Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Folklore as Destiny: Yves Moreau and Bulgarian Folk Music

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper. ― Albert Einstein

In our little folk world, everyone seems to know everyone else. Most of us know each other by sight, if not by name, we are constantly meeting at dances and workshops. We know the names of the workshop leaders as well as their specialties.

One name well known in folk dance circles in North America and Europe is Yves Moreau. A French Canadian from Montreal, he got into folk dancing in the most unusual way; as a member of a boy scout troop. You can read a short bio of him here:


For Moreau, folklore became a destiny. He was especially bewitched by the music of Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government invited him to visit the country when he was still a college student.

During the Communist days of the 1960's and '70's Moreau did field work in Bulgaria with a tape recorder and a microphone. He visited villages all over the country (some of them quite remote, the government had discouraged him from going to some of these places, but he went anyway). His recordings featured folk songs and musicians from different regions. This collection became a series of CD's titled "Beyond the Mystery." It is Bulgarian folklore in its purest form; music unsullied by commercialism, simple and beautiful; much of what would have been lost without these recordings.

You can check out some samples, and order CD's and DVD's here:


Oftentimes he was in the middle of a wedding or a celebration when he captured musicians for posterity on his tape recorder; he didn't have the sophisticated equipment that we take for granted nowadays; nowdays people (like myself) record amateur videos on inexpensive digital cameras.

While doing fieldwork in Bulgaria, Moreau also learned the folk dances; he introduced many of them in workshops in North America and Europe.

The first one, from the Pirin region in southwestern Bulgaria (near the Macedonian border) is Bicak, performed by a group from the United States.

This lively dance from northwestern Bulgaria is Kulska Shira. Each set of steps gets progessively more difficult; they build on each other.

One of my favorites (and one that I sometimes lead) is Dospatsko Horo from the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria. You can see it has travelled a long way; this "Bonding Folkdance Class" is from China.

This dance Varnenska Tropanka, from Dobrudja (northeastern Bulgaria) is extremely popular. Just about every group does it.

If you want to see Yves Moreau in action, check out this video of him teaching and leading ┼Żensko Kapansko Horo during a workshop in Toronto, Canada. Although this is technically a women's dance The Alien Diaries is an Equal Opportunity Blog, so men are allowed to lead :)

If you didn't get enough Bulgarian folk music here, you can listen to this interview that Yves Moreau gave on KDHX in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in March of 2012. The music is wonderful, and the interview itself is quite interesting. The broadcast is almost two hours long, make sure you have plenty of time.


If you enjoyed this you may also like:

This is Your Brain; This is Your Brain on Bulgaria (or how Bulgarian folk music affects susceptible individuals)


An even more provocative idea may be explored here in How Bulgarian Folk Music Induces Altered States:


If you like women's dances from the Balkans, here is a good place to start:


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