Monday, July 28, 2014

Hybrid Dances From the Balkans

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Today's post features hybrid dances, so called because they have more than cultural influence.

The first video is of a Greek dance from Kastroria with lyrics in Ladino,  Alta es la Luna.  Ladino was the language spoken by the Jews of Spain, who were exiled from that country in 1492 (about the same time Columbus set sail for the New World).  The Spanish Jews, also known as Sephardim, settled in various European countries, including Greece.

You can find the lyrics with translations into English and German here.

By the way, "horon" is the Greek word for dance; "horo" is the Bulgarian cognate.

Momino Horo  is a  "Young Women's Dance" from Bulgaria that has two distinctly different moods. Part one is slow and graceful with step-lifts (the notes describe the styling as Greek Macedonian.).

All hell breaks loose after the musical transition at 2:08;  two stamps, then the "penguin step", followed by an in and out, and more stamps. The choreography in part two is as Vlach as it gets with the shouting and the stamping.

The Vlachs were descendants of Romans who lived in the Balkans.  They had wandering ways and in the old days, they worked as shepherds.

Momino Horo  is based on women's dances from the region of Lom in northwestern Bulgaria, an area with a sizable Vlach population.

Yves Moreau, the teacher in the video, gives workshops in Bulgarian folk dance all over the world. This workshop took place in Haifa, Israel.

Siriysko Horo is a dance that came to the Bulgarian community in Chicago by way of Syria. The music is really strange because it reminds me of rush hour traffic in Manhattan.  According to the notes, the dance teacher Yulian Yordanov saw it performed at a Bulgarian gathering in Chicago. In this video,the music has been slowed down for teaching.

The first time I heard the song for Siriykso, I thought it very weird, but I really like it now. I wonder if the singer, Hamid El Shaeri, a native of Benghazi, Libya, was ever in New York City?

You can find the lyrics here.  What's surprising is this happens to be a love song!

This is the same song, at normal speed, and performed by a group of belly dancers.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Travels of Pajdusko Horo

Allusions, Musically Speaking (how snippets from different cultures get mixed into Balkan folk music)

Bulgarian Folk Songs With A Hungarian Accent

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Balkan Buy One Get One Free Special: Dances With Compound Rhythms

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau

Today's post features three dances from Bulgaria in compound meters, where the music has two different rhythms in the same piece. It's the folk dancers' Buy One Get One Free Special :)

In previous posts, I have featured dances in odd rhythms such as padjusko, rachenitsa, chetvorno, lesnoto, daichovo, and kopanitsa.  Since most western music is written in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8, music in odd time signatures is challenging for dancers and musicians at first.  People in the Balkans have this stuff mastered before they can even walk.

There is an excellent website from the Ethnic Dance Network that explains Balkan rhythms and gives musical examples. You have to feel the rhythm in order to understand it. Hopefully the videos here will add to your understanding of Balkan (especially Bulgarian) folk music.

The first example is Jove Malaj Mome from the Shope Region. This dance is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and kopanitsa (11/16). The dancers are at the Balkanalia  festival in Dresden, Germany, which takes place annually in March. Their webpage describes this event as "a big meeting of international folk dance."

The hardest thing about  Sandansko Horo is the rhythm: 9/16 (daichovo) + 13/16 (krivo). It is best when dancing not to think too much; let the leader do it for you. .This dance is from the town of Sandanski, in the Pirin region of southwest Bulgaria, where they get a little crazy with odd rhythms.

If you want to see an example of Krivo Horo click here .By the way, krivo means "crooked" in Bulgarian, the opposite of "pravo" straight.  The meaning has to do with the rhythm; pravo is in the even meter of 2/4 or 6/8 and Krivo is in 13/16. Thirteen is not only odd, it is a prime number as well.  Many folk dancers are into math; this is a good way to get a conversation going.

Sedi Donka is a party dance in our group. It is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and  kopanitsa (11/16). By the way, this is the slow version; the Ethnic Dance Network has a much faster one.. Sedi Donka means "Donka is sitting", which makes me wonder how the dance got its name.

Hang on to your belts, folks.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

How Bulgarian Folk Music Induces Altered States (one of the videos features the group Leb i Vino performing in the town square of Sandanski).

Dancing to the Music of a Different Drummer

Dancing in Sevens Part One and Part Two

Balkan Music and Its Relationship to...Math?

This website is rather technical and geared towards musicians, but some readers may find it of interest:

Mastering Odd and Complex Time Signatures and Rhythms

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Monday, July 7, 2014

What's in a Name? Two Bulgarian Folk Dances: Dobrujdanksa Pandela and Pandelaš

Words have meaning and names have power.  ~Author Unknown

Today's dances have similar names but different meanings, tempos and choreographies.  One thing they have in common is that both are from the folklore region of Dobrudja.

These dances have stampy steps which are characteristic of this region of Bulgaria.  The first, Dobrujanska Pandela, is in the time signature of 2/4. "Pandela" translates to "ribbon" in English.

The second dance, Pandelaš, (pronounced pandelash) means "fleeting thought or idea." (Funny how that little diacritical mark under the "s" changes not just the meaning, but the pronunciation.

 Pandelaš  is a rachenitsa, a dance very popular in Bulgaria.  The tempo is either 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speedthis particular dance is in 7/8.  The beats are accented like this: apple-apple-pineapple.

The rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, and in different regions it takes on different characteristics. For example: the Shopska Rachenitsa is fast, with small steps, and the Thracian Rachenitsa is slower and smoother).  The Dobrudjanska Rachenitsa is relatively slow, punctuated with stamps and often accented with strong arm movements.

Click the links to see two more examples of rachenitsa from Dobrudja:  Sej Sej Bop and Povlekana.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Flavors of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part One and Part Two

Stamping It Out: Dances From the Bulgarian Folklore Region of Dobrudja

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Rachenitsa Na Horo (two dances with the same name, different music and choreography)

Looking for some thing fun to read this summer?  Check out my new blog Light and Shadow.  It has been online since January.  It will make you think, and may even make you laugh. 

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break for the next two weeks. See you later this summer!

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