beautiful, sung by a female chorus and accompanied by a clarinet.   This dance has two parts: part one with a front basket hold (slow) and the second part with step hops, pas de basques (crossovers) and raised hands.



Video #2 is the Greek version.  The melody is the same, although the music has a definitely different quality, with a male singer and a lower octave on the clarinet.

The choreography is different than the previous video.  The first figure resembles a slow Pravo Horo (three steps forward and one to the side);  the second figure looks like Sta Tria, the Greek version of Lesnoto.  The dancers also do turns and swings into the middle of the circle.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Greece

Tai Tai reminds me of another Greek dance: Paraliakos.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bring on the Kids!

You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.
Ogden Nash

Dancing keeps you young, and the younger you start the better. Staying immature is optional. Who wants to grow up anyway?

Today's post features young people performing dances from Serbia and Bulgaria.

Video #1 is of three Chinese kids from the States dancing Sestorka from Serbia.Check out the girl who leads (she also does the sound effects.  Hoo-ha he-hop!

This dance is usually done in a belt hold, but the kids here are using a basket hold.  Either one is fine. Short lines are best; three to four people is a good number.

The lyrics are at the bottom of the screen, so you can sing along.



Video #2 is the kids's dance ensemble Hopa Trop dancing a Shopska Rachenitsa. The group is from Seattle, Washington.

The title of the video is Proletni Igri (Springtime Dance).  I'm still waiting for spring because the weather has been so chilly.



Video #3 is of the kids' ensemble Dimitrovche from Toronto, Canada.  The description (in Bulgarian) translates to Big Thracian Dance.  It's actually a dressed-up version of Pravo Horo. The kids are dressed-up, too, in elaborate embroidered costumes.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Hopa Trop: Children's Ensemble From Seattle, Washington

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Chichovo Horo (includes a performance by the Dimitrovche Kids

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused Part Eight: Opsa and Opas

I never want to confuse people or go over their heads.
Wiz Khalifa

Today's post features two dances with names that are easily confused. It is part of a series that ran away with itself.

Opsa is a dance very popular in the Serbian community in the United States.  It probably came into existence during a party when a bunch of people got tanked on slivovitz.  It is an easy dance, fun, and you even get to shout opsa! numerous times.

Despite the U.S. origin, the lyrics are in Serbian, and one part sounds like the words "whatever doesn't kill you opsa skochi" (listen at 0.08).

The lady in the middle is Sasha, who used to teach dance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City many years ago.  She also led workshops in upstate New York, on the grounds of a Workmens' Circle summer camp.  It was tricky dancing around those poles.



Video #2 is the Bulgarian dance Opas, the Dobrudjan version of Pravo Horo.  There are many versions of this dance; this variation is the most popular in the folk dance community.  At dance recently the programmer mistakenly played this tune instead of Opsa. He had everyone confused except me.



Video #3 is a different version of Opas performed by Zagortski dance group from Bulgaria.



If you enjoyed this you may also like the Balkan Dances that are Often Confused series (this post links to all of them).

Two Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Opas

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Girls from Dobrogea

I think a girl can do anything. She just needs to believe in herself.
Elvira Meliksetyan

Today's post features songs celebrating the girls (and women) of  Dobrogea for International Women's Day on March 8th.

Dobrogea is a historical region which spans two countries.  The northern part is in Romania and the southern part is in Bulgaria.  In Bulgaria, the name is transliterated to Dobrudja.

This week's song is Eu Sunt Fata Dobrogeana (I am a girl from Dobrogea).

Dobrogea is a region in Romania where much of the music is in odd rhythms.  The song in video #1 is in 7/8 meter (pineapple-apple-apple).  The accent in the music is similar to the Bulgarian sirto or Greek kalamatianos. You can dance to it.

Catalina Alexa is a young performer of Romanian folk songs.  This song was originally made famous by Natalia Serbanescu, who passed on in 2007.



