Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bits, Pieces, and Other Cool Stuff Stuff From the Universe of YouTube

Today's post will feature some odds and ends from the Universe of You Tube, with videos from the United States, Bulgaria, and France.

Is this an earthquake? No, it's actually the synergy of vibrations from the brass band music and the dancers which shook up the chandelier in the room. This video was taken at the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, a yearly celebration of Balkan music and dance which takes place the third weekend of January. Fortunately, the chandelier didn't fall, with the number of people at this festival it would have been quite a disaster.

These people at a wedding dance a rachenitsa (Bulgarian folk dance in 7/8 time) with a cake. Or two. That takes skill.

The next video is of IRé, a Bulgarian singer living in France, who mixes jazz with Bulgarian folk music. She and her friends are totally caffeinated and a joy to watch :)

Read more about IRé here (and you can watch the video again, as well)

And finally, there's physical education class in Bulgaria. Looks like these kids are combining folk dance with aerobics, a good way to work off the excess energy that is so abundant in young people. According to the video's creator, this is a group of kindergarteners and they look like they're having a great time! What's really cool is that they're wearing traditional Bulgarian costumes and dancing to music by Diko Iliev. This is definitely more fun than playing dodgeball or field hockey.

By the way, they are also very cute :)

Here are the answers to last week's Bulgarian Folklore Quiz: (no, I didn't forget!) How did you score? Come on, it wasn't that hard :)

1. Rhodope
2. Dobrudja
3. Severnjasko
4. Pirin
5. Thrace
6. Shope (Sopluk)
7. Strandza

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise, (why dance should be offered as an alternative to sports in the public schools)

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa (everything you always wanted to know about the Bulgarian national dance)

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs (some interesting variations on a theme)

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Today's Pop Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of Bulgarian Folklore

This is a test! This is only a test!

Now that I have your attention, it's time for a quiz on Bulgarian folklore. This is how it works: you watch seven videos and then name the folklore region in Bulgaria which best fits the video. At the bottom of this page is a list of the regions; your job is to match the region with the video. It's all in fun and not to be taken too seriously :)

The answers will be in the next installment of The Alien Diaries. Please feel free to post your answers in the "comments" section. Good luck!

1. This singer recently celebrated her 70th birthday. Her name is Valya Balkanska and this song, Izlel e Delyu Haidutin, was launched into Outer Space on the Project Voyager back in 1977 as a musical message to extraterrestrials (a.k.a. aliens). Her region is known for its gaida (bagpipe music).

2. Dances from this area of Bulgaria include lots of stamping and strong arm movements (which may have to do with the natives letting off steam). Some dances from this region include Opas, Tropanka, and Sborenka. Name the folklore region.

3. Diko Iliev lived in this region of Bulgaria, known for its brass band music. His most famous piece is about a river which flows along the border of Bulgaria and Romania. You'll see a hint in this video, (which has nothing to do with folk dancing) but there's lots of action in it and lots of explosives. No people were harmed in the making of it :) Name the folklore region.

4. This region is known for music played on an instrument called the tambura and singing done in unusual vocal harmonies, which you will see and hear in the next video. The area is mountainous and the old houses there were built in a distinct style (see link below)

What part of Bulgaria is this song from?

5. The most popular dance from this area of Bulgaria is the Pravo Horo, seen below. This region shares its name with regions in Greece and Turkey.

6. Dances from this region are very fast, with small steps. The dance shown, Petronino Horo, is typical of this area. The natives pride themselves on their sense of humor.

7. This area of Bulgaria is famous for people who dance on hot coals to the accompaniment of a bagpipe and drum. It is a ritual which honors the feast day of Saints Constantine and Helen (which is different from the date on the video). Name the region.

Your choices are from this list:

Shope region (šopluk)

It's OK to take wild guesses and if you're a regular reader of this blog this quiz will be a piece of cake. Have fun!

(Speaking of cake, you will see people dancing with one in an upcoming post. Look for it in about a week).

