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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dances Inspired by Elena

/ Eleno, mome Eleno, /
/ Ne gazi sino zeleno! /
/ (Ah) Eleno, mome Eleno, /
/ Ne gazi sino zeleno! /

Bulgarian folk song

Today's post features two very well-known dances from Bulgaria.  Both are inspired by a woman named Elena. She must be quite popular.

The first is Elenino Horo, better known to to those in the folk dance community as Eleno Mome.  Bulgarian dances tend to be named after the following things: people  (Gankino Horo or Ganka's Dance), cities or towns (Varnenska Tropanka from the city of Varna),  holidays (Koledarska Rachenitsa or Christmas Rachenitsa) or events like weddings (Svatbarska Rachenitsa). 

This version is from a teaching video; part of a series "Teach Yourself Bulgarian Horo." The dance is from Northwestern Bulgaria. Swinging of the arms in time with the steps is typical of dances from this region, and you will notice that their feet.barely touch the ground. The rhythm is 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed (2+2+1+2). There are versions of this dance that are really fast; the one shown here is a moderate tempo.

Eleno Mome is also a folk song.  The instrumental version seems to be more popular than the vocal one.

You can find the lyrics here as well as the sheet music so you can sing along with Rumiana Popova. If you listen carefully you'll hear a bit of the Macedonian dance Toska Memede mixed in at the very beginning. You get two for the price of one.

Elenska Rachenitsa is another Elena dance, introduced and taught by Yves Moreau, and very popular in the international folk dance community.

Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, in 7/8 or 7/16 rhythm (depending on the speed, the lower the number on the time signature, the faster the music). Think of the words apple-apple-pineapple and you have rachenitsa.  Notice the arm movements; they are an intregal part of the dance.

This is a slow and graceful dance from the Thracian region of Bulgaria, performed by the Tanzgruppe Bäckerstraße from Vienna, Austria. They have many videos posted on YouTube and also on the Dancilla website.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dances From Cities and Towns

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

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Bulgarian Folk Dance in and Around Vienna, Austria

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bulgarian Folk Dance in and Around Vienna, Austria

Vienna is the gate to Eastern Europe.
Niki Lauda

Today's post was inspired by a lady named Monika from Vienna, Austria. On YouTube, she goes by the name Monivienna, and she has a little bit of everything on her channel:  folk dances and workshops, Lipizzaner horses, music events  and even her cat (he's so cute!). I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I have!

One of the pleasures of living in a large city is all the dance events. During the summer, some of them take place outside, and many years ago one of my favorite venues during the spring, summer and early fall was in Central Park in New York.

The Central Park Folk Dancers have been meeting  for many years near the King Jagiello Statue and Turtle Pond.  The entrance to the park is near the Metropolitan Museum of Art  on 5th Avenue and West 81st Street.

There is also an outdoor dance venue in Vienna.  Dances take place at the Donauinsel (Danube Island, by the lighthouse) on Tuesday evenings between 7:00-9:30 p.m.
The  Reichsbrücke can be seen in the background of video #1. It dates from 1980; the previous bridge had collapsed early on a Sunday morning in August 1976 due to a structural defect. I was living in Germany when the bridge fell; it was a major story on the news.

Nearly a year later I visited Vienna and saw what remained of the old bridge; construction had not yet started on the new one. At the time of the accident there were four vehicles and five people on the bridge; one life was lost. This would have been a bigger catastrophe if it happened during rush hour on a weekday.

The dance shown here is a slow and easy one from the Pirin region, choreographed by Yves Moreau to the song Idam ne Idam. The lyrics describe a shopkeeper who's in love with a woman named Felidza.  It's a very lovely song, perfect for a balmy summer evening.

Video #2 is from a dance seminar with Mitko and Antonia. Trunska, the dance seen here, is very high energy. It looks like a fancy variation of the pravo.

Video #3 is from another workshop, Schwitz mit Fritz. You will definitely sweat and have lots of fun at one of these.  Last year a Schwitz mit Fritz video was featured on The Alien Diaries of the Albanian dance Valle Pogoniste.  The link can be found at the bottom of this page.

Here Fritz leads a lively and energetic Daichovo Horo, a dance from northwestern Bulgaria. This is almost three minutes of heavy-duty aerobic exercise. I wonder how many people have trouble keeping up with him?

Video# 4 is from a party with the ensemble Kitka, who are dressed up in those beautiful elaborate embroidered costumes. From what I see here I'd love to go to one of these parties; they really know how to have a great time.  I think people in the States sometimes take themselves and folk dancing too seriously.  At the local dances they know me as the comic relief. Comedy is my forte.

This group does Pravo Horo, one of those "getting to know your neighbor dances." Quite a few conversations are going on here....

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Two Variations on the Albanian Folk Dance Valle Pogoniste  Fritz calls the steps for  Pogoniste while the dancers sing along.

Bulgarian Folk Dance in the United States

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World 

Dancing Along the Danube: Folklore Videos from the Tour International Danubien Features music and dance from folklore evenings in Serbia and Bulgaria.

