To me the most important folk dances are the ones you’re most likely to encounter when dancing with “the folk”. If you met a Bulgarian on the street could you dance with him or her? (Note: Not all Bulgarians are folk dancers, though probably a higher percentage than Americans who are square dancers).
The following is an attempt to compile a short list for the 20 or so countries and/or peoples I study (Assyrians, Kurds, and Roma have no countries) – covering the Greater Balkans, Anatolia and the Levant. I’m showing the list as partial and incomplete because that’s the state of my research. It will slowly be filled out. To qualify for the list I consult the written opinions of qualified authorities, and verify their current status with YouTube examples proving that the dance is what I call a Living Dance (see DANCE>3a. LIVING DANCES). Details of each dance listed will be found under the same heading – DANCE>3a. LIVING DANCES. I welcome your suggestions and comments.
ALBANIA, KOSOVO – GHEG; TOSK; Pogonishte
ANATOLIA, Greek, Kurdish, Delilo
ARMENIA – Bar (Par)
ASSYRIA – Sheikhani
BOSNIA, HERCEGOVINA – Kolo
BULGARIA – Pravo, Râcenitsa
CROATIA – Kolo, Drmeš
GREECE – Kalamatiano, Tsamiko
HUNGARY – Csárdás
ISRAEL – Mayim, Hora Hava Nagila,
KURDISTAN – Delilo
LEVANT – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria – Dabke (Debka)
NORTH MACEDONIA – Pajduško
ROMA – None culture-wide
ROMANIA – Hora, Sârba
SERBIA – Kolo, Čačak
TURKEY – Halay
International/Recreational Folk Dance groups (IFD’s/RFD’s) often have hundreds of dances in their repertoire. Generally, these dances have been accumulated in a haphazard manner. The group may sponsor a workshop by a recognized expert, who teaches several dances in a weekend – several of those dances will be “keepers” and added to the repertoire. A few members attend a workshop elsewhere and bring home their favourites. An influential member has a favourite country and brings in more of those dances. Occasionally someone in the group decides which dances are no longer popular and the list is culled, only to swell again.
An IFD group near me lists 500 dances in their repertoire, and I suspect that’s typical. Of those 500 over 200 are from the 5 Balkan states of Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, & Greece – I suspect that’s common. By searching examples of these dances on the internet, I have come to realize that many if not most dances listed by IFD’s as being from a particular country are not presently danced in that country, at least not under the name known by the IFD.
If you’re a newcomer to folk dancing it may not matter to you whether a dance is from Greece, Bulgaria, or someone’s imagination, and it may not matter whether anyone in Greece or Bulgaria is presently performing that dance. But if you’re reading this post, I suspect it might. Maybe you’ve been asked to a Greek wedding and you’d like to bone up on some Greek dances. Maybe you’re planning a trip to Bulgaria and you’re hoping to dance there. Maybe a relative is dating a Serbian or has a school project on Romania, or a neighbour has moved in from Macedonia and you want to find out a bit more.
If your club has 40 or so Macedonian dances, where to begin? How do you separate the essential from the merely popular? (Please don’t get me wrong – popular is important – some of my favourite dances are merely popular.) Most countries have dances they consider “national” dances – that is, dances that are known by most of the people in that country, or are most representative of a particular region or subgroup. Often the list is quite small.
If you are an experienced dancer that has some influence on your club’s repertoire, I would ask you to consider whether these dances are on your group’s dance list, especially if your club is purporting to represent the dances of the country mentioned.