Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

For me, music and life are all about style.
Miles Davis

Although Bulgaria is a relatively small country (if you superimpose it on a map of the United States it's about the size of the state of Tennessee), it has seven distinct folklore regions. Today's post will feature dancing from four of them: Trakia, Rhodope, Dobrudja and Severnjasko.

Each area is distinct in its music and dance. Today's post will feature one of the most popular Bulgarian dances, the Pravo Horo (and its variations) and compare how it's performed in different regions of the country.

The Pravo originated somewhere in Thrace, a region now located in three different countries, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. By the way, people who live in the Thracian region of Greece do the same dance with a belt hold, but they call it by a different name, Zonaradikos. Zonaria means "belt" in Greek.


This dance from the Bulgarian region of the same name,Pravo Trakiisko Horo is slow and easy. It speeds up toward the end. It is a basic three and one pattern, in and out, over and over, at least until they run out of music.

Same dance as in the first video with a couple of slight variations.  This group uses a front basket hold.

This pravo is from the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria. The tempo is slower and almost hypnotic. The dancers link arms and the instrumental accompaniment is a kaba gaida (bagpipe) an instrument native to that area.

The people of Dobrudja,(northeastern Bulgaria), not to be outdone, have their own version of the pravo, called Opas. It's a more challenging dance than your basic pravo,too, with lots of stamping and done in a baskethold, so if you screw up, the whole line goes out of kilter.

One of the most popular variants of the pravo is from northwestern Bulgaria. It is a very lively and energetic dance and has practically become synonymous with celebrations in Bulgaria: Dunavsko Horo. There are many different melodies for Dunavsko (the brass orchestration by Diko Iliev is the most popular). This version is played on Bulgarian folk instruments. By the way, these girls are Bulgarian language students from Armenia.

For more on regional variations in Bulgarian dance, check out Eliznik's web page. If you're short on time, scroll to the very bottom where you will find a summary of the regional differences.


If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Dances and Their Greek Relatives


A Dance by Any Other Name


Variations on a Theme by Diko Iliev:


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Monday, June 11, 2012

More Odds and Ends from the Universe of YouTube

The unusual, the different and the quirky: I love them all. Especially when it has to do with Balkan folk music.

The first video takes place in New York, about sixty miles north of New York City near a town with the Dutch name of Poughkeepsie. The Dutch were the first Europeans to explore (I refuse to say discover because the natives were there first!) the area surrounding what is now the thriving metropolis of New York City. In 1664, the British took New Amsterdam from the Dutch and renamed it after the Duke of York, they have been speaking English there ever since (plus a couple of hundred other languages.....)

The celebration depicted is the reopening of a bridge, years ago it had originally carried freight trains across the Hudson River; then it was abandoned when the line was no longer profitable. An organization called Walkway Over the Hudson revitalized the bridge, creating a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the river. Next time I'm in upstate New York I have to check out this bridge; it has some pretty amazing views.

The Raya Brass Band from Brooklyn inaugurated the opening of the Poughkeepsie Bridge back in 2009. They led the way with an odd cast of characters: stilt walkers, hoopers, unicyclists and...aliens? The music played by the band is a Romani tune from Bulgaria, Ciganko.

For more about the Walkway Over the Hudson (also known as the Poughkeepsie Bridge):


The next video was emailed to me by a friend. This is a very large group performing two Macedonian folk dances in the downtown area of Pecs, Hungary. I wonder if this was a flash mob video, not only does everyone know the steps, but it looks like the entire town is there. The second song is one very popular amongst folk dancers, Dimna Juda; the name of the dance is Kopacka.

The translation for Dimna Juda can be found here:


The last video in today's lineup is of twin sisters, the Duo Stoyanova, playing a Bulgarian folk dance, Radomirska Kopanitsa, on classical guitars. The guitar is not native to Bulgaria, and it is usually associated with music from Spain. One of the comments on YouTube mentioned (in Spanish) about how replacing the tambura, a Bulgarian folk instrument, with guitar gave this piece a Spanish accent. These two ladies did a really good job with it.

For more on the Duo Stoyanova, in German, English and Bulgarian click this link:


If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Folklore and Pop Culture: Odds and Ends from the Universe of YouTube


The Tambura in Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Croatian Folk Music


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More Stamping It Out: Reka, Sborenka and Tropanka, Bulgarian Folk Dances From the Region of Dobrudja

If you like folk dances with lots of stamping in the choreography, you have come to the right place.

Today's featured folklore region will be Dobrudja, the northeastern quadrant of Bulgaria. This region encompasses two countries, Romania and Bulgaria. For a map and some info, check out this link from Wikipedia:


The first Bulgarian dance that I learned from that area was a women's dance titled Dobrud┼żanska Reka. The choreography varies; from what I've noticed on the Universe of You Tube, the Bulgarian version tends to be simpler than the one that make the rounds of folk dance groups in other parts of the world. If you're wondering why the setting is so familiar, the reason is that the dancers are in a shopping mall!

Here is a fancier version performed by an international folk dance group from New Orleans in the United States.

The next video is of a sborenka which is basically a dance with lots of grapevines and lots of stamping. Sborenka is a generic name for a group of dances from Dobrudja; they come in many different "flavors." In Bulgaria dances are often named after cities and towns and sometimes regions.

If you count the steps (remember that many dancers are math and physics people with the exception of yours truly!) you will see a pattern here.

Dances in which you stamp your feet are very good for relieving the frustrations of everyday life. The downside of this is that your feet and knees can hurt after a night doing Dobrudjan folk dances, especially if there were so many candles on your last birthday cake that they fired off the smoke detector. Let this be a warning to those over the age of fifty!

On bad days, the Chinese get their frustrations out in their "Bonding Folkdance Class" as they so aptly describe it. The dance is Tervelska Tropanka. Bonding and stamping are not always communal activities; in this case, they are. And they are having fun doing it.

If you enjoyed this you may also like

Stamp it Out, Vlach Dances from Serbia:


A good way to relieve stress.


Have you ever wondered why math and physics people like to dance? Read this and find out why.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.