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Friday, August 28, 2015

More Rachenitsa na Horo with a bit of Graovsko

For me dancing is not just moving your arms and legs but basically it's a very spiritual experience. It's part of me and a second nature to me. You can say it is in my blood.
Madhuri Dixit

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about different variations of the Bulgarian folk dance Rachenitsa na Horo.

Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria and can be done solo, as a couple, or in a group.  The group version, performed in a line, is "na horo."  The time signature (many Bulgarian dances are in odd rhythms) can be either 7/8 or 7/16, depending on the speed of the music.

There are a number of variations of this dance posted on YouTube.  This particular variation of Rachenitsa na Horo is from the Bulgarian region of Thrace. To me this looks like a dance group practicing with the teacher in the front, much like the workshops I've been to in the past.

Rachenitsa is all about getting the arms and hands moving, even when dancing it "na horo", because the origin of the name comes from the Bulgarian word for "hand" or "forearm."  Notice how the woman at the front of the line waves her right arm.  Sometimes the leader twirls a handkerchief.

The dance after the rachenitsa is Graovsko Horo, from the Shope region.  The steps are similar to another Bulgarian dance, Kyustendilska Rachenitsa, except that the rhythm is 2/4 instead of 7/8.



Here's another version of Graovsko, where it is easier to see the feet:



The next video features a spirited Rachenitsa na Horo, also from Thrace. Too bad the video is only a minute and a half long. The dancers are a pleasure to watch. They obviously enjoy what they do. 



If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Two Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Rachenitsa na Horo

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

You will find rachenitsa and other Bulgarian rhythms in this post:

Orchestra Horo: Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs, Traditional Rhythms 

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Romania

Some years ago I read a book that brought Einstein's theory of relativity down to an eighth grade level. This convinced me that any subject can be made easy. In other words, always beware of anyone who tells you a topic is above you or better left to experts. This person may, for some reason, be trying to shut you out. You CAN understand almost anything.
Richard J. Maybury

Not all Romanian folk dances are fast and difficult with sudden changes of direction and stamps hard enough to put holes in the floor! Contrary to what you've seen and heard, there are relatively slow and easy Romanian dances. Relatively is the key word here. Relativity is a whole other concept.

What's really cool about today's dances is that they include shouts, called "strigaturi."  You can be a kid again and use your "outside voice."

The first is Hora Pe Sase (Hora for Six). I counted the steps, and none of them add up to six.  Notice that one of the figures in this dance resembles the Bulgarian Pravo Horo.

There are definitely more than six people dancing.  So where did the dance get its name?  If you know the answer, please post it in the "comments" section.



The second dance, Hora Pentesteanca is one I can't even pronounce.  Fortunately it is easy to learn by watching the dancers. The steps are mostly grapevines and taps.

Romanian is part of a family of languages based on Latin. There is a Romanian woman who comes to our dances and she taught us how to say some basic greetings.  Despite my familiarity with Spanish, I had difficulty pronouncing the Romanian words.

Modern Romanian, to me, sounds like a combination of Latin and Italian, with an admixture of Slavic words. The first time I heard it on an ethnic radio program, I thought it was a dialect of Italian until the folk music came on. According to Wikipedia, Romanian is 77% similar to Italian.

There are other dialects related to Romanian, including Aromanian , also known as Vlach.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Romanian Hora

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

The dances of Bulgaria and the Dobrogea region of Romania use similar rhythms.

Crossing the River Part One:  Folk Music From the Romanian Region of Dobrogea

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

If you are interested in some easy folk dances, check out the blog with the same name.

The Alien Diaries is taking a brief break.  Look for the next post in approximately two weeks.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Fun and Fast Kolos from Serbia

If you think of exercise as a 60-minute commitment 3 times a week at the gym, you're missing the point completely. If you think that going on a diet has something to do with nutrition, you don't see the forest through the trees. It is a lifestyle. I know it sounds cliche, but you have to find things you love to do.
Brett Hoeble

Today's post features some Serbian dances that I've done at one time or another.  They are fun and fast and get the heart rate going.  Who needs aerobics when there's kolo?

The first one is a bouncy little number that is often played early in the evening because it's a relatively easy dance to follow: Divčibarsko Kolo. It has something called "ethnic symmetry", which means the same footwork in both directions.



Rokoko Kolo is a hybrid dance from Vojvodina.  It's a Serbian dance that sounds Croatian because of the  tamburitza music.  The accordion is the national instrument of Serbia, but in Vojvodina they are more into tamburitza.  The heel clicks are common to Hungarian dances because a sizable Hungarian minority lives in this part of Serbia. Political borders in the Balkans don't always align with cultural ones.



