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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Three Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Izruchana


In a word, the Vlachs are the perfect Balkan citizens, able to preserve their culture without resorting to war or politics, violence, or dishonesty. (source unknown)

Today's post features different versions of the Bulgarian folk dance Izruchana, also known as Izruchanka. It is of Vlach origin from northwestern Bulgaria.

Video #1 shows the version of Izruchana most popular with folk dancers in North America, performed by a group from China.

According to the notes, this is a men's dance. In the video, there are both men and women in the line.



Video #2 uses the same music as Video #1.  This is a different choreography in the Vlach style (the name Izruchana is not mentioned in the title).  The group is Severnyatsite from the city of Pleven. The costumes are predominantly red and white, typical for northern Bulgaria.



Video #3 is another version of Izruchana, performed to different music. If you're a frequent reader of The Alien Diaries, you'll recognize the dancers.  The Dunav group from Jerusalem, Israel has many teaching videos, both on their website and on YouTube.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Vlach Dances from Bulgaria and Serbia

Variations on a Vlaško Theme

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Sense of Déjà Vu, Part Three

How quickly the new and strange becomes old and familiar.
Garon Whited

Today's post features the ensemble Fluieras from Romania. What is really unusual about this video is that the group performs Bulgarian dances to what sounds, at first, like Romanian music. The tunes are Bulgarian, arranged for a Romanian folk orchestra. It reminds me of translation from one language to another.

The music starts with a caval (same as Bulgarian kaval) but you'll hear the difference when the orchestra plays violins, cimbalom, and accordion.

The costumes and the music are from the Shope region of Bulgaria.  The video begins with Shopsko Horo, Daichovo at 2:57,  Graovsko at 5:00. At 6:33 is the grand finale.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Mango Duende: Latin Rhythm with a Bulgarian Accent

Variations on a Theme by Petko Stainov: Rachenitsa goes to Guatemala

A Sense of Déjà Vu, Part One and Part Two

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Friday, August 25, 2017

A Sense of Déjà Vu: Part Two

Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time... I think I’ve forgotten this before.
Stephen Wright

Where have I seen this step before?

Today's post explores steps that are found in different dances (and the same steps can be the same in different countries) We'll explore this with the Macedonian Slide, Slaps and the Sway.

Video #1 is the dance Slavej Mi Peje.  There is an example of the Macedonian Slide and you can see it at 0:11.  It repeats a number of times until the end.



Here's another, more pronounced Macedonian Slide in Video #2.  The dance is Sadilo Mome. There's one at  0:22 and it's repeated a total of 11 times. The slide, along with the other steps, is a lot of movement to fit into a little over two minutes of music.



"Slaps" are often seen in dances from northwestern Bulgaria and neighboring Romania. Video #3 is Vidinsko Horo. You'll see the slaps at 0.08 and again at 1:24.

The link goes to the Yves Moreau choreography.  The Moreau choreography repeats the figures a different number of times, and the arm swinging occurs only in figure one and in the transition. These dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes perform in a competition, and there is more emphasis on swinging those arms.



Slaps also appear in the Romanian dance Trei Pazeste at 0:30 They are repeated a total of six times.  Trei Pazeste translates to "three steps" but I see more fours than threes in this dance.



Video #5 is Vlaški Sat from Serbia which features the sway in figures one and three. You can see it at 0:17 and it repeats four times. The sway and the slap are common to Vlach and Romanian dances. The slap is at  0:52, at the end of figure four, and also repeats.



Video #6 is Ciganko, a dance from northwestern Bulgaria.  The first sway is at 0:12 and repeats many times in this dance.

Do you recognize the voice of the singer?  It's Daniel Spasov, who is a folk musician and also co-hosts a folklore show on Bulgarian National Televison, Ide Nashenskata Musika.

