Friday, August 28, 2015

More Rachenitsa na Horo with a bit of Graovsko

For me dancing is not just moving your arms and legs but basically it's a very spiritual experience. It's part of me and a second nature to me. You can say it is in my blood.
Madhuri Dixit

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about different variations of the Bulgarian folk dance Rachenitsa na Horo.

Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria and can be done solo, as a couple, or in a group.  The group version, performed in a line, is "na horo."  The time signature (many Bulgarian dances are in odd rhythms) can be either 7/8 or 7/16, depending on the speed of the music.

There are a number of variations of this dance posted on YouTube.  This particular variation of Rachenitsa na Horo is from the Bulgarian region of Thrace. To me this looks like a dance group practicing with the teacher in the front, much like the workshops I've been to in the past.

Rachenitsa is all about getting the arms and hands moving, even when dancing it "na horo", because the origin of the name comes from the Bulgarian word for "hand" or "forearm."  Notice how the woman at the front of the line waves her right arm.  Sometimes the leader twirls a handkerchief.

The dance after the rachenitsa is Graovsko Horo, from the Shope region.  The steps are similar to another Bulgarian dance, Kyustendilska Rachenitsa, except that the rhythm is 2/4 instead of 7/8.

Here's another version of Graovsko, where it is easier to see the feet:

The next video features a spirited Rachenitsa na Horo, also from Thrace. Too bad the video is only a minute and a half long. The dancers are a pleasure to watch. They obviously enjoy what they do. 

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Two Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Rachenitsa na Horo

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part One and Part Two

You will find rachenitsa and other Bulgarian rhythms in this post:

Orchestra Horo: Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs, Traditional Rhythms 

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Romania

Some years ago I read a book that brought Einstein's theory of relativity down to an eighth grade level. This convinced me that any subject can be made easy. In other words, always beware of anyone who tells you a topic is above you or better left to experts. This person may, for some reason, be trying to shut you out. You CAN understand almost anything.
Richard J. Maybury

Not all Romanian folk dances are fast and difficult with sudden changes of direction and stamps hard enough to put holes in the floor! Contrary to what you've seen and heard, there are relatively slow and easy Romanian dances. Relatively is the key word here. Relativity is a whole other concept.

What's really cool about today's dances is that they include shouts, called "strigaturi."  You can be a kid again and use your "outside voice."

The first is Hora Pe Sase (Hora for Six). I counted the steps, and none of them add up to six.  Notice that one of the figures in this dance resembles the Bulgarian Pravo Horo.

There are definitely more than six people dancing.  So where did the dance get its name?  If you know the answer, please post it in the "comments" section.

The second dance, Hora Pentesteanca is one I can't even pronounce.  Fortunately it is easy to learn by watching the dancers. The steps are mostly grapevines and taps.

Romanian is part of a family of languages based on Latin. There is a Romanian woman who comes to our dances and she taught us how to say some basic greetings.  Despite my familiarity with Spanish, I had difficulty pronouncing the Romanian words.

Modern Romanian, to me, sounds like a combination of Latin and Italian, with an admixture of Slavic words. The first time I heard it on an ethnic radio program, I thought it was a dialect of Italian until the folk music came on. According to Wikipedia, Romanian is 77% similar to Italian.

There are other dialects related to Romanian, including Aromanian , also known as Vlach.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Romanian Hora

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

The dances of Bulgaria and the Dobrogea region of Romania use similar rhythms.

Crossing the River Part One:  Folk Music From the Romanian Region of Dobrogea

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

If you are interested in some easy folk dances, check out the blog with the same name.

The Alien Diaries is taking a brief break.  Look for the next post in approximately two weeks.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Fun and Fast Kolos from Serbia

If you think of exercise as a 60-minute commitment 3 times a week at the gym, you're missing the point completely. If you think that going on a diet has something to do with nutrition, you don't see the forest through the trees. It is a lifestyle. I know it sounds cliche, but you have to find things you love to do.
Brett Hoeble

Today's post features some Serbian dances that I've done at one time or another.  They are fun and fast and get the heart rate going.  Who needs aerobics when there's kolo?

The first one is a bouncy little number that is often played early in the evening because it's a relatively easy dance to follow: Divčibarsko Kolo. It has something called "ethnic symmetry", which means the same footwork in both directions.

Rokoko Kolo is a hybrid dance from Vojvodina.  It's a Serbian dance that sounds Croatian because of the  tamburitza music.  The accordion is the national instrument of Serbia, but in Vojvodina they are more into tamburitza.  The heel clicks are common to Hungarian dances because a sizable Hungarian minority lives in this part of Serbia. Political borders in the Balkans don't always align with cultural ones.

Polomka is a medley of several Vlach dances with lots of stamping.  Except for the last figure this dance is fairly easy to follow.

Brass music is popular in Serbia, too.  Every year in August there is a festival called Guca where bands all from all over Serbia (and some from outside the country, like Zlatne Uste), compete. This year it was from August 3 to August 9.  If you missed it there's always next year.

Here's Polomka as it's done in the "village" of Maribor, in Slovenia:

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Serbian Folk Dance Around the World

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

If you like tamburitza music, there is plenty of it in The River of Many Names, Part 6: The Danube in Croatian Folk Songs.  The earworms in this post will take up residence in your head, guaranteed.

If you're bored with your usual workout, try some Ethnic Dance and Exercise.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Balkan Folk Dances Named After Rivers

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
Khalil Gibran

Today's post features dance songs from Croatia and Romania that are named after rivers.

Raka Plava po Dravi from Croatia is a very strange song.  The title translates to Duck Swimming in the Drava.  The lyrics are rather strange, because the duck has a hat on its head, and the refrain is "this year the roses will bloom." The woman recognizes her beloved as he walks off a ship (he supposedly has a distinctive walk), and she wants to marry him.. The lyrics are really random, and there was no English translation (although I was able translate from German).

By the way, the Drava is a tributary of the Danube, River of Many Names, which has written about extensively on this blog (see the links to other posts).  The Drava flows from the west, through Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. 

Here's Raca Plava taught by Yves Moreau. He is a well-known teacher, primarily of dances from Bulgaria. He leads workshops all over the world; this one was held in Israel.

In the "village" of Vienna, Austria, they dance Raca Plava a little differently. At dance we have a saying, "he or she is "from a different village" when someone visits one of our dances and does a different variation. Choreography is not a static entity.  Remember the game "telephone" you may have played as a child?  Dance works the same way.

The next dance song is about a river in Romania Siriul din Buzau This is another love song, a bit more romantic than the one from Croatia, with beautiful imagery (you can find the English translation here). The music sounds like flowing water.

This group is from the United States.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The River of Many Names (all the links are accessible from part seven); a pan-Balkan series with Danube songs from different countries.

Beli Dunav (parts one, two and three) Danube Songs from Bulgaria

Some Fun for April Fool's Day: Silly Songs, Strange Sayings, Proverbs, and Insults from the Balkans

For more on the "different village" concept read:

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Kraj Dunavsko Horo

A great resource for dance songs and translations is the Songbook for Nearsighted People. The Songbook features lyrics from many different countries (especially the Balkans) in the original languages (transliterated for Bulgarian and Macedonian).  Most of the songs are translated into German and English.

You can view the publication in its entirety or each song as a single page. The font is large, perfect for those who are visually challenged :)

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