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Monday, May 3, 2021

Balkan Folk Dance in Japan

Education must, be not only a transmission of culture but also a provider of alternative views of the world and a strengthener of the will to explore them.
Jerome Bruner

Today's post features the Kyoto Folk Dance group from Japan. They are very big on Balkan dance (as well as dance from other cultures), and they have numerous videos on YouTube.

Video #1 is Rustemul from Romania. The choreography and music are different what I've seen in North America. Also notice that there is a female leader wearing a man's costume.  They have amazing energy!


Video #2 is an athletic performance of Postupano  from North Macedonia.  According to the notes, this is a men's dance.  It looks like they could get only two dancers to do this one, so there's a young woman in here, and she's wearing a women's costume (unlike the female dancer in Video #1)


Video #3 is Dzinovsko from Bulgaria. At 4:35 there is a dance that is part Salty Dog Rag, part swing dance; not Bulgarian, but fun (the audience loved it).


Video #4 is Itia,  from Greece. dance. We usually dance Tsamikos to this music.  This looks like a variation under a different name. According to what I read in the comments, the young people are students at Kyoto University.  


 If you enjoyed this you may also like: Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

(Almost) The Same Dance Different Music: Alunelul Batut

I loved Nutella before the Internet made it cool. - unknown

Alunelul Batut is a dance popular on Zoom; it is easy to follow and doesn't require much space. The dance is from the region of Oltenia in Romania.  Like many dances there is more than one piece of music that fits. The music in Video #1 is the one most often played.  The dancers are from Vienna, Austria.

I describe the stamping as "beating up the hazelnuts."  What happens when you beat up hazelnuts and mix them with with a bunch of other ingredients? You get Nutella
Nutella actually has its own day, February 5th.  I ate it while living in Europe and had a hard time finding it in the States except in specialty stores until the 1990's.  I don't eat it anymore because it's high in calories and contains lactose. When you're fighting the Battle of the Bulge (not the one that took place during World War II) Nutella, alcohol and junk food are the first things to go.


This version of Alunelul Batut uses different music and a slightly different choreography. The steps are the same, but this group uses a hand hold instead. The dancers are from Copenhagen, Denmark. 

I have never done this dance in a group B.C. (Before Covid) so I don't know how it is done in North America. According to the notes, it's done like in the video below, with arm swinging.  So the best way to dance it is the version that is preferred in your "village."  I prefer the hand hold to the back basket hold in Video #1.


If you enjoyed this you may also like:
Dances From Oltenia, Part Three (links to parts one and two)

Monday, January 18, 2021

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Pasarelska

Being authentic can be a good thing in that often people who are fixated on that are also fixated on having very high standards, so they may maintain something they think has tremendous value. On the other hand, most of the kinds of music that I've been excited about are hybrid in their origins.- Edgar Meyer

The dance Pasarelska has an interesting history. It was created by a Bulgarian choreographer and first taught in Los Angeles, California.  It is a dance with Shope (western Bulgarian) steps. The melody is from the Rhodope (southern region) of Bulgaria. There is a town near the Bulgarian capital, Dolni Pasarel, after which the dance was named.

I'm sure if someone from North America traveled to Dolni Pasarel and requested the dance from the local musicians, that person would get strange looks, since the dance was created in the States.  

Pasarelska is a hybrid dance. It is often requested on Zoom and you can learn it by watching this pandemic-era video by Susie Shoaf, who posted it on YouTube. It is not a difficult dance (it starts slow and speeds up at the end), however, I find the slow part more challenging than the fast part.

The steps don't follow the music, either. First, here's the teaching video:


Here is Ira Weisbund's group doing Pasarelska. Notice that he has this listed as a Macedonian dance. One of the dance notes I read mentioned that this dance is from the Pirin region of Bulgaria (sometimes called Macedonia.)   The rhythm certainly fits the Pirin style; 7/8 in the slow part and 7/16 near the end (slow-quick-quick).


The subject of Macedonia can get quite confusing, because there is a country, North Macedonia, that shares a border with Bulgaria. There is also a Macedonia region in northern Greece. You can read more about this below:

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Dancing Hat

Hats have power.  Hats can change you into something else. 
Catherynne M. Valente

Today's post is about an ethno-pop dance band from Romania. The name of the group: Ro-mania. The song is about a magic hat (beret) that has a mind of its own. It belongs to the violinist, who takes it off when he plays the violin. The hat makes its way through town and lands on the ground.

 A curious young woman picks it up and puts it on her head; she can't stop dancing until she takes it off. The hat finds its way to a street artist (it lands on his head) and he dances as well. After he takes it off, the hat makes its way to a street sweeper, who also can't stop dancing until she tosses the hat. The hat ends up back where it started, and the music stops.

The video is fun to watch.  While the hat makes its journey the guys go crazy singing and tapping on the table. Make sure to watch it all.  It's 3 1/2 minutes of fun.

The rhythm of this song is geampara (apple-apple-pineapple). It is similar to Bulgarian rachenitsa. Geampara is a dance native to the Romanian folklore region of Dobrogea.

   Video #2 is a geampara  performed by a group from Taiwan. The instructor does a great job (he can really shake that body as well!) Unfortunately, I have not seen any groups in North America or Europe do this dance.  I wonder if the hat is in there somewhere....

We are going to let 2020 go out with a bang and hope 2021 won't be a repeat of 2020. Regulars have probably seen this before: Dunavsko Horo with a war movie as a soundtrack. It's time to kill 2020! 

