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Monday, October 28, 2013

Romanian Wedding Videos from the Universe of YouTube

A wedding is a funeral where you smell your own flowers.
Eddie Cantor

Weddings are a fascinating insight into a culture.  The joining of a couple involves elaborate rituals, which seem to be more for the benefit of the guests than for the couple. There are a number of key ingredients to a good wedding reception: music, dance, food, plenty of booze, and of course, the bride and groom.

A friend from Romania, who now lives in the States, sent me these videos via e-mail. There were so many that I had a difficult time deciding which ones to include in this post.

The first video is of a Sârba, (or Sirba) a very popular dance, done especially at weddings. Notice that there are two lines; one for men and one for women ("heel friendly", as my friend described it). The men use a back basket hold and the women just hold hands.



The bride leads a dance, and a fast one, too.  She has no problem, despite having to hold up that long dress. Several of the women are dancing barefoot.  Shoes, especially those high-heeled torture devices, get in the way. Whoever invented them had to be a man, and as punishment, should be made to walk wearing them several miles over cobblestones. Ouch!



In the next video people stuff money down the bride's bodice while she gets her crown and veil adjusted.  It is a major project.

The bride must have spent hours at the hairdresser's, so the crown has to be placed just so.  Can't mess up the hair. Don't forget the hairspray, the perfume,and the pastry! The bride looks like she'd rather be somewhere else...I hope they gave her something alcoholic to calm her down.

If you want to skip to the dancing, it starts at 8:07. 



If you are a regular visitor to this blog (and I hope you are) you will recognize the rhythm to this dance.  In Romania it's geampara, on the other side of the Danube, it's rachenitsa. Somewhere in the middle it changes to sirba. Rhythm changes during dance sequences are very common in the Balkans. Check out the costumed dancers at the beginning of the video, they are a goat and a horse.



This group of men dances Căluşari which in its original form is performed by costumed dancers around the springtime holiday of Pentecost. It is a dance for men only and has pagan origins.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba, an entertaining and informative look at a Romanian folk dance.

Crossing the River Part Two:  The Stick Dancers-Romanian Căluşari and their Bulgarian Counterparts

Have you had a bad day? Enjoy some wedding bloopers from Romania and Bulgaria.

I also want to thank Ileana for sending me the videos....these were fun to watch!

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dancing in Sevens Part 2: The 7/16 Rhythm in Macedonian Folk Music

Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that's what we are.
Mickey Hart

Asymmetric rhythms are extremely common in Balkan music. The Bulgarians, especially are best known for music in odd time signatures such as 7/16. There is variation within that rhythm...it all depends on which beats have the accent.

Today we will explore the 7/16 rhythm in Macedonian folk music.

The first is Sitna Lisa (3-2-2 or galloping-apple-apple). I especially enjoy the brass band orchestration in this video; it's loud enough to wake the dead. The Bulgarian equivalent of this rhythm can be found in the dance Chetvorno Horo.



Most folk dancers in North America are familiar with this version of Sitna Lisa: played on tupan (drum), tambura (a string instrument similar to a lute), gaida (bagpipe) and kaval (flute).  There is something about this music that sounds uniquely Macedonian, especially the long introduction on the gaida and the kaval solo. It's very beautifully done.



The next example of the 7/16 rhythm in Macedonian folk music is the song Zurli Trestat na Sred Selo.  (I couldn't find an English translation; if anyone out there can translate the lyrics, please post  in the "comments" section). This time the accent is a little different: it's 2-3-3 (apple-apple-galloping).  The Bulgarian equivalent is rachenitsa.



These young people perform the dance that goes with the song.  Looks like rachenitsa, doesn't it?



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens (part one) This post explores the folk dances lesnoto, chetvorno and rachenitsa.

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, parts one and two.

 The "Flavors" of Daichovo Horo. Daichovo is a folk dance from Bulgaria with nine beats to the measure.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Why Dancing Makes You Smart


"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. " (Buddhist proverb)

According to a study done on senior citizens 75 and older by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City, people who dance are much less likely to develop dementia. The article describes how dancing increases cognitive acuity.

I was probably one of the youngest attendees at a dance workshop in upstate New York, held in late September. The majority were people in their "golden years"; retirees who keep their brains and bodies healthy with frequent folk dancing.  They had amazing energy.

There were workshop sessions in the morning and afternoon; and dance parties that continued late into the night.  The teachers were Yves Moreau (Bulgarian dance) and Danny Pollock (Israeli dance).

Here are two of the Bulgarian dances that were taught at the workshop.  I still have yet to master them although I'd been watching and practicing with YouTube videos for several months before the workshop.

The first is Novozagorsko Horo, from the Thracian region of Bulgaria. It's named after the town of Nova Zagora. This dance has a belt hold which makes it even more challenging, and you have to be in good physical (and mental) shape to do it.  I still can't remember all the steps in the proper sequence. That will take practice.



Yves taught a dance that I've been watching on YouTube for about six months, Vidinkso Horo, and I was glad he chose it for the workshop this year. 

Vidinsko Horo is a "hybrid" dance, best described as Romanian steps to Bulgarian music. It is also named after a town, in this case, Vidin, in northwestern Bulgaria. You also can see similar footwork in the Romanian dance Trei Pazeste. The Vlach people who live in this region have influenced the music and dance. Their dances are characterized by stamps and shouts, and you will see that in the video.



Does dancing make you smart? It does, because it involves a lot of memorization, especially when learning and doing a fast dance with complicated steps like Vidinsko.

Some food for thought here: a brain is a terrible thing to waste.  Use it or lose it.

By the way, the picture above was a view of Sylvan Lake near the building where the workshops were held. The lakefront was a great place to relax and chat with people in between dances.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dances Named After Cities and Towns

Folklore as Destiny: Yves Moreau and Bulgarian Folk Music

Three Variations of the Romanian Folk Dance: Trei Pazeste

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mango Duende: Latin Rhythm with a Bulgarian Accent

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Charles Caleb Colton

Today's cross-cultural post features Mango Duende, a group from Bulgaria that specializes in songs with a Latin flavor.

The first song, Friday, (петък) which I heard on Bulgarian National Radio about two years ago, really caught my attention. It had me fooled for a minute...le lo lai is something associated with folk music from Puerto Rico and so is the salsa beat, but the lyrics are in Bulgarian.  This is cultural cross-pollination at its best.



Loco is another good song. The word "loco" reminds me of the word "ludo" in Bulgarian. Both mean exactly the same thing: crazy.



This time Mango Duende returns to Bulgaria, with their version of Diko Iliev's Dunavsko Horo. This is the dance that Bulgarians do to usher in the New Year.  I don't know how the tradition of dancing Dunavsko for New Year's got started...can anyone tell me why?  If you have an answer, please post it in the comments section.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on a Theme By Diko Iliev (different versions of Dunavsko Horo)

Bulgarian Folk Music with a Hungarian Accent (Bulgarian folk songs in Hungarian)

Puerto Rico and Bulgaria: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.