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Friday, March 15, 2019

Balkan Music and the Celtic Connection

I have a multicultural background, so I tend to have an open mind about things, and I find other cultures interesting.
Viggo Mortenson

When you blend two cultures what results is an interesting blend. This is the Celtic version of the dance Adje Jano from Serbia.  The singer is Talitha Mackenzie.



I am not a fan of commercials but this one caught my attention: it's an ad for rakia. The music is a Bulgarian dance tune played on Scottish bagpipes.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

East Meets Barry West: An Irishman's Adventures in Bulgaria

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Variations on the Croatian Folk Dance: Raca Plava

Raca Plava translated literally means "blue duck." The lyrics are peculiar when translated from Croatian. The song is about a man who is in love with a woman who steps off a boat. He recognizes her by her distinctive walk and wants to marry her.  The refrain is "this year the roses will bloom."

The link to the song provides Croatian lyrics with a German translation.

Raca Plava is very popular in folk dance circles. I know of two variations: Video #1 is the version taught by Yves Moreau and the one that our dance group uses.



Video#2 is a simplified variation performed by the Tanzgruppe Baeckerstrasse, from Vienna, Austria.  Like the Israeli Dunav group, they have many folk dance videos posted on YouTube.  Most of them were posted in the early 2000's.  The group used to have a web site; but they may have disbanded since I can no longer find it.



Video #3 is a funky version of Raca Plava.  The kids in the foreground dance it freestyle, along with the singers.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Crazy Croatian Dance Songs

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Friday, February 1, 2019

Dancing in Elevens

Why do we believe that in all matters the odd numbers are more powerful?
Pliny the Elder

Odd number rhythms are prevalent in Balkan dance. Today's post features dances in 11/8 and 11/16 (the 11/16 is faster).

Video #1 is the dance Isu Bialo Nedo.  This is a slow 11/8.  The rhythm isn't obvious, but if you listen carefully it's there.



Video #2 is the familiar Boris Karlov version of Gankino Horo. This dance uses the basic kopanitsa step.  The rhythm is a fast 11/16 and a lot less subtle than in Video #1.



Video #3 is a dressed-up Thracian Kopanitsa. It starts with a slow, synchronized walk, then a running step that reminds me of the dance Jove Male Mome followed with some fancy footwork.  The dancers make it look easy. The rhythm is 11/16.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dances to Music Arranged by Boris Karlov

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune: Gankino Horo

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused Part 16: Staro Pomaško and Pomaško Širto

I'm not confused. I'm just well mixed.
Robert Frost

The series continues....

The other night I mixed up Staro Pomaško with a totally different dance, Pomaško Širto.  The lady who was programming even got confused and played both dances one after the other, so we could compare them.

Staro Pomaško, in video #1, was first.  It is a dance from the Rhodope region in southern Bulgaria, in 7/8 rhythm (slow-quick-quick), almost like a Macedonian lesnoto (along with step-lifts during the vocal part).

Pomaks are Bulgarian Muslims.   Most of them live in the southern part of the country.



Pomaško Širto is also a Pomak dance in 7/8.  The original music had a very long gaida (bagpipe) introduction; part of it was cut.

Širto is the Bulgarian version of the Greek Syrtos.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens, Part One

Dospatsko Horo is a very well-known Pomak dance from the Rhodope region..

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune: Dospatsko Horo


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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Folk Dance Holiday Parties

The real friends are the ones who celebrate with you.
Ella Purnell

Today's post features dance parties with a holiday theme. It doesn't matter which holiday you celebrate as long as it falls in December.

Video #1 is a lively Romanian dance, Briuletul, performed by the International Folk Dancers of Ottawa, Canada.



Koleda wouldn't be fun without a lot of loud noise (to chase away the evil spirits) and dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes. After the noise, there's Shopsko Horo (0:39) and at 2:06 the kids dance a rachenitsa for three. The video ends with a fancy men's pravo .This group is from St. Louis, in the USA.



