Monday, November 24, 2014

Who Will Fill Their Shoes? The Aging of the Folk Dance Community

To live is to dance, to dance is to live.
--Charles Schulz [in Peanuts (Snoopy speaking)]

Why don't more young people go to folk dances?

That is something that has been plaguing folk dance groups in recent years. The dancers get grayer by the year.  When they die, who will fill their shoes?

According to what I've read on the Internet, and from speaking with veteran dancers, the peak years of international folk dance were during the 1960's and 1970's, when they were college students.

If this trend continues, the only place to find folk dance groups will be in retirement communities.

Part of the problem could be that the young are too busy doing other things.  Or maybe dancing with people their grandparents' age is just not for them.

Another issue was budget cuts: courses in folk dancing have been cut from school curriculums.  In my opinion, dance should be offered as a physical education class as an alternative to team sports.(See the link to my post below: "On Ethnic Dance and Exercise.")

A variety of reasons were mentioned and listed here.

There was a time, not so many years ago, when ballroom dancing was primarily an activity for seniors. Dancing With the Stars changed all that. Now people of all ages take classes and participate in ballroom dancing. 

Check out the video and you'll see what I'm talking about:  the majority of the dancers are 50+. This was taken during a live music event when attendance is higher than during regular dance nights.

This group from Canada is at a workshop taught by Yves Moreau.   Many of the participants are also seniors.

Fortunately, Balkan folk dancing has taken a foothold in communities with large ethnic populations, such as New York City and Boston. Balkan Music Night, held annually in Concord (a suburb) of Boston has a large turnout of young people. In 2010 I went to a Zlatne Uste event in New York city that had a very youthful crowd, so there is hope. These young people may well be the future of folk dancing as we know it.

And in Bulgaria, young people have taken up an interest in folk dance because of the TV show Nadigrai Me, a show which features dancers from folk dance clubs all over the country. This show has finished its fifth season. It is one of the most popular shows in Bulgaria.

In 2012, a folk dance club opened in Sofia,  Club na Horoto.  The idea behind it was to have a place for dancers to congregate any hour of the day or night. This concept might work in a city with a large Eastern European immigrant population like Boston or Toronto.

Club Na Horoto reminds me of a of those places I used to frequent years ago. I would love to see a venue like this open up in the United States. They look like they're having a great time!  From what I've read on their website, this venue is extremely popular. Right now they're taking reservations for their New Year's Eve party.

If you have been successful in attracting young dancers to your group, please post your ideas in the "comments" section.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World

Why Dancing Makes You Smart

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise 

A One of a Kind Club for Folk Dancers

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune: Dospatsko Horo

Today's music features different versions of the music for the Bulgarian folk dance Dospatsko Horo.  Like many Bulgarian dances, it's named after a town,  Dospat, in the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria.  Dospatsko was originally a men's dance.

The video below is from the Chinese "Bonding Folk Dance Class" and uses the music familiar to recreational folk dancers.

Here is the entire piece; the artist listed is the orchestra of Anastas Naumov.  The dominant instrument here is the gadulka, a Bulgarian version of a fiddle, with the gaida and kaval in the background. You get to watch some beautiful scenery at the same time.  You can even dance to it if you want.

Version two is a modern and mellow Dospatsko, from a Bulgarian dance music album.  The dominant instrument here is the kaval.

I have heard many different renditions of Dospatsko on YouTube. Some are good and some are just awful, like version #3, which sounds like elevator music.  I know art is subjective, but this album cover is ugly!

It took some time for me to warm up to version # 4, which is the most unusual Dospatsko I've heard. It was recorded in a synogogue in Poland with excellent acoustics, and played on a cello, accordion, organ and a kaval. The music alternates between being slow and fast, solemn and dramatic. This version isn't meant for dancing but it's definitely worth a listen.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dances Named After Cities and Towns

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune Gankino Horo

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part One and Part Two

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

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Golden Record, Rhodope Folk Songs, and Valya Balkanska in Concert

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
Carl Sagan

Today's post is about  Bulgarian folk singer Valya Balkanska and her connection with an exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. (I was in Washington, D.C. recently and had paid a visit to several of the Smithsonian museums).

The exhibit (see photo above) is a copy of the Golden Record sent up into space on the Voyager in 1977 for the purpose of contacting intelligent life somewhere in the universe.

The hauntingly beautiful song Izlel e Delio Haidutin was on on that record, along with many other sounds from Planet Earth.

The large bagpipe is a kaba gaida, used as accompaniment for folk songs from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria.

Although Izlel e Delyu Haidutin is Valya Balkanska's  most popular song, there are many others in her repertoire. You can sample some of them in today's post.

The next two videos were part of a Bulgaria Liberation Day concert that took place in Toronto, Canada. It featured Valya Balkanska and Peter Yanev (on kaba gaida).

In the first video the audience dances a very long Pravo Horo. Afterwards the song Izlel e Delio Haidutin starts at 10:22 and goes into the next video. The person who recorded this performance had to do it in installments, which is a bit of a distraction.

Video #2  is a continuation of the first (on YouTube they are listed as 8 and 9).  After a short speech in Bulgarian, there is more singing and dancing at 2:55. The video concludes with the song  Tih bjal Dunav se valnuva, (also known as the Botev March) which commemorates Hristo Botev's historic crossing of the Danube from Romania to Bulgaria during the April Uprising of 1876. The lyrics are based on a poem by Ivan Vazov.

The other installments from this concert are on You Tube, for your watching and listening pleasure.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe in Bulgarian Folk Music

Outer Space: The Bulgarian Connection

The Rebels (Haidouks) in Bulgarian Folk Songs

Hristo Botev, Poet and Revolutionary

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