Balkan Dances

By Lou Pechi


Lou Pechi logo Did you ever notice that some of the dances we do from different Balkan countries are very similar? There seems to be a thread of a simple pattern of steps weaving its way through many of them.

Could it be that there was a single original dance from which all of them evolved?

Is there some Darwinian dance theory of evolution, with the dances changing and adapting to the country, people, climate, or location in which they are done?

I am sure that one of the original dances, after feet stomping or walking, was the simple: 'step, step, step, do something, step, do something' Macedonian "Pravo Oro."

The similar "Pravo Horo" from Bulgaria, "Sta Tria" and "Zonaradikos" from Greece, Halay" from Turkey, and the "Hora" from Israel, are all in the same class or must have evolved from it.

These dances, lubricated by good Slivovitz, Rakija, Arak, or Manishevitz Wine, mixed with some great Roma music and ever-changing beats, evolved into "Ketri Ketri, Rumelaj, Čoček, Sa Sa, Gajda, Karsilamas, Tsifteteli and many others.

As different villages adopted some of the steps, they added their own styling and steps to finally incorporate them into more complex and varied patterns. Our "Cohanim," or keepers of the folkdance faith, visited those villages and meticulously recorded the names of the dances, the music, and the matching steps so they could bring them back and share with our groups.

And what do we do with these dances? We spread them throughout our groups, changing ever so slightly the steps, the styling, and sometimes the music as well. Try visiting another far away group and you will see what I mean.

So what do we do?

First of all, before I forget, my hat goes off to the "Cohanim," the keepers of the folkdance faith. Thanks for opening for us the window to a wonderful world of folk dances. Keep on doing what you do so well.

We, on the other side, need to learn, remember, and do the dances as best as we can. This is as close as most of us will ever physically get to the native villages. Knowing the dances well will let us absorb the music and let the beat of the dumbek transport us to the remote and ancient villages where it all began.

And, most important of all, enjoy! Opa!


As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (2)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.