Video #3 is about 20 minutes long and features the folk ensembles listed below. See below for the order in which they appear: 

Dancers: RIPNI KALINKE, San Jose, MARTENICHKI Family Group, ANTIKA Folk Ensemble, San Francisco, TANYA KOSTOVA, Founder, Artistic Director

VASSIL & MARIA BEBELEKOVI (gaida & vocal), NESTINARY BG Orchestra

Notice the ugly Christmas sweaters in the first group, doing a daichovo. (0:20 to 3:47) There is also a dancer wearing a Santa hat, not a part of the traditional Bulgarian folk costume.  Other familiar dances include: Padjusko at 2:55,  Trite Puti at 11:35, Rhodope Pravo at 14:35, and Graovsko Horo at 19:40.

This party took place in the San Francisco area of California.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens (the series)

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Dancing in Nines: Daichovo, Dzanguritsa and Svornato

Today's post features three dances from three different regions of Bulgaria.

Video #1 is Daichovo Horo.  It is a dance originally from northwestern Bulgaria, and the musical accompaniment to this is usually a brass band or an accordion.

The style is pure northern Bulgarian, with arm swinging, bounciness, and crossovers (typical of Vlach dances). The rhythm is in 9/16: quick-quick-quick-slow. The accent is on the first beat, although the fourth is the longest.  This variation uses some of the Zizaj Nane steps, but none of the calls.

What makes this particular daichovo interesting is the music:  It has a strong Macedonian accent. The most emphasized instrument is the tambura,  more typical of southwestern (Pirin) region and Northern Macedonia.  You can also hear gaida (in the introduction), kaval (at 1:20), and tambura (at 1:57).  The tupan keeps the rhythm going, although it's hard to hear it in the background.

The group, Gergiovden, is from Barcelona, in Catalonia (an autonomous province in Spain).  Bulgarian culture is alive and well in that part of the world.



Dzanguritsa is a dance from the Pirin region.  It is also in 9/16 and the same rhythm as Devetorka, but a totally different choreography. Rhythm is quick-quick-quick-slow. You can hear the tambura in the background in this piece, too. It's not as strong as in the previous video.



Video # 3 is Svornato Horo from the Rhodope region in southern Bulgaria.  The music is played on the kaba gaida.  The dance begins with the devetorka step and there is an up and down arm movement at the end of each sequence.



Video #4 is a more basic version of Svornato, and it's the one we use at our dances. It's nice to have a dance room in which to practice, but I don't know how this lady can stand that awful shade of pink.  It reminds me of Pepto Bismol.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens (the series)

Mandolins, Marimbas, and Bulgarian Folk Music


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Friday, November 23, 2018

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Svatba

Wedding Fever is one of the scariest diseases I've ever seen.
Jessica Valenti

Today's featured song is Svatba (сватба in Bulgarian Cyrillic).  It means "wedding" in English.  The singer  in Video #1 is   Nikolina Chakardakova who is best known for folk songs from the Pirin region of Bulgaria.

You can find the lyrics here, in Bulgarian.  I couldn't find a translation into English.

The tune is very catchy.  I would classify it as an earworm because it takes up residence in your head long after the song is over.  Musicians play the zurna during the introduction at 0:45 (an instrument loud enough to wake the dead and intimidate enemies.)  The Turks brought the zurna to the Balkans.  It didn't intimidate the people of the Pirin.  Instead, it became an important part of their folk music.

Check out the part at 4:33 where the singer stands on top of the drums, with the guys dancing around her.  She gives a really good show.  The costumed dancers are eye candy too.

I imagine Pirin weddings must have been loud enough to be heard in the next town, maybe even as far as Blagoevgrad.



Version #2 of Svatba is the one we learned during a Lee Otterholt workshop.  Not as fancy as the first one but it was fun.  The moves in Video #1 would have been too much for a bunch of weekend dancers.



If you enjoyed this you may also like: A Bulgarian New Year Celebration with Nikolina Charkadakova

What happens when 100 people play the zurna:
The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music

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