Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bulgarian Folk Dances Named After Cities and Towns

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.
Maya Angelou

Bulgaria has seven folklore regions. Oftentimes the dances are named after cities and towns, and sometimes the region. Despite the fact that it's a relatively small country, Bulgaria has a lot of diversity in its music and dance.

For those who are not familiar with Bulgarian folk dancing, the two major groups of dances in this country are rachenitsa and horo. Horo simply means "dance." It can be any rhythm, and some of them can get quite interesting, especially the asymmetrical ones.

Radio Bulgaria's translation of horo is "chain dance." The dancers hold hands or each other's belts, the idea is being linked like a chain. Rachenitsa, on the other hand can be done in singles, couples, and groups. It's a dance in an irregular rhythm, apple-apple-pineapple. There are seven beats to the measure.

There is a well-known rachenitsa from the town of Kyustendil, a town in the Shope region (west central Bulgaria) near the capital Sofia. Here's a description of Kystendil from Wikipedia:


The video is of Kystendilska Rachenitsa, performed by the Bulgarian ensemble Accent. This is an example of "rachenitsa na horo", which means the dance is done in a group.

The next dance, Vidinsko Horo is a lively number from the town of Vidin, in northwestern Bulgaria. In the dance notes below you can read about the Romanian influence in this dance; the steps include stamping and arm swinging. The dancers shout and make a lot of noise....that's Romanian too. There's a lot of cross-cultural pollination in the Balkans.


The shouts, or "calls" are known as "strigaturi" in Romanian, and they have crossed the border, however, I don't know the Bulgarian name for them. Maybe someone can enlighten me on this.

This very graceful and smooth dance, Varnensko Horo is from the seaside town of Varna, in the folklore region of Dobrudja, northeastern Bulgaria. Dobrudjan dances have also been influenced by nearby Romania in that a good number of them involve stamping (this will be covered in a future post). This one is definitely an exception to that rule.

Pazhardiska Kopanitsa is a another dance with the irregular rhythm pattern that Bulgarians are famous for. Pazhardik is in south central Bulgaria, in the region of Thrace. This dance is a Kopanitsa, a dance in 11/16, and the rhythm is like this: quick-quick-slow-quick-quick. I call the "slow" beat in the middle the hiccup.

For more on Kopanitsa and other related dances, this may be of interest:


If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Horo, Part 1


The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Horo, Part 2


Dancing by the Numbers


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