Polomka is a medley of three Vlach dances with lots of stamping.  Except for the last figure this dance is fairly easy to follow.

Brass music is popular in Serbia, too.  Every year in August there is a festival called Guca where bands all from all over Serbia (and some from outside the country, like Zlatne Uste), compete. This year it was from August 3 to August 9.  If you missed it there's always next year.



Here's Polomka as it's done in the "village" of Maribor, in Slovenia:



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Serbian Folk Dance Around the World

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

If you like tamburitza music, there is plenty of it in The River of Many Names, Part 6: The Danube in Croatian Folk Songs.  The earworms in this post will take up residence in your head, guaranteed.

If you're bored with your usual workout, try some Ethnic Dance and Exercise.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Balkan Folk Dances Named After Rivers

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
Khalil Gibran

Today's post features dance songs from Croatia and Romania that are named after rivers.

Raka Plava po Dravi from Croatia is a very strange song.  The title translates to Duck Swimming in the Drava.  The lyrics are rather strange, because the duck has a hat on its head, and the refrain is "this year the roses will bloom." The woman recognizes her beloved as he walks off a ship (he supposedly has a distinctive walk), and she wants to marry him.. The lyrics are really random, and there was no English translation (although I was able translate from German).

By the way, the Drava is a tributary of the Danube, River of Many Names, which has written about extensively on this blog (see the links to other posts).  The Drava flows from the west, through Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. 

Here's Raca Plava taught by Yves Moreau. He is a well-known teacher, primarily of dances from Bulgaria. He does workshops all over the world; this one was held in Israel.



In the "village" of Vienna, Austria, they dance Raca Plava a little differently. At dance we have a saying, "he or she is "from a different village" when someone visits one of our dances and does a different variation. Choreography is not a static entity.  Remember the game "telephone" you may have played as a child?  Dance works the same way.



The next dance song is about a river in Romania Siriul din Buzau This is another love song, a bit more romantic than the one from Croatia, with beautiful imagery (you can find the English translation here). The music sounds like flowing water.

This group is from the United States.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The River of Many Names (all the links are accessible from part seven); a pan-Balkan series with Danube songs from different countries.

Beli Dunav (parts one, two and three) Danube Songs from Bulgaria

Some Fun for April Fool's Day: Silly Songs, Strange Sayings, Proverbs, and Insults from the Balkans

For more on the "different village" concept read:

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Kraj Dunavsko Horo

A great resource for dance songs and translations is the Songbook for Nearsighted People. The Songbook features lyrics from many different countries (especially the Balkans) in the original languages (transliterated for Bulgarian and Macedonian).  Most of the songs are translated into German and English.

You can view the publication in its entirety or each song as a single page. The font is large, perfect for those who are visually challenged :)

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Friday, July 24, 2015

The Different "Flavors" of Pravo Rhodopko Horo

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
French proverb

Pravo Horo and its numerous variations are popular all over Bulgaria. Today we shall focus on a single region, the Rhodope Mountains, and several versions of the dance from that area.

The basic village Pravo is a simple walking dance, three steps in and one step back, in a diagonal formation.

Here is an example of the basic village Pravo Rhodopsko accompanied by a kaba gaida, an instrument native to that region.  This bagpipe is larger and lower pitched than the traditional Bulgarian gaida.



This dance song Mitro is an excellent example of the fusion of traditional and modern in Bulgarian folk music. Listen to the gaida solo at the beginning and the end of the video.

It's different from the kaba gaida played in the previous video and loud enough to wake the dead.

The Pravo step is interwoven into the dance with stamps and step-hops.



Several dancers in my Sunday night group went to Pinewoods recently, during a session held the last week of June. This year,Yves Moreau taught a number of Bulgarian dances.  One that was introduced to my Sunday night dance group was Hajde Kalino.  Similar to Mitro, the Pravo step here is also interwoven with a faster figure that includes stamps and grapevines.

The dance is moderately slow and speeds up when the singing stops. Rhodope versions of the Pravo are generally slow to medium speed.  In other regions of Bulgaria, they can be so fast that you can barely see the feet!



In the next video, also of the song Hajde Kalino, the singers are accompanied by a kaba gaida.  What I find strange is that neither the singers or the gaida player are wearing folk costumes. This looks like an impromptu street performance.No one actually gets up to dance until 5:45.  Why did they wait so long?



