Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter O

A shoe is not only a design, but it's a part of your body language, the way you walk. The way you're going to move is quite dictated by your shoes.
Christian Louboutin

Dancers, especially,  can be very particular about their shoes.  It took me many tries to find a pair of shoes that worked for me.  I found that Zumba shoes are very good  for Balkan dance, since they have the right combination of flexibility and support and are lightweight.  They were also reasonably priced (it was the best $50 I spent on a pair of dance shoes).

This week's dance is Opinca and the name has to do with peasant shoes (opinci), worn in a number of Balkan countries as part of the folk costume.

Opinca is from the Romanian region of Bukovina.  Bukovina is one of those places that has changed hands a number of times over the years. It was dominated in succession by the Ottoman Turks, the Russians and the Austro-Hungarian empire and nowadays is split up between Romania and Ukraine.

I couldn't find a single page with the dance notes, however, there was an entire syllabus with over 100 pages that contained the dance notes on page 25. ( It may take you a while to get to it if your computer is slow, like mine.).

The melody is really cool and typically Romanian: panpipes, cimbalom and violin. The dance has a few stamps, but is overall very smooth.

This group is from the United States, and they go by two different names: Kolo Koalition and Kolo Dragan.

Today's bonus video is of a Zumba class. When I can't get to Balkan dance I go to Zumba, it's a nice change. I like music from Latin America.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

More Interesting and Unusual Instruments in Balkan Folk Music

Romanian Folk Dance in the United States

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter N

The mathematics of rhythm are universal. They don't belong to any particular culture.
John McLaughlin

In Bulgaria, there are numerous dances done in pravo rhythm. To add to the confusion, there are two types of pravo rhythm: 2/4 and 6/8. Each has a slightly different feel.

Today's dance, Novozagorsko Horo, from the region of Thrace in mid-southern Bulgaria is a pravo variation, one of many from that region of the country, where it is very popular.

 Novozagorsko Horo means "dance from Nova Zagora."  There are two towns in Bulgaria named "Zagora", one is old (Stara Zagora) and the other is new (Nova Zagora).

Pravo is usually a simple village dance, but not this one.  The dance notes have Novozargorsko  in 4/4 time.  I believe it's a 2/4 because it's fast. The dance is done with a belt hold (na lesa).  The stamping steps remind me of horses.

Speaking of horses, today's bonus video features the talking horse, Mr. Ed.  He had a show on TV that was very popular in the United States from 1961-1966.

If you listen carefully to the song, it's a 6/8 pravo, something you can dance to! Don't let the lion in the beginning of the video intimidate you, he's all noise. All cats, even the big ones, are very demanding of attention.  Why is he in color, and Mr. Ed in black and white?  Inquiring minds want to know.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Music for the Year of the Horse 2014

Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter M

Masculine and feminine roles are not biologically fixed but socially constructed.
Judith Butler

This week 's dance begins with M and it's Mindrele from southern Romania. It is also known as Mandrele  which translates to "the girls."In Romanian, the letter "i"  sounds like "a" when there is a caret symbol ( ^) over the "i." Are you confused yet? There is a caret over the "i" in the dance notes.

Since International Women's Day was March 8, and March is Women's History Month, this was chosen as the dance of the week. The rhythm is 6/8.

Mindrele is an "equal opportunity dance." This group is from the United States; a women leads it and there are men in the line.

Another feminine dance, this time from northwestern Bulgaria, is Momino Horo, which translates to "girls' dance." This took place at a Christmas party in Canada back in 2010, and everyone is in a festive mood.What is really striking about this dance is its hybrid nature: the beginning is slow and graceful.  Part two is totally different: all hell breaks loose with stamps and shouts.

Yves Moreau, who spent years in Bulgaria documenting folklore, arranged the choreography based on women's dances from the region of Lom. It's half Macedonian and half Vlach.

The bonus video is also connected with the letter "M."  Since we want spring to come sooner rather than later, here is a tutorial on how to make a basic Martenitsa. Let's make Baba Marta happy!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Martenitsa (but were afraid to ask)

Women's Dances From the Balkans

Since The Alien Diaries is an equal opportunity blog, you can read about and watch men leading women's dances:

Women's Dances from Macedonia (led by men)

There are also men's dances led by women:

Some Equal Opportunity Folk Dances

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter L

We have reached the middle of the alphabet. Today's dance is Leventikos, from Florina, in northern Greece.

This dance is also known as Pušteno across the border in the Republic of Macedonia.  Many folk dances in the Balkans don't follow political borders, as a result, especially on the YouTube comments, people bicker about whether the dance is Macedonian or Greek.  Actually, for the record, it's both, since there's a region called Macedonia in Northern Greece. If the dance crossed the border into the Republic of Macedonia under a different name, who cares? We should be dancing instead of fighting, anyway.

Many Balkan dances are grouped into quick-slow beats, which confuses things even more. The time signature for Leventikos (for those of you who are into music theory) is 12/16. The beats are grouped together in this manner: 3+2+2+3+2.  An easier way is to clap the rhythm: slow-quick-quick-slow-quick.

Here's a slightly fancier version of the same dance.  The men like to add embellishments (and the little girls behind the line are paying attention!)

This week's bonus video celebrates the springtime tradition of  Martenitsa.  It is a custom especially in Bulgaria, but also done in Romania and Greece. People give each other red and white decorated tassels or bracelets to drive away winter and welcome spring.

It has been a very long hard winter in my part of the world, and the snow on the ground will take a while to melt. Baba Marta, (a mythological figure much like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy) may have been good to the Bulgarians this year, but she's keeping that beautiful springtime weather across the pond instead of sharing it with us.

Who will win the Martenitsa fight? Will spring finally take over?  Watch the video and find out.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Dances and Their Greek Relatives

The "Flavors" of Greek Syrtos

Crossing the River Part 3: The Bulgarian Martenitsa and the Romanian Mărţişor

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