If you liked this you may also enjoy the finale of Nadigrame, Season Two from BNT World. Nadigrame is a dance competition show featuring amateur dance groups from different folklore regions of Bulgaria. Although it's nearly two hours and has no subtitles, it's worth the watch if you love Bulgarian folk dancing. The previous episodes which led to the final are also archived on this site.

If you don't have two hours to spare, here are the Ten Reasons Why You Should Read My Blog (an exercise in shameless self promotion :)

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dancing in Sevens....

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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Monday, January 9, 2012

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World

Elitsa Todorova, Bulgarian pop/folk singer plans to lead 50,000 young people from Bulgaria in the the longest folk dance in the world on June 9th and 10th, in Varna. She hopes this event (Horo 2012) will make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Read more about it here:

*Update from Novinite June 11, 2012: The longest folk dance in the world has been cancelled due to lack of funding. Read more below:

On my forays in the Universe of You Tube, I have found Bulgarian folk dancing in many locations around the world. You don't have to be Bulgarian to dance like one :)

Our journey begins in Kodiak, Alaska, a small town in the United States on an island in the Pacific Ocean. It is known mostly for one of the most fearsome creatures, the Kodiak bear. Before Alaska became a state it belonged to the Russians, who sold the land to the Americans for a bargain basement price. Alaska is sparsely populated, averaging about 1 person per square mile. What's surprising is that even in a remote location like this one, Bulgarian folk dance has made a foothold. About half the population in the state is here :)

There are a number of videos of this Chinese group on YouTube. They describe themselves as a "Bonding Folkdance Class." Here they perform Tervelska Tropanka, a dance from the Dobrudja folklore region.

Do you have a sense déjà vu? If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll recognize this group from Jerusalem, in Israel.

If this is your first time here, check out the Dunav website:

Now we go south of the Equator. Bulgarians have settled in the most remote regions of the globe, and they have a sizable population in Australia. Everywhere they went they brought their culture with them, so they wouldn't get too homesick.

This group, Horo, is from Brisbane and they dance the Shopska Rachenitsa. Horo translates to "chain dance" in English, and as it turns out, this is not the only folk ensemble named after a dance.

At the bottom of the world in a land of ice and snow is the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute. There have been sightings of dancing penguins, this happens to be one of them. If this video looks familiar, you have probably seen the movie Happy Feet.

If you take a look at the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute's website, you'll see more dancing penguins. Rumor has it that the scientists there have been teaching them :)

It's back to the European continent. This ensemble from Silistra, Bulgaria, performs in Spain.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Bulgarian Folk Music Travels Abroad

The national dance of Bulgaria is the rachenitsa. Read more about it here:

There are also ensembles named after folk dances.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Folk Ensembles Named After Dances

You can find almost anything on the Universe of YouTube, and what I've discovered is that there are quite a few folk ensembles named after dances.

The first group, Ciuleandra, is from Vancouver Island in Canada. The song Ciuleandra is very popular with folk dancers around the world, and it's from an old recording by Maria Tanase, a Romanian pop-folk singer who died in 1963. This ensemble performs their signature dance, followed by a couple dance.

For more on Maria Tanase, click here:

Tropanka from SAP Labs in Bulgaria is a group of colleagues who have an interest in folk dancing, and they are quite good. I've seen a few of their videos on YouTube and I get the impression morale at this company is quite high, judging from their participation in company sponsored activities. Tropanka is a dance from the region of Dobrudja (northeast Bulgaria). This group performs it along with two other popular Bulgarian dances, Pravo Horo and Graovsko Horo.

Trite Puti is the name of a folk ensemble, a dance school in Sofia, and a popular folk dance from the central Bulgarian region of Thrace. Here the group is participating in an amateur folk dance competition held annually in Sofia. The first dance is Trite Puti, and the one immediately following is Chetvorno Horo.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Bulgarian Dances and their Greek Relatives:

What's in a name? And why are there Balkan folk ensembles named after a River of Many Names? Read more here.

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