If you have an interest in bridges you may enjoy this post celebrating the opening of a new bridge last year  between Vidin, Bulgaria, and Calafat, Romania (with plenty of music).

Crossing the River, Part Four

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Made in Romania

Many Europeans are confused by the terms Roma and Romania. They wonder if it is an ethnicity or a nation of 22 million citizens.
Traian Basescu

Today's post features a Roma (Gypsy) dance and a medley of dances from the region of Transylvania. 

The first video is the Roma dance, Made in Romania. You can do it freestyle or go by the "suggested" choreography here.  Included are the lyrics and the translation for the song.

I have been known to deviate from the choreography at times and like to create up my own steps. As long as it goes with the music, it's all good, but sometimes it drives people crazy.

The second "Made in Romania" is a folk ensemble who perform a medley of dances from Transylvania. Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was the book that made Transylvania famous. It was based on an actual person, Vlad Tepes, (Vlad the Impaler), who ruled Wallachia from 1456 to 1462. He is best known for the way he killed his enemies.  He impaled them on stakes.

Stoker created a novel based on the folklore of Transylvania. Although he had never visited the country, he had read about it extensively, and he reincarnated Vlad Tepes into a vampire. Nowadays, everyone associates Transylvania with Count Dracula and vampires.

The name Transylvania means "land beyond the forest."  A number of ethnic groups have left their imprint in this region:  the Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons (Germans) and Roma.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like

A Romani Potpourri, Parts One and Two

Transylvania: The Land of Count Dracula is a Multi-Cultural Mishmosh

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Hybrid Dances From the Balkans

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Today's post features hybrid dances, so called because they have more than cultural influence.

The first video is of a Greek dance from Kastroria with lyrics in Ladino,  Alta es la Luna.  Ladino was the language spoken by the Jews of Spain, who were exiled from that country in 1492 (about the same time Columbus set sail for the New World).  The Spanish Jews, also known as Sephardim, settled in various European countries, including Greece.

You can find the lyrics with translations into English and German here.

By the way, "horon" is the Greek word for dance; "horo" is the Bulgarian cognate.

Momino Horo  is a  "Young Women's Dance" from Bulgaria that has two distinctly different moods. Part one is slow and graceful with step-lifts (the notes describe the styling as Greek Macedonian.).

All hell breaks loose after the musical transition at 2:08;  two stamps, then the "penguin step", followed by an in and out, and more stamps. The choreography in part two is as Vlach as it gets with the shouting and the stamping.

The Vlachs were descendants of Romans who lived in the Balkans.  They had wandering ways and in the old days, they worked as shepherds.

Momino Horo  is based on women's dances from the region of Lom in northwestern Bulgaria, an area with a sizable Vlach population.

Yves Moreau, the teacher in the video, gives workshops in Bulgarian folk dance all over the world. This workshop took place in Haifa, Israel.

Siriysko Horo is a dance that came to the Bulgarian community in Chicago by way of Syria. The music is really strange because it reminds me of rush hour traffic in Manhattan.  According to the notes, the dance teacher Yulian Yordanov saw it performed at a Bulgarian gathering in Chicago. In this video,the music has been slowed down for teaching.

The first time I heard the song for Siriykso, I thought it very weird, but I really like it now. I wonder if the singer, Hamid El Shaeri, a native of Benghazi, Libya, was ever in New York City?

You can find the lyrics here.  What's surprising is this happens to be a love song!

This is the same song, at normal speed, and performed by a group of belly dancers.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Travels of Pajdusko Horo

Allusions, Musically Speaking (how snippets from different cultures get mixed into Balkan folk music)

Bulgarian Folk Songs With A Hungarian Accent

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Balkan Buy One Get One Free Special: Dances With Compound Rhythms

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau

Today's post features three dances from Bulgaria in compound meters, where the music has two different rhythms in the same piece. It's the folk dancers' Buy One Get One Free Special :)

In previous posts, I have featured dances in odd rhythms such as padjusko, rachenitsa, chetvorno, lesnoto, daichovo, and kopanitsa.  Since most western music is written in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8, music in odd time signatures is challenging for dancers and musicians at first.  People in the Balkans have this stuff mastered before they can even walk.

There is an excellent website from the Ethnic Dance Network that explains Balkan rhythms and gives musical examples. You have to feel the rhythm in order to understand it. Hopefully the videos here will add to your understanding of Balkan (especially Bulgarian) folk music.

The first example is Jove Malaj Mome from the Shope Region. This dance is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and kopanitsa (11/16). The dancers are at the Balkanalia  festival in Dresden, Germany, which takes place annually in March. Their webpage describes this event as "a big meeting of international folk dance."

The hardest thing about  Sandansko Horo is the rhythm: 9/16 (daichovo) + 13/16 (krivo). It is best when dancing not to think too much; let the leader do it for you. .This dance is from the town of Sandanski, in the Pirin region of southwest Bulgaria, where they get a little crazy with odd rhythms.