You can see a performance of Ciganko by Daniel Spasov by clicking the first link below the video.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

A Romani Potpourri Two

Another dance that features the Macedonian Slide is Tropnalo Oro, one of the dances in A Family Resemblance: Theme and Variations

Vlach Dances from Bulgaria and Serbia

A Sense of  Déjà Vu, Part One

Note:  The Alien Diaries will be taking a break for several weeks.  Look for the next post in late September or early October.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

A Sense of Déjà Vu

It often happens that when you look at familiar things through someone else's eyes you see them as you have never seen them before.
John Mole

Today's post shows how the same music can be used for different dances. The musical arrangements are different but the tunes are similar. You get a sense of déjà vu.

Momino Horo  (Young Women's Dance) was featured on this blog about two years ago. Video #1 is the original, arranged by Yves Moreau using dance steps typical to the region of Lom in northwest Bulgaria. In Video #1, Yves also leads the dance.

Momino Horo is a "hybrid" dance.  From the beginning of the video until 2:07, the music sounds more Middle Eastern or Macedonian than Bulgarian. There are lesnoto steps that you usually see in dances from southwestern Bulgaria or Macedonia. After 2:07, the dance becomes pure Vlach, with stamps, shouts and the "penguin sway" step, also common to dances from Romania.

Pay attention to the music from 2:07 until the end, because you will hear it again in Video #2.



Video #2 is Vlashko Horo (not the one we know from Yves Moreau) that uses the same tune as Video #1 with different steps (recognizable as Vlach). Listen carefully at 0:13.

The group is a dance club from Pleven, Bulgaria.



Kasapsko Horo is another dance from northern Bulgaria.  It's not as fast as the dance in Video #2 but you can see the Vlach origins here, too.  The dancers do this slide from side to side that is common to dances in northwestern Bulgaria and southwestern Romania.  You'll see it at 0:53.

By the way this can be filed under Balkan Dances that are Often Confused because there is a Kasapsko Oro from Macedonia, and a different version of Kasapsko Horo from the Pirin region of Bulgaria.  Kasapsko is a butcher dance: the word has its origins in the Turkish word "kasap".



The music from the dance Sitno Vlashko sounds familiar. Why?  It's the tune from Kasapsko Horo. This is modern music in a modern setting, a shopping mall in Bulgaria.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused (the series)

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter M

Variations on a Vlaško Theme

The Butcher's Dance in Balkan Folklore

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dance Name Malapropisms

It's a proven fact that capital punishment is a known detergent against crime.
Archie Bunker

Archie Bunker was famous for his malapropisms. He was a fictional character in the show All in the Family. The show was so popular that it ran for eight seasons: 1971-1979.

The word "malapropism" originated from a character, Mrs. Malaprop, who often confused words that sounded similar (see quote above).

Sometimes, at dance, we intentionally (or unintentionally) mispronounce the names of dances.  The names have stuck and everyone knows which one we mean.

Video #1 is a folk dance from the Dobrogea region of Romania.  One of my friends calls it Dragon Dance.  Its real name is Dragaicuta.  The notes describe it as a "women's dance, done by friends of the bride, to mourn the loss of her in marriage."



I came up the name Rusty Nail for Rustemul because I practice dance in my basement.   I stepped on a rusty nail while doing Rustemul and the name stuck.  Fortunately the nail was lying on the floor so I wasn't hurt.  It was an annoyance more than anything else. Now I use the Shop Vac on the basement rug before dancing. It is my husband's work space and he fools around with tools and hardware when I'm not there.

Which region of Romania is this from?  The notes I found mentioned Muntenia, but the title on the video is "Rustemul din Oltenia." Both Muntenia and Oltenia are in southern Romania.



The name Nebesko Kolo sounds a lot like a popular brand of cookies here in the States (Nabisco). Nebesko means heavenly in Serbian and some people think Nabisco makes heavenly cookies.  Their most popular brand is the Oreo, which has many different varieties as you can see in this taste test video:



Back to Nebesko (Nabisco) Kolo.  We use different music for this dance, but the same choreography.

I'm not sure if this dance is from Serbia or Croatia, although I know there is a region in Serbia where tamburitza music is popular. The notes mention a country, Yugoslavia, that no longer exists. It broke up in 1991.



