A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.—Leo Tolstoy
Remember when you took fractions in school?
Some of us found them easy while others found them difficult to comprehenend. It all depended if you were mathematically minded or not.
Fractions are parts of a whole. As the fraction is part of a whole, the rhythm is part of a dance. In fractions, the pieces can be arranged in different ways, and in dances the same time signature (7/8) can have a different rhythm, depending on where the accents are.
This link, Math For Poets and Drummers describes the mathematics of music and poetry. This is especially good for right-brained people like myself who tend to see the whole first, then break down the parts. We don't analyze, we synthesize.
By the way I am a poet as well as a dancer so my sense of rhythm is very well developed. Math? Well, that's a different story.
I happen to be fond of dances with odd numbers in the time signature, and today we're going to examine the rhythms of the lesnoto, rachenitsa, and chetvorno, dances popular in the Balkans, and all of them with with seven beats to the measure.
The first example will be a lesnoto, a walking dance popular in Bulgaria and Macedonia. The rhythm for this is "galloping-apple-apple." The video is not in English but don't let that deter you; he does an excellent job teaching the dance even if you don't understand the language.
The next dance will be the ubiquitous national dance of Bulgaria, the rachenitsa, which can be done as a solo, couple, or group dance. The accents are on different beats than the lesnoto; apple-apple-galloping. This one is moderately fast and very macho :)
Chetvorno Horo, a dance from the Shope region of Bulgaria, is also in 7/8. The rhythm for Chetvorno is galloping-apple-apple, and has a slightly different feel from both the rachenitsa and the lesnoto. This group performs it in a shopping mall. How often do you see that?
By the way, chetiri is the number four in Bulgarian. If you look at the word in Cyrillic it looks like this: четири. The "ch" resembles a four. Which poses more questions: How does one do a seven beat dance in four? The steps themselves are in groups of two and three. (3+2+2=7) I have yet to figure that out.
If you enjoyed this you may also like:
Dancing to the Rhythm of a Different Drummer
Dancing by the Numbers
Balkan Folk Dancing and its Relationship to Math
(a little geometry in this one)
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