Croatia is an oddly shaped country, due to quirks of geography, history, and power politics. Climate and terrain vary greatly, resulting in equally varied dance cultures. The regions shown on these maps as Inland or Continental Croatia, Slavonia, and Sirmia, are mostly fertile lowlands, home of the dance commonly called Drmeš (DRR-mesh).
Drmeš is derived from the verb drmati se, (shake yourself, drmanje – he/she shakes). The dance has MANY forms, but usually there is a fast circling part, and a slow part, where the “shaking” happens.
Below is the oldest video of a Drmeš I could find, made in 1948, by a performing group from the village of Trebarjevo, Sisak district – south of Zagreb. The first minute and a half is rather unusual by Drmeš standards, possibly a village variation. Then they break into a couple version, and around 2 minutes form large circles – the form of Drmeš that Recreational Folk Dancers are most familiar with. The musicians comprise a tamburica orchestra – the characteristic musical accompaniment of that place and time.
Here’s a more modern Drmeš by a local performing group. They’re singing a popular folk song “Kriči Kriči Tiček”, which RFD’s know as a separate dance. About 1:47 a couple, and later the group, do the “shake” which famed instructor Dick Crum calls “dancing in your shoes”.
In 1978, Crum wrote “the Drmeš is the most typical dance form in northwestern Croatia. In former days each village had at least one melody, and often several, to which the dancers did the same local Drmeš movements. A typical Drmeš consisted of a circle of dancers who alternated some sort of ‘travelling’ steps with various types of ‘shaking’ steps, either in place or moving in one direction or another.”
That description still applies today, though there isn’t much variety in the steps, and it’s getting harder to find instances of ‘shaking’. Here’s a glimpse of ‘shaking’ at around the 1:05 mark – watch the girl in the red dress. At 4:30 you get a good look at how the hand lock works. Form your 4 fingers into a hook, grab the other person’s hook, and hold on tight.
Whether in the form of a large circle, small circle, or couple dance, the steps are essentially the same.
Below starts with a good look at the ‘pause’ – side, touch, side, touch. The basic moving step is a buzz step, also known as the Hungarian rida. Cross R in front of L, then bring L to the side. As in most Croatian dances, the general movement is to the left. However note that at around the 1:53 mark, the centre group varies things by moving to the right. The footwork would then be reversed – cross L in front of R.