Sunday, May 26, 2013

The "Flavors" of Romanian Hora

Last week we explored the sirba and its variations.  This week's post will focus on the most popular dance in Romania, the hora. It can be easily confused with the Israeli dance of the same name, or the Bulgarian dance with a similar name (horo) or the Greek dance with a name almost like the Bulgarian (horon).  What's in a name, anyway? Read more, you'll find out.

Hora originated in Romania. It comes in many "flavors", from slow to hang on to your hat fast.  But then you wouldn't dance with a hat on, would you? If you're from Bulgaria,  dancing with hats on is something you'd do anyway :)  I don't know if the Romanians have tried that yet :)

The first video is of Hora de la Munte, performed by the International Folk Dancers of Ottawa, in Canada. You can visit their website here.  They also have a blog, Easy Folk Dances, where you can learn a number of easy to follow dances that they teach to the group, complete with videos and dance notes.

The clarinet dominates this piece of music, it's one of my favorite musical instruments. It can also be used for pain and torture purposes :)

I danced Hora de la Soroca at a Romanian friend's graduation party last week. It's fairly easy, but a little faster. Listen carefully and you can hear the strigaturi (shouts).  This group is from Italy, where they speak a language somewhat related to Romanian.  Both Italian and Romanian have Latin roots.

It's time to speed things up a little with Hora Olteneasca. The dance comes from Oltenia region of Romania, in the southwest part of the country, across the Danube from Bulgaria.  The Olt  River gives the province its name, and separates Oltenia from the province of Muntenia, also known  as Greater Wallachia.  Out of Wallachia came the Vlachs, who travelled all over the Balkans bringing stamping dances everywhere.

There must be plenty of ethnic events in the Great White North, this group, like the first one, is also from Canada! Canada is next on my list of places to visit!

Now it's time for an even faster hora, fast enough that you have to really think about the directional changes, or it gets totally out of control.

The last group is from Holland, and they perform Hora Nuntasilor at a street festival (you will find the dance notes and the lyrics on pages 11 and12 if you click on the link.)  Nuntasilor means "wedding guests", this is a dance specifically in their honor.

From what I've seen of The Alien Diaries stats, the people of Holland love Balkan dance. By the way, Netherlanders, I visited your beautiful country many years ago. Unfortunately, Romanian and other varieties of Balkan dance were not popular back in those days, but next time I'm in Holland, I'll be sure to look you up :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

Crossing the River, Part One, Folk Dances from the Romanian Region of Dobrogea

How to Take Out Your Frustations and Relieve Stress (Romanian folk dancing can be good therapy!)

Classical Composers Inspired by Balkan Folk Music (check out Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody #1, based on folk tunes).

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

Almost nobody dances sober, unless they happen to be insane.
H.P. Lovecraft

May is Dance Month on The Alien Diaries, and today's post focuses on different "flavors" of the Romanian folk dance, Sirba or Sârba, as it is spelled in Romanian. The hora and the sirba are the two of the best known Romanian folk dances. There are many varieties of hora; with regional differences, and they are usually done in a circle. The hora is especially popular during festivals and weddings, big communal celebrations in which everyone is expected to get up and dance.

The sirba may have had Serbian origins because the name means "Serb like." This proves that the Balkans are a multicultural mish-mosh. Dances (as well as dancers) are notorious for crossing existent and non-existent borders. Sirba can be done in either a circle or a line, depending on the preference of the leader, and the dance is often punctuated by stamps and shouts.

The first group, from Denmark, performs Sirba din Cimpoi.  Cimpoi is Romanian for bagpipe (also known in Slavic-speaking countries as a gaida).  They like the bagpipe in Romania, too, almost as much as their friends across the Danube, the Bulgarians. The in and out step with the arm swinging reminds me of a dance very popular in Bulgaria, Dunavsko Horo.

The next video is of  Sirba Pe Loc, also played on a bagpipe, and a staple in the repertoire of folk dancers around the world.  It translates into "dance in place." Most of the steps here are stamping and heel clicks; there's just a little bit of lateral movement.  Notice the shoulder hold, this is very common in Romanian folk dances.

These guys take sirba to a whole new level.  Since this is a male only group at a party, they, of course, want to show off.  My guess is that they have been hitting the bar as well, which fuels the energy here.

The shouts you hear are called strigaturi, and they are a common feature of Romanian folk dances. If I were there I would have joined the circle, the men have more fun. Notice that the men try to outdo each other, it's most likely a contest to attract the women with their physical prowess; in that respect sirba is similar to Bulgarian rachenitsa.