The last video is another "souped up" Rhodope Pravo with claps and stamps (I thought Dobrudja Bulgarians, Romanians and Vlachs had a monopoly on those!)  The song is Sapril Dobri.  The instructor here is Jaap Leegwater, who specializes in dances from Bulgaria. He also led Mitro in video #2.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe in Bulgarian Folk Music

Bulgarian Singing Demystified (includes a medley of songs from the Rhodope region, directed by Tatiana Sarbinska)

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Variations on a Theme By Diko Iliev Part 2: Gankino Horo

Music is the melody whose text is the world.
Arnold Schopenhauer


Today's post features several versions of Gankino Horo as interpreted by the composer Diko Iliev.  He lived from 1898 - 1984 and is best known for the piece Dunavsko Horo, danced at just about every celebration in Bulgaria, especially during the New Year.

To get an idea about what the dance is about (since I couldn't find anything on YouTube with people dancing to Iliev's Gankino Horo) watch the video below. If you are familiar with The Alien Diaries, you will recognize the Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel.

The rhythm is 11/16 ( quick-quick-slow-quick-quick).  Gankino Horo is a dance in the kopanitsa family and there are many fancy versions of kopanitsa out there. The one in the video is the basic village dance. The slow beat is the "hiccup" in the middle.

The music arrangement is by Boris Karlov, an accordionist of Roma origin. (It is easy to confuse him with the movie actor with a similar name, Boris Karloff.  If you're a fan of old movies, you may find this link of interest).

The melody is familiar to folk dancers around the world.  Karlov made many recordings of Bulgarian folk dances  for accordion and this one is extremely popular more than fifty years after his death in 1964.

Diko Iliev also used this melody in his Maisko Gankino Horo; there is a link to it at the end of this post.

Remember all Gankinos are kopanitsas, but not all kopanitsas are Gankino.



The next video is music by Diko Iliev: Dukovitsko Gankino Horo.  My guess is that it's name after a village or town.  Many Bulgarian dances are named after cities or towns.  Some are named after people. Ganka is a female name in Bulgaria.

The CD cover pictured is from the album Spomeni (memories, not a fancy Italian ice cream called spumoni.) Confused? Look it up on Google Translate.

There is a picture of the composer, a score from one of his pieces and a bouquet of red flowers.It must be something connected with Diko Iliev.  Does anyone out there know why?



This version of Gankino is actually named after a person named Gano. He is a winner (gano means "I win" in Spanish. Bad joke).  In both Spanish and Bulgarian, female names usually end with the letter "a", male names with the letter "o".



If you like two for the price of one here is Rachenitsa followed by Gankino Horo.  It is common in a horovod (medley of Bulgarian folk dances) to combine dances in different rhythms.  Rachenitsa is in 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed; say the words "apple-apple-pineapple" and you have rachenitsa.

This album cover is a view from the town of Oriahovo, where Diko Iliev lived for 42 years. The town square is named after him.  The Bulgarian National Radio compiled this CD, and you can hear the music from it on YouTube.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune: Gankino Horo (three different variations of the same tune by different artists, including Diko Iliev)

Variations on a Theme by Diko Iliev (several different arrangements of Dunavsko Horo)

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Bulgarian Dances Named After Cities and Towns

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Friday, July 10, 2015

The Dances of Greek Macedonia

A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
Mahatma Gandhi

Today's post features dances from the Macedonia region of northern Greece.

The name "Macedonia" has been much contested because the region historically known as Macedonia spans three countries: northern Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Pirin region of Bulgaria.

My intent is not to start World War III in the Balkans, but to educate readers why the name of "Macedonia" has stirred up so much conflict.

There are also places with the name Macedonia in other parts of the world, and there are numerous towns in the United States with this name.

It doesn't make sense, to me, anyway, to fight over a name.  See  below for an explanation.The one thing the video does not mention is that there is a region called "Pirin Macedonia" in Bulgaria. Its official name is Blagoevgrad Province.

By the way if people danced more, there would be no fighting. Too much time, money and energy are spent on war.



The first dance is Sire Sire. (If anyone can find the dance notes for this, please let me know).  It is very popular in recreational folk dance groups in the States. The rhythm and the movements of Sire Sire remind me of rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, which can be in either 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed of the music. The Greek tik is similar to the rachenitsa, and also to the Romanian geampara. It's the same rhythm: apple-apple-pineapple.

This group is from the city of Edessa.



There is a lot of cultural cross-pollination in the Balkans.  Brass bands, I've noticed, provide the music for all of the dances featured in this post.. They are also popular in Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, parts of Bulgaria, and also in Romania.

 You heard one in the last video, and you will see one here.  The dance is Raiko, also in 7/8 rhythm.



The last dance, which has been featured on this blog before, is also from Greek Macedonia.  It has a very strange rhythm: 12/16.  It also has two names, depending on which side of the border you're from.  In Greece it's known as LeventikosIn the Republic of Macedonia they call it Pusteno.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Dances and Their Greek Relatives

Dancing Through the Alphabet, Letter L


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