Horror From Veche is actually a souped-up version of Hora Veche an old dance for young people :) This group is fun to watch.  Listen carefully to what they say when they're dancing, it's quite funny. Too bad the video isn't closed captioned.

The goal here is not perfection, but fun.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Best of The Alien Diaries, 2010-2015

Folklore and Pop Culture (Again!)

Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Kutsata

We need creativity in order to break free from the temporary structures that have been set up by a particular sequence of experience.
Edward de Bono

What I have found fascinating in the world of folk dance is the concept of "the different village."  In the "different village", the dance is performed in a different manner than the way we were taught. Choreography is not a static entity, and variations make it interesting and more challenging.

Today's dance variations are of Kutsata, from the Bulgarian region of Dobrudja. It is a rachenitsa (the national dance of Bulgaria) and in the time signature of 7/8 or 7/16 (depending on the speed).

Kutsata translates into "the cuckoo" in English via Google Translate. A lady on Facebook pointed out that Google Translate was incorrect; that the name of the dance is derived from kutsam (to limp). Thanks for the feedback!

The dances of Dobrudja are known for their "heaviness", stamps and strong arm movements.

Video #1 features dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes, accompanied by live music (accordion, tupan and gaida).



Video #2 is performed by the dance club 7/8. They named themselves after the time signature that is common to the folk dances rachenitsa, lesnoto, and chetvorno. The difference is the grouping of the beats; rachenitsa is apple-apple-pineapple; lesnoto and chetvorno are pineapple-apple-apple.

This is a different choreography from Video #1, to different music.



Video #3 is of a dance class practicing another version of Kutsata, with stamps, arm waving, and knee bends in true Dobrudjan style.



Video #4 is a dance related to Kutsata. The music is the same as in Video #1, but the dance is listed as Панделаж (Pandelas).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

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

Povlekana is another rachenitsa from Dobrujda.

You can see another version of Pandelas here.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Добруджанска Рька

When I was doing preliminary research on this case, I remembered the story about Tlazolteotl.' [Mulder] glanced at the old archaeologist. 'Am I pronouncing it correctly? It sounds like I'm swallowing a turtle.'
Kevin J. Anderson

Today's post is about a very popular dance from Bulgaria.  If you requested this dance in Bulgaria the way it's pronounced in North America they would think it's a river in Dobrudja!  This is another example of confusion in the world of folk dance.

The reason the title above is in Cyrillic has to do with the difference between the Bulgarian words: râka, meaning "hand" and the word "reka" meaning river.  The "a" in râka sounds almost like a "u".

Today's post features four variations of the dance Dobrudjanksa Râka. Each one is done to different music.  Notice that all of them have strong arm and hand movements.

Video #1 is from the series "Teach Yourself Bulgarian Folk Dance." This is Râka in its most basic form, performed by dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes. The yellow head scarves on the women are typical for Dobrudja.



Video #2 is a variation popular in Bulgaria performed by the folk dance club 7/8.



Video #3 is the variation of  Dobrudjanksa Râka most popular with groups in North America. The ladies are members of the New Orleans International Folk Dancers.

Years ago Dobrudjanksa Râka used to be performed only by women. It has become an "equal opportunity dance" for a long time.  Men are allowed in the line, too :)



Version #4 is presented by the Bulgarian folk dance club Акцент (Accent).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Chichovo Horo

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Trite Puti

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Povlekana

Some Equal Opportunity Folk Dances

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Paradise of Lemon Trees

There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we'd all love one another.
Frank Zappa

Today's post features a dance created from the beautiful Greek song Tou Paradiso Lemonia. One of the dancers from the Sunday night group in Wethersfield introduced it last year.  It's a very catchy melody in 7/8 rhythm (pineapple-apple-apple).

The leader in the video is Murray Spiegel; the group is the Morristown Folk Dancers from New Jersey.



Below are the lyrics in English translation provided by Danai Kyriakou, via YouTube. It's a tragic song about lost love; it probably would make more sense in the original language; something always gets lost in translation.

The singer's name is Pantelis Thalassinos. You can find his songs on YouTube.