The music here is also different, a brass band with accordion, accompanied by a singer.  Despite all the distractions (staff bringing plates to tables and little kids running around), these men are totally focused on the dance.  Maybe it's the booze.

This integrated (male-female) group dances an extremely lively and animated sirba at a wedding. My guess is that the craziness is related the the amount of alcohol consumption. This dance has lots of stamping (bataie),  and everyone circles around the accordion player.  Some people consider the accordion an instrument of torture. In Eastern Europe, however, they love it almost as much as the bagpipe. 

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part 1

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part 2

Another Country Heard From: The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

Stamping it Out: Vlach Dances from Serbia

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Two Variations on an Albanian Folk Dance: Valle Pogonishte

I smell of sweat. I don't like people smelling of all these weird things. I think deodorant is disgusting.
Rupert Everett

Today's featured dance is Valle Pogonishte from Albania. Valle is the Albanian word for dance.  Pogonishte comes from "pogonisios", a similar dance from Greece.

Version one is very popular amongst recreational folk dancers around the world.; this group is from Austria. They are part of a dance festival titled Schwitz-mit-Fritz, which translates to "Sweat with Fritz." If you listen carefully, you'll hear the instructor calling the steps in German and the dancers humming along to the music.  Although I wouldn't consider Valle Pogonishte a dance for working up a sweat (and grossing out the people next to you) these people are having lots of fun with it.

The second video was taken at a summer event that I went to several years ago.  Although it was advertised as a Romanian festival, there was neither music nor dance from Romania.  It was held in the park by the Romanian Orthodox church in the small town of Southbridge, Massachusetts.  The church,  however, imported a very good group from St. Mary's in Worcester.  This is an easier version of Valle Pogonishte with different music. Notice the young woman and young man taking turns leading the line, doing the;fancy steps. There's a camera man following the dancers around. He seems to have trouble keeping up with them. Maybe he needs to exercise more.

If you enjoyed this you may also like the following posts:

Two Variations on a Romanian Folk Dance: Hora de Mina

Two Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Opas

Two Variations on a Macedonian Folk Dance: Bufcansko

Two Variations on a Serbian Folk Dance: Stara Vlajna

A Taste of Albania at Balkan Music Night (featuring the group Valle Tona from Worcester, Massachusetts.)

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two Variations on a Serbian Folk Dance: Stara Vlajna

A circle is the reflection of eternity. It has no beginning and it has no end - and if you put several circles over each other, then you get a spiral.
Maynard James Keenan

Today's featured dance is a very popular and easy one from Serbia, Stara Vlajna.  The name translates to "Old Vlajna," and I couldn't find out whether it was named after a person or place. If anyone out there speaks Serbian and knows the meaning, please post it in the "comments" section.

Version one is more popular with folk dancers in the United States, and it's performed by the group Kolo Koalition. By the way, Kolo is a generic name for dances from most of the former Yugoslav republics (except for Macedonia).

The word "kolo" means circle in Serbian, although people sometimes dance it in a line.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them.  Kolos are often named after a town or region, although there are exceptions to this.  There is a funny dance named Fat Woman's Kolo, which is probably played in Serbian aerobics classes. Another one is Prekid Kolo, which is best described as Kolo Interruptus.

In the first version of Stara Vlajna, the music starts slowly and speeds up as the dance progresses (very common in Balkan folk dances). The dancers do several bounce steps when the music changes. The "bouncing" is rather subdued because this group uses a front baskethold; whereas our group does it with a simple handhold. We emphasize that bounce, especially when I lead it!

Don't pay attention to that distracting text on the bottom, either....all I know is that this was recorded on April 5, 2008 at 7:58 p.m. They were a little too early for the Doomsday Countdown. 

Version two is fast all the way through and the choreography and music are different, very bouncy and lively in true Serbian style.

By the way, Stara Vlajna is a Vlach dance; the Vlachs were decendants of Romans who lived in the Balkans, and they settled all over the place. They had wandering ways and in the old days, they made a living raising and herding sheep. The Vlach people are best known for dances with lots of stamping.

The Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel has posted many Balkan folk dance videos on YouTube and they have a website as well, where you can get dance notes, music scores and song lyrics for all of your favorite Balkan dances.  Check them out when you have a few minutes.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Two Variations on a Romanian Folk Dance: Hora de Mina

Two Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Opas

Two Variations on a Macedonian Folk Dance: Bufcansko

Stamping it Out: Vlach Dances From Serbia  (this will give you a feel for Vlach dancing, and it's a socially acceptable way to unleash the frustrations of daily life).

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