Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The "Flavors of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part 2: Masculine, Feminine and Flirtatious

The subject of today's post is about one of my favorite dances, Bulgarian rachenitsa. Although rachenitsa has been covered many times on this blog,  I couldn't resist writing about it again. Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, and for you music theorists out there, the top number on the time signature is a seven. If you prefer words to numbers, the rhythm is apple-apple-galloping.

There are many varieties of the rachenitsa. Today we will explore masculine and feminine versions of the dance, as well as its part in a courtship ritual. Rachenitsa can be done solo, in couples, and groups; groups can be male only, female only or mixed, the group version is called "na horo."

The first example, Drianovska Rachenitsa is definitely masculine. A male chorus sings the song, and there is a emphatic stamp at one point in the dance. Notice that a woman is in front of the line and another woman in front of the dancers (she is teaching the dance). Since the The Alien Diaries is an equal opportunity blog, I like to show women leading dances. This is a high-energy dance, performed by a group from the United States.

Back in the old days in Bulgaria there was a definite hierarchy as to who should lead dances. According to the Radio Bulgaria website, "As with all levels of patriarchal society, horo dancing had its own hierarchy. The first to join and lead the dance were married men followed by young unmarried men. Very often brides and girls danced in a separate row." This applied to rachenitsa as well. Fortunately, that is not the case nowadays.

For more on the fascinating subject of Bulgarian dance, check out this link.


The next rachenitsa has a very feminine touch. Although there's no dancing here, these young ladies from the Yale Women's Slavic Chorus sing Ergen Dedo with style, tapping and clapping to the beat. The person who posted this video described it as "impromptu Bulgarian genius." That it certainly is.

Ergen Dedo is about an old man at the village dance looking for a young woman to marry. He scared the girls away because he was too old! (Or perhaps he was a pedophile?) The translated lyrics can be found here.


The next dance can best be described as "feminine rachenitsa with attitude." It's performed by the group Horo, from Brisbane, Australia.

A vintage movie clip from 1958 shows how much the rachenitsa is embedded in Bulgarian culture. Here it becomes an endurance contest as well as a flirtation between a man and a woman, who waves a "rachenik" (handkerchief) in the man's face as she challenges him to dance with her, with the entire village watching. Want to find out who wins? Watch the video and find out.

For more information on the rachenitsa, check out Dick Oake's Phantom Ranch folk dance site.


If you enjoyed this you may also like The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa


The Yale Women's Slavic chorus does some amazing interpretations of Bulgarian folk songs, and you can watch them here:


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