This was the best translation I could find (Google Translate didn't work well).

Lemon tree of paradise
a twig of oblivion
Keep for me too
keep for me too
For I have two years in my throat a tired sigh
And lips locked up, and lips locked up
My body filled with myrrh and fragrances
that wake the hearts my good lemon
That wake the hearts my good lemon that stop the pain
Send me your white blossom with its aromas before I fall and wither in other bodies
Before I fall and wither in other bodies before I enter into the third year
Lemon tree of paradise hide the clothes of the murderer
Into the closet of bitterness Into the closet of bitterness
the bloody waters so to get again my wings
That love has broken that love has broken
My body filled with myrrh and fragrances that wake the hearts my good lemon
That wake the hearts my good lemon that stop the pain
Send me your white blossom with its aromas before I fall and wither in other bodies
Before I fall and wither in other bodies
before I enter into the third year before I enter into the third year

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Sometimes Lost in Translation: Bulgarian Proverbs

Fun and Easy Folk Dances From Greece

Tragic love songs are definitely multicultural. This post features several from Bulgaria: Beli Dunav, Part Two: Danube Blues

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break for about two weeks.  There are over 350 posts, you can enjoy them during your summer vacation!

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Three variations on the Romanian/Moldovan Folk Dance Ciobanasul

I'm a shepherd, not a sheep, and I've always prided myself on being a leader and not a follower.
Dustin Diamond

Today's  post features Ciobanasul (Shepherd's Dance).  I found three versions of it on YouTube that caught my attention.

Video #1 had me a bit confused. That seems to be a common occurrence on The Alien Diaries, where confusion rules the world of folk dance. This dance is listed as from Romania, but the description on YouTube mentions that this is a dance from Moldova.  Moldova and Romania are different countries, although the official language is the same for both: Romanian.  There are also similarities in music and dance styles.

To add even more to the confusion, there is a province in Romania named Moldova/Moldavia. It borders the country of Moldova.

The first figure looks like a part of the Chicken Dance. It is repeated several times in the dance.



Video #2 is a different version of Ciobanasul to different music,  performed by a school group dressed in elaborate embroidered costumes.  They perform it as a line dance (dances from Romania and Moldova are usually done in a circle).



Video #3 is  Ciobanasul performed as a couple dance (it becomes a circle at 2:38). This group is from Bacau in Romania.  What is really cool is to see all these young people performing folk dances and continuing the traditions.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bring on the Kids

Hopa Trop: Children's Ensemble from Seattle, Washington

The Different "Flavors" of the Romanian Folk Dance: Alunelul

If you want confusion, check out the series: Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused. It starts with the most recent post. The others can be accessed from there.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Another Odds and Ends Post from the Universe of YouTube

The things that stand out are often the oddities.
Pierre Salinger

Every so often I like to do an "odds and ends" post.  They are best categorized under "miscellaneous" and feature something unique about Balkan folklore. There have been a number of them in the past (see links at bottom of page), but I have never made a numbered series of them.

Video #1 is best described as a jam session with Macedonian folk musicians.  They play traditional and modern instruments: tupan (drum), kaval (flute), accordion and guitars, and make beautiful music.

This is a medley of dance tunes in 7/16 (galloping-apple-apple): Ratevka and Sitna Lisa. Pay attention to the little girl at the lower left hand corner of the video at about 1:00.  She's got rhythm!

If you want to see the dances done to these melodies, please check out the posts listed at the bottom of the page.



Video #2  shows the group Formatsia Iliev from Bulgaria. The aerial views are fantastic. The scenery is surreal.

I don't know how all these musicians can fit in a small boat and not capsize. They are also boating in an area that looks like an obstacle course with dead trees sticking out of the water. The river is the Danube, River of Many Names (and many obstacles.) The rocks appear later in the video.

The video begins with a man fishing, and the musicians pop up and surprise him. The next scene takes place on the riverbank, with the guys playing an upbeat Bulgarian Vlach tune on accordions, clarinet, keyboard and drum.  Behind them is the obstacle course with sunken trees. At 2:15 and 3:35 a group of young female dancers in northern Bulgarian folk costumes appears.  At 2:58 the musicians are on a rocky shore at sunset.  It's best to watch the video in its entirety to get the full effect of weird. I would like to know where the really BIG rock came from.