Notice that the explosions are in time with the music. Hopefully by the end of 2021 things will get back to normal and people will be dancing together again.

If you enjoyed this you may also like: The Best of the Alien Diaries 2010-2015.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Most Popular Balkan Dances on Zoom: Part Five

Pop music is a difficult term to define. I think about good music and bad music. Good music is good music whatever origin it comes from.

Nina Persson

This month's post is fifth in a series based on Balkan dances popular on Zoom. I'm not too crazy about the first two, modern choreographies done to pop songs, however, in the interest of research and open mindedness, have featured them here. So many people like this stuff, so there must be a reason why it's so popular.  I prefer to dance to more traditional music.

Video #1 is Cine are Noroc are, a Roma dance from Romania.  The singer is Nicolae Guță, who, according to Wikipedia, has had quite a wild life. The music style is manele, a pop folk style widespread in Romania, created primarily for dancing.  According to the article many of the lyrics of these songs are "questionable" and not family friendly.  The music takes up residence in your head without paying rent.

I found the lyrics for the song.  It's about a man born to be lucky.  Some of it did not make sense (lost in translation, maybe?)  Maybe it's popular these days because there's a pandemic going on and staying well (until we get vaccinated) is part being careful and part luck.  There are some elderly people, despite the odds, who have recovered from the virus.
Video #2 is Mashala, a modern pop tune from the Pirin region of Bulgaria. It was described on YouTube as a "Pirin Style Dance."  Ira Weisbund is the choreographer.

The singer's is Rayna (she goes by her first name), and she was born in Sandanski, Bulgaria in 1981. She does both pop and traditional folk songs. (She does a really good job with the more traditional music.  I have seen several of her videos and they are actually quite good.)

From what I was able to garner from listening to the lyrics the song is about a wedding celebration. The original YouTube video shows people dancing horo.
Pop-folk in Bulgaria is also known as chalga.  It's one of those things people either love or hate. Chalga, like its Romanian counterpart, manele, features songs of questionable quality, sometimes with nonsense lyrics and sexual content.  These songs also tend to be earworms and live on in your head for hours, if not days. 

Here is a suggestion on how to get rid of an earworm.

I could not find the lyrics nor the dance notes for Mashala. From what I found "mashala" is a word derived from Arabic that has made its way into the Bulgarian language.

Video #3 is the dance Tervelska Raka from the Bulgarian folklore region of Dobrudja.  There is a song that goes along with it about a girl, Marinka, who captivates the young men in the neighborhood with her beautiful voice.
This is a traditional song and melody. It's a pleasure to listen to, and the dance is often requested on Zoom.  (Fortunately there are some traditionalists out there).

If you enjoyed this you may also like the series Most Popular Balkan Dances on Zoom (parts 1-4).  Somebody remarked at a Zoom dance the other day that Zek Zek Dadumle was one of the most popular dances in 2020.  It's in Part One.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused: Part 22: Sedi Donka and Serbez Donka

Music is the fastest motivator in the world.
Amit Kalantri

Today's post features more confusion from the world of Balkan dance!  They are both about a woman named Donka.

Serbez Donka is a dance from North Macedonia that has been very popular on Zoom during the spring and summer of 2020.  The dance has been around a while because the video below was created in 2011. I never knew it existed until this year. 

It has a catchy melody that will earworm itself into your brain and never move out. The music is in 7/8 (galloping-apple-apple).


People have been dancing Sedi Donka for a long time. This was the way we did it B.C. (Before Covid) with two lines facing each other. Notice the squeaking of dancers' shoes.  It must have been humid that day.

Sedi Donka has an interesting rhythm combination: 7/16 and 11/16.  See the notes for the details.


If you really want to impress your friends, do Sedi Donka at warp speed like Henry in the video below. I have heard there are even faster versions of this music somewhere on YouTube. Since this is a small space (like some of our living rooms) his style is impressive. 

Fast music is very motivating!

If you enjoyed this you may also like the rest of the series: Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused (the previous post published last month links to all of them. They will give you enough material to last until next year.)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused Part 21: Hora Mare Bukovina and Hora Mare Bukovineana

What's the difference between rain and grain? Only a g, though they both grow in the land, and they don't land but fall. What a difference a g makes!
 Ana Claudia Antunes

Time for more confusion in the world of Balkan dance. This time it's two dances from Romania. The names are so similar that it is easy to mix up one with the other. But like rain and grain they have something in common. Both are dances from Bukovina.

 Bukovina is a region located in two countries: southern Ukraine and northern Romania.

Video #1 is Hora Mare din Bukovina (large hora from Bukovina).  The Friday Greenbelt, Maryland group does this one. I was totally confused when I heard the music and expected something different. I couldn't find any notes for this dance.


Video #2 is a dance we used to do in our Sunday group B.C. (Before Covid).  I used to lead it when we had in-person dances.  My laptop is wired to a printer, scanner, and external hard drive, so to disconnect it in order for people to see my feet at a Zoom meeting would be difficult.  In the Zoom gallery, people can see my upper body and the hand motions which are also part of the dance.  

The dance in Video #2 has a similar name: Hora Mare Bukovineana. This is the music that is familiar to most folk dancers. 

Kudos to the dancers who have set up Zoom meetings and share them with us. It sounds rather complicated.  If you're interested, here is a series of articles on how to host meetings:


If you enjoyed this you will also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 20 (links to the other posts in the series)