Video #2 is a group of women and girls performing Eu Sunt Fata Dobrogeana.  It concludes with another song in geampara rhythm.



Video #3 is a totally different version of Eu Sunt Fata Dobrogeana performed by Elena Platica.  In this song, there are two different rhythms: 7/8 geampara and 3/4 waltz.

There is info on Elena Platica in Romanian, but I couldn't find the lyrics to the song.

Songs in asymmetric rhythms are common in the Balkans and so are rhythm changes within the same song.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

More Songs from the Romanian Folkore Region of Dobrogea (includes Aneta Stan's version of Eu Sunt Fata Dobrogeana)

To Celebrate International Women's Day: Songs from the Balkans About Women and Girls

Note:  The Alien Diaries is taking a short break until early April.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Spring Fever in Moldova and Bulgaria

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
Mark Twain

The country of Moldova celebrates the spring holiday Mărțișor. It is observed in a similar fashion as in their southern neighbor, Romania and begins on March 1.

Today's video (it is actually part one of three) is a celebration from the town of Dubăsari in Moldova.

The official language of Moldova is Romanian. Moldova was part of Romania between 1918 and 1940 and used to be known as Bessarabia. The music is very similar in character to Romanian folk music.

I have posted Part One of the concert here (the other two in the series can be seen on YouTube.)



In Bulgaria, March 1 is the day of the Martenitsa, a spring holiday which celebrates Baba Marta, a mythological character with tremendous mood swings.

The video  explains the tradition of the Martenitsa, with instructions on how to make one. It is accompanied by cheerful Bulgarian folk music.  You can even dance to it!



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Crossing the River Part Three: The Bulgarian Martenitsa and the Romanian Mărțișor

Mărțișor: A Romanian Spring Celebration

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dances from Stara Zagora

A city isn’t so unlike a person. They both have the marks to show they have many stories to tell. They see many faces. They tear things down and make new again.
Rasmenia Massoud

Today's music and dance are from the city of Stara Zagora in the south central (Thrace) region of Bulgaria.

Video #1 is Starazorska Rachenitsa, named after the city. Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria and danced all over the country; it has many regional styles.  The Thracian rachenitsa tends to be slow and smooth. Oftentimes in this dance the arm movements are emphasized.

The name rachenitsa is derived from the Bulgarian word for hand or forearm: ръка.

Here you will see a club demonstrating the dance.  Afterwards, there is instruction, and then everyone else joins in. This version is "na horo" or in a group.



The next dance is Staro Zagorsko Horo. The difference between rachenitsa and horo is that a horo is a group dance; rachenitsa can be performed solo or as a couple as well as in a group.

Staro Zagorsko Horo is a pravo variation.The pravo is the most popular dance form in Thrace, although there are regional variations done in other parts of the country. Like the rachenitsa, it is danced all over the country.

This dance starts off slowly and speeds up.  The beginning is a pravo variation with grapevines and sways. The fancy footwork starts at 2:32.

If you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries, you will recognize the Chinese "bonding folk dance class."



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa: Part One and Part Two

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part Seven: Balta and Ca La Balta

“Knowledge is the name professors give to the confusion they create.”
― Marty Rubin

Today's post will give you even more knowledge about the confusion of names in Balkan dance with two dances from Romania.

Video #1 is the dance Balta, which fits a lot of steps in less than two minutes. The music reminds me of Calusari, another Romanian dance.

"Balta" is the Romanian word for marsh or swamp. It is also the name of a commune in Romania.

The performance in the video is smooth and seemingly effortless. It is a pleasure to watch this man dance.



Video #2 is Ca la Balta.  This is a modern version played on a saxophone. Click here if you want to hear the traditional version on panpipe and cimbalom. The name translates to "as in Balta."



If you enjoyed this you may also like the rest of the series Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused.
The link goes to Part Six, you can access the other posts from there.

Crossing the River, Part Two: The Stick Dancers - Romanian Calusari and Their Bulgarian Counterparts

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