At 4:05 the name of the town, Marten, appears and shortly after that the musicians leave in a donkey cart.

Although Marten is a small town numbering about 3,000 people, somehow I found it in English Wikipedia; it is not far from the large city of Ruse and was once a Roman fortification.  The town is also known for a large meteorite crater.

The name of the tune translates to "Martenska Teaser."

This is one of the most unique music videos I've ever seen and the music is great.



If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Macedonian Oro (includes Ratevka)

Dancing in Sevens, Part Two (includes Sitna Lisa)

The Alien Diaries Presents: Odds, Ends, Bits, Pieces and Even More Cool Stuff from the Universe of YouTube

More Odds and Ends from the Universe of YouTube

More Odds and Ends: Misconceptions About the Cyrillic Alphabet, Bagpipes, and Bulgarian Geography

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 13: Sandansko Horo and Strandzhanko Horo

If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius.
Larry Leissner

At dance, there are many well-educated people. For some reason many folk dancers are into math and science. I don't know how many of them are geniuses, but if genius thrives in an atmosphere of confusion, I am in good company.

The never ending series on sound-alike dance confusion continues.

Video #1 is Sandansko Horo, named after the town of Sandanski, located in the Pirin region of Bulgaria.  This dance has a compound rhythm structure of 9/16 and 13/16.

If you listen to the music carefully, you will hear the kaval (open ended-flute) and the tambura (lute-like instrument popular in southwestern Bulgaria).

Remember last week's post with female dance leaders and skirts? The leader wears a skirt, but it's short enough for the other dancers to see her feet. I'm glad short skirt lady is leading and and not the woman third in line 😊.



Video #2 is Strandzhankso Horo from southern Bulgaria. The rhythm of this dance sounds like it's in 9/8, almost like a slow daichovo.  From what I've seen on YouTube, this dance is not performed outside Bulgaria. There are many amateur dance groups that perform in competitions all over Bulgaria and the video below is an example.

Strandzha is the region best known for Nestinari (fire dancers). They dance on coals on the feast day of Saints Constantine and Helen which falls on May 21st.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused (there are many!) Just follow the link in Part 12 which goes to the rest of the series.

On Female Dance Leaders and Long Skirts

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

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

On Female Dance Leaders and Long Skirts

Long skirts are annoying; they get in the way.
Natalie Dormer

Folk dancing is a follow the leader thing. But if you can't see the feet, how do follow?   There is something about a long, flowing skirt that some people like; however, if a female with a long skirt leads a dance, it's hard to see her feet.

Today's post features leading ladies wearing skirts. The dances are easy ones from Serbia, and most people can pick them up by watching. What do you do if you're totally new to folk dancing? Or if you've been dancing a while and are not familiar with the dance?   Sometimes the best thing to do is follow behind and find someone wearing pants who knows what he or she is doing.

Video #1 is Raca, a Vlach dance from Serbia.  It's an easy dance that's easy to screw up if you don't pay attention, especially when it speeds up. It tends to go awry when people try to have a conversation while doing it. (Hint, the faster the music, the smaller the steps).

Notice how the lady third in line had to bend over to see what the leader was doing.



Video #2 is the dance Srbijanka. Leader and the woman behind her both wear long skirts. You have two choices: follow the third person in line or follow the man at the end. (He knows what he's doing, but that isn't always the case).

By the way, I never wear skirts at dances.  It's too cold in my area for most of the year, and in summer I prefer capri pants. I also wear colorful shoes, so when I lead, it's easier for people to see my feet.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Fun and Easy Folk Dances From Serbia

Stamp it Out: Vlach Dances From Serbia

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 12: Sirba Pe Loc and Hora Pe Loc

At one of the annual conventions of the American Society for Aesthetics much confusion arose when the Society for Anesthetics met at the same time in the same hotel.
Rudolf Arnheim

When it comes to the subject of similar names, do you sometimes get confused? It happens quite often at dances!