If you want to see an example of Krivo Horo click here .By the way, krivo means "crooked" in Bulgarian, the opposite of "pravo" straight.  The meaning has to do with the rhythm; pravo is in the even meter of 2/4 or 6/8 and Krivo is in 13/16. Thirteen is not only odd, it is a prime number as well.  Many folk dancers are into math; this is a good way to get a conversation going.

Sedi Donka is a party dance in our group. It is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and  kopanitsa (11/16). By the way, this is the slow version; the Ethnic Dance Network has a much faster one.. Sedi Donka means "Donka is sitting", which makes me wonder how the dance got its name.

Hang on to your belts, folks.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

How Bulgarian Folk Music Induces Altered States (one of the videos features the group Leb i Vino performing in the town square of Sandanski).

Dancing to the Music of a Different Drummer

Dancing in Sevens Part One and Part Two

Balkan Music and Its Relationship to...Math?

This website is rather technical and geared towards musicians, but some readers may find it of interest:

Mastering Odd and Complex Time Signatures and Rhythms

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Monday, July 7, 2014

What's in a Name? Two Bulgarian Folk Dances: Dobrujdanksa Pandela and Pandelaš

Words have meaning and names have power.  ~Author Unknown

Today's dances have similar names but different meanings, tempos and choreographies.  One thing they have in common is that both are from the folklore region of Dobrudja.

These dances have stampy steps which are characteristic of this region of Bulgaria.  The first, Dobrujanska Pandela, is in the time signature of 2/4. "Pandela" translates to "ribbon" in English.

The second dance, Pandelaš, (pronounced pandelash) means "fleeting thought or idea." (Funny how that little diacritical mark under the "s" changes not just the meaning, but the pronunciation.

 Pandelaš  is a rachenitsa, a dance very popular in Bulgaria.  The tempo is either 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speedthis particular dance is in 7/8.  The beats are accented like this: apple-apple-pineapple.

The rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, and in different regions it takes on different characteristics. For example: the Shopska Rachenitsa is fast, with small steps, and the Thracian Rachenitsa is slower and smoother).  The Dobrudjanska Rachenitsa is relatively slow, punctuated with stamps and often accented with strong arm movements.

Click the links to see two more examples of rachenitsa from Dobrudja:  Sej Sej Bop and Povlekana.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Flavors of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part One and Part Two

Stamping It Out: Dances From the Bulgarian Folklore Region of Dobrudja

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Rachenitsa Na Horo (two dances with the same name, different music and choreography)

Looking for some thing fun to read this summer?  Check out my new blog Light and Shadow.  It has been online since January.  It will make you think, and may even make you laugh. 

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break for the next two weeks. See you later this summer!

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

More Folk Songs From the Romanian Folklore Region of Dobrogea

This week's post will feature some lively songs from the folklore region of Dobrogea.  I am not very familiar with the performers (except for Aneta Stan); nor the songs.  Although they may be popular in Romania, they are not so well-known outside the country.  The songs caught my attention, which is why they ended up on this blog.

The rhythms of Romanian Dobrogea have counterparts across the Danube in Bulgarian Dobrudja. Here are two examples:

Geampara - Rachenitsa
Cadaneasca - Daichovo

The Eliznik website goes into more detail about odd rhythms in folk dances from Romania.  Rustemul is also mentioned. I couldn't find any songs with that name, but here's the dance:

Now it's time to enjoy some very danceable songs by several Romanian folk artists. Although there is no dancing in these videos,  you probably will want to sing (and dance) along to them, and there are some very nice photos to go along with them.

The first song, by Natalia Serbanescu, is Mandra Floare de la Mare.I couldn't get a proper translation; Google ended up with  Proud Flower to the Sea. In the video you can see some pictures of the Romanian Black Sea coast. For all I know this is probably an ad for Romanian tourism:

The song starts as a cadaneasca, then changes into sirba rhythm. Sirba is another popular Romanian folk dance that was featured on a post about a year ago (see link at the bottom of this page).

The next song is a geampara, performed by Ani Orheanu Stanciu, Sunt Fata de la Braila (I am a Girl From Braila). Braila is a port city near the Danube Delta. Some of pictures in this video are scenes from the Delta region. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here's another example of geampara rhythm, performed  by Elena Ionescu Cojocaru: Mult ma doare inima (my heart aches...a lot). If  you didn't understand Romanian, you'd never guess this is a tragic love song. Your first impulse would be to dance to it.

Aneta Stan sings Eu Sunt Fata Dobrogeana (I am a Girl from Dobrogea), another example of the cadaneasca. If anyone knows the name of the flower in the picture, please let me know in the "comments section."  Aneta Stan is from the town of Cernavoda; there is a playlist of her songs on the Cernavoda Blog

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

Crossing the River, Folk Songs from the Romanian Folklore Region of Dobrogea

If you're interested in music from Bulgaria read: Stamping it Out: Dances From the Bulgarian Folklore Region of Dobrudja

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