Do you know the difference between hora and sirba? Today's post features two Romanian dances with similar names. One is a hora, the other a sirba.

Hora is the generic name of a dance popular in Romania and Moldova. It can be easily confused with the Israeli dance of the same name, or the Bulgarian dance with a similar name (horo) or the Greek dance with a name almost like the Bulgarian (horon).

Are you confused yet?

Sirba (also spelled Sârbă) is a Romanian folk dance related in rhythm to Serbian Cacak and the fast Bulgarian Pravo Horo.  You can dance a fast pravo to a sirba or a cacak to a sirba.  They are pretty much interchangeable. During a live music night I (mistakenly) led a cacak to what the band listed as a sirba.  No one took offense to my confusion because the music went perfectly with the steps. Besides, Sirba means "Serb like." The Romanians borrowed the sirba from the Serbs!

Video #1 is Hora Pe Loc from Romania. Pe loc means "in place" Hora is usually done in a circle but it's impossible to make a circle with only four dancers.



Video #2 is Sirba Pe Loc is a dance from the region of Muntenia (southeastern Romania).  There are many variations of the sirba. Villages, towns and regions often have a sirba named after them.  It is a dance commonly done at weddings, when the guys get drunk and want to show off.  The women are too busy struggling to balance on their high heels. They usually have their own "heel friendly" line.

The dominant instruments in the music are the bagpipe and the cimbalom. Sirba Pe Loc is a favorite among international folk dance groups worldwide.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors of Romanian Sirba"

The "Flavors" of Romanian Hora

Balkan Dances That are Often Confused (the link will take you backwards to the entire series, starting with Part 11.)

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 11: Kulsko Horo and Kulskoto

May the forces of evil be confused on the way to your house.
George Carlin

We know that dancing keeps evil forces away, and that confusion helps.  George Carlin was definitely on to something.  After you finish reading and dancing to this week's post check out some some of his comedy routines. (WARNING: do not listen to Carlin when there are small children around!)

Kulskoto is the dance also known as Arap.  There are a number of tunes for Arap, the best known is Zaiko Kokoraiko from Macedonia. Neveno Mome, a Bulgarian song, is also used, as well as Katerino Mome by Tatiana Sarbinska.  And then there's Kulskoto, a song and a dance without words.

Arap and its variations are popular in southwestern BulgariaMacedonia, and northern Greece.



Video #2 is Kulsko Horo, a dance from the Severnjashko (northwestern) region of Bulgaria. It is not to be confused with Kulskoto!

The Vlach people are a sizable minority in this part of Bulgaria, and their dances are known by their stampiness.  Kulsko Horo is from the town of Kula in the Vidin area.  Kula means "tower" and the tower is a leftover from a Roman fortress.  The Romans left structures all over Bulgaria which used to be a part of the Roman Empire.

The Vlachs were decendents of Romans who lived in the Balkans, and they settled all over the place, including Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece.

The version shown here is the one taught by Yves Moreau.



Video #3, which is Kulsko Horo Version #2, is a dance from the same region, but with different choreography and different music.  Are you confused yet?



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Three Variations of the Bulgarian/Macedonian Folk Dance: Arap

Vlach Dances from Bulgaria and Serbia

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused (link leads to entire series, going backwards, starting with Part 10.)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Balkan Dances that Are Often Confused Part 10: Cigansko Horo and Ciganko

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

Today's post involves two dances with sound-alike names, different music, and different choreographies.  It's enough to make anyone confused.

Video #1 is Cigansko Horo (translation: Gypsy Dance).  Gypsy is the politically incorrect term for Roma people,  The Roma do not use this word when referring to themselves. People used to think that the Roma were from Egypt. The word "gypsy" is a corruption of "Egyptian."

The Roma originally came from India and migrated west to Europe.There have been genetic and linguistic studies that traced their ancestry to the Indian Subcontinent. Roma people have made numerous contributions to Balkan music; two well-known examples are: Esma Redzepova, singer (who passed away last December) and Boris Karlov, accordionist.

Cigansko is a variation of the dance Chichovo Horo.  Chichovo is part of the Cocek family of dances popularized by Roma people in the Balkans. Are you confused yet?



Video #2 is the dance Ciganko.  If you are a frequent visitor to The Alien Diaries, you will recognize the voice of Daniel Spasov in the song. It is about a man hopelessly in love with a Roma woman. Spasov is a Bulgarian folk singer and a co-host (with Milen Ivanov) of the weekly program on Bulgarian TV: Ide Nashenskata Muzika, which features musicians and dancers from different folklore regions of Bulgaria.

The Sunday night group that I dance with has been working on this dance for a couple of months.  I think I finally have it memorized.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

A Romani Potpourri, Part Two   (one of the videos is the song Ciganko performed by Daniel Spasov. It's accompanied by a brass band and women in colorful costumes).

Here Comes the Brass Band! Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs with Daniel Spasov

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Chichovo Horo

Follow this link to find the rest of the posts in the Confused Balkan Dances series.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part Nine : Sirba Din Cimpoi and Cimpoi

Men are like bagpipes. No sound comes from them until they're full.
Irish proverb

Bagpipes are popular all over Europe: Ireland, Scotland, and the Balkans. This week's post is part of the continuing (and possibly never ending) series: Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused.

Video #1 is Sirba din Cimpoi. Sirba is a very popular Romanian dance usually punctuated with shouts and stamps. Cimpoi is a bagpipe. Bagpipes and Sirba go very well together, especially when the bagpipes are well inflated with hot air :)

Although bagpipes are often associated with Bulgaria and Macedonia, where the instrument is called gaida; they are part of the folk music of Romania as well.

The choreography is by Mihai David (seen here in the video) and the one most popular with recreational folk dancers.



Video #2 is another variation of Sirba din Cimpoi.  The group is Tingluti from Copenhagen, Denmark. The in and out step with the arm swinging reminds me of a dance very popular in Bulgaria: Dunavsko Horo.



Video #3 is Cimpoi, a fast and furious dance played on (guess what?) a bagpipe.  The rhythm is 6/8.

I have noticed when the Dunav group posts a video, the number of people dancing indicates the difficulty. They are from Jerusalem in Israel and have an excellent web site, with downloadable music and video, as well as song lyrics, dance notes, and sheet music.

Yehuda and Mika, the dance experts, demonstrate Cimpoi.  



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Another Country Heard From: The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

The series: Balkan Dances that are Often Confused:  this link leads to part eight, which in turn goes back to seven, six, five, four....it just doesn't go to liftoff!

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Will the Real Hora Pe Gheata Please Stand Up?

Figure skating is a mixture of art and sport.
Katarina Witt

Let's start with the Romanian folk dance Hora Pe Gheata, which translates to "dance on the ice." You don't need skates to do this, a smooth wooden floor will work.  To enhance the slidey effect, you can dance in socks.



Now let's get to the really good stuff. Today's post features ice dancing performed by young people from a skating club in Romania.  They wear folk costumes adapted for skating.

Video #2 is Hora Primaverii (springtime dance), even though it is always winter at the skating rink.  That ice has to be kept cold, you know.  If the summer heat gets to you, you can always take refuge at your local ice arena. I used to ice skate but I don't anymore because it's so cold at the rink and it's difficult to move around in a heavy jacket.



Video #3 is a group of kids dancing a sirba...on ice! This was a special show that the club gave for the Romanian National Day on December 1st.



Video #4 shows the young people dancing to an excerpt from Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody #1 and a medley of other folk tunes. They demonstrate exceptional talent. Who knows, they make may it into a future Winter Olympics!



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance: Hora Pe Gheata

Classical Composers Inspired by Balkan Folk Dances

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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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Monday, January 30, 2017

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Song Chichovite Konje

All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song.
Louis Armstrong

Today's post features different versions of the Bulgarian folk song Chichovite Konje. It translates to "My Uncle's Horses" and is from the Shope folklore region. You can find the original lyrics with a translation here.

One of my uncles passed away recently. When he was a young man, he had a job tending horses, so this post is dedicated to him.  He lived to the age of 96.

Video #1 is the most popular version of Chichovite Konje,  sung by the Philip Koutev choir. This is a high energy piece of music, and typical of the Shope region.



Video #2 features a solo female singer. I don't know her name, but I got a little dizzy watching her. The background noise takes something away from the performance, which is otherwise good.



Video #3 is a totally different (and modern) rendition of this song.  This time it has a masculine touch with two men and one woman (one of the men plays a drum).  There is no other musical accompaniment.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs. Part Three (links to Part One and Part Two are included here).

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music, Part One

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dances from Spa Towns

Hot water is my native element. I was in it as a baby, and I have never seemed to get out of it ever since.
Edith Sitwell

Spa towns are known for healing thermal and mineral springs, used to treat many different ailments. Doctors in Europe often prescribe spa treatments; unfortunately this practice is not commonplace in the United States. The name "spa" originated from a town of the same name in Belgium.

Today's post features music and dance from spa towns in Bulgaria and Serbia.

Video #1 is of the Bulgarian folk dance Staro Bansko Horo (old dance from Bansko).  Bansko is a town in southwestern Bulgaria (Pirin region).  It is best known for its ski resorts, however the nearby village of Banya is the place where you find the spa and the hot mineral springs.

The music is typical of the Pirin region, in 7/8 meter (pineapple-apple-apple) with vocals and tarambuka accompaniment.



Video #2 is another dance from Bulgaria: Sandansko Horo, from the town of Sandanski, also in the Pirin region.  The rhythm alternates between 9/16 and 13/16.

Sandanski is a popular resort town with many mineral springs and is one of the warmest places in Bulgaria.



Video #3 is the popular dance Niska Banja from Serbia (from the town of the same name) Banja means "bath" in Serbian, and you can wash away your aches, pains and worries at the local spa.

Niska Banja is another odd-rhythm dance.  It is in 9/8. Although there is a choreography specific to this dance, we dance Devetorka to it.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Dances Named After Cities and Towns

Dances With Compound Rhythms

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Monday, January 9, 2017

The Foxy Singers of Bulgaria and Macedonia

Even the handsomest men do not have the same momentary effect on the world as a truly beautiful woman does.
Jonathan Carroll

One thing that I've noticed in my forays through the Universe of YouTube is the number of attractive female folk singers.  This could be a ploy to get more men to watch folklore videos.

I have to admit these videos are fun to watch and the performers are talented.

Video #1 is of Valya from Bulgaria. She wears a dress with folkloric accents that isn't overly revealing.  It looks good on her and she has an amazing voice.

Her backup is a group wearing costumes from the Northern folklore region.  The dance is a variant of Chichovo Horo.

The title of the song translates to "nine mountains." I couldn't find the lyrics or a translation.



Video #2 is of Aneta Arsovska, a singer from the Republic of Macedonia.  I think somehone had to pour her into that dress (it's tight!)  One of my readers (I won't reveal his name) will probably appreciate this video. She performs the song Majstore, Majstore.  

I found an English translation from Macedonian.  The word "majstore" is interpreted as "repairman." I think a more accurate word would be someone who is an artisan or master of a trade, The song is not about a master-slave relationship as depicted in  Fifty Shades of Gray. It is about the passion of a woman in love.

The dance to this is cocek.



In Video #3, this lady is practically popping out of that dress.  My guess is that it's attached onto that part of her anatomy with Super Glue since there were no wardrobe malfunctions.

Her name is Emilia and the song is Stano, Stano.  I had some trouble understanding the translation.  I think some idioms from Bulgarian don't translate well into English. My guess is that the song is about a man in love with a woman named Stana, who has burned the fire out of him.

A dance group accompanies Emilia and they wear elaborate embroidered costumes from the Bulgarian region of Thrace. The fire in the floor has some kind of connection with the song.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Songs From the Balkans About Women and Girls

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Chichovo Horo

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