Uneven Walking – The Other Basic Dance Pattern – S,Q,Q; Q,Q,S; S,S,Q,Q,S;

Dance ethnochoreologists [I believe that’s the official term for those who study ethnic dance] have long talked about a nearly universal [at least in Europe and West Asia] 6-step pattern – step, step, step ___, step, ___, where ‘step’ can mean a weighted step in any direction, and ‘___’ means a touch, lift, kick, hop, pause – any non-weighted foot action [or inaction]. Usually, the pattern adds up to 3 pairs of steps – the 1st pair in one direction, the 2nd in the same direction, and the 3rd in the opposite direction – 2 forward, 1 back. Some prefer to describe the pattern and leave it at that; I have attached a name to the genre – the Taproot Dance. For more on the Taproot Dance, see https://folkdancefootnotes.org/begin/the-taproot-dance/

The Taproot Dance, or its variants [see:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/begin/the-taproot-family-t-4-t-6-t-8-t-7u-t-9u-t-11u/] is the most basic, common, widespread, dance in many countries in the Balkans, Anatolia, and the Levant – but not all. Greece, Albania, and Bulgaria, for instance, have another, even more basic, common, & widespread dance. The dance is extremely simple, [even simpler than the Taproot Dance], and that simplicity signifies its possible importance – could it be our most ancient dance pattern? Many Greeks think so!

Uneven Walking – S,Q,Q, – Slow, Quick, Quick

I call the pattern Uneven Walking – walking with an uneven beat. Basically, the pattern is walking – right, left, right, left, etc. The only difference from regular walking is, some steps take longer than others. For instance, outside the big cities, the most pervasive and common dance in Greece today is [and maybe always has been] Syrto, which is walking to a S,Q,Q, rhythm. Syrto has many other names, and there are a surprisingly large number of ways to ‘walk’, but the basic principle is the same – every step carries weight – no hops, kicks, leaps, pauses. Steps always alternate feet R,L,R,L,R,L,R,L, no matter what the speed or direction. Of course dances based on Uneven Walking often include variations that add non-walking elements, but I still consider the dance in the Uneven Walking category because that’s its ‘default’ choreography. Below is one of the slowest, simplest, easiest-to-see versions of uneven walking – Pogonisios.

Sta Dio, or Pogonisios

Pogonisios, an example of a Sta Dio – most commonly seen in the northwestern region of Epiros. In fact, Yvonne Hunt states “Probably the most common dance [in Epiros] is the Pogonisios or Sta Dio”.

Pogonisios/Sta Dio
Epirus, including subregion Pogoni, home of the dance Pogonisios
Pogonisios by Greeks living just across the border in in southern Albania, Poliçan [Greek Politsani]

For more on Pogonisio, see:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/pogonissio-greece/

Pogonishte – Albania

Pogonishte is the most popular dance among the Tosks of southern Albania. For more about Tosks and Albanians, see: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/culture/ethnicity-history-geography/albanians/. Some Albanians step a clearcut case of Uneven Walking – S,Q,Q, S,Q,Q, [same as Pogonisio] – while some muddy the waters by adding a hovering pause before the 1st step – turning the dance into 4 short beats – Q,Q,Q,Q, Q,Q,Q,Q,. I believe this is a variation from the S,Q,Q, basic step. You’ll see both varieties below.

Syrto

Syrto is the generic dance of rural and island Greece. Each area has its own variation. Below are a sampling. For a more detailed explanation of Syrto, see:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/kalamatiano-syrto-greece/


Traditional wedding in Tripotama Kalavryton in 2006.
Psofida [Tripotama Kalavryton]

Kalamatiano

The most common Syrto pattern has 6 walking steps – S,Q,Q, S,Q,Q,. However Syrto can also have a 12-step pattern – the six walking, plus another 6 in place. Kalamatiano, the best-known Greek dance inside and outside of Greece, is simply a 12-step Syrto to a 7/8 rhythm. For a more detailed explanation, see:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/kalamatiano-syrto-greece/

Not everyone knows this dance, the clearest view is the last 10 seconds.

Karagouna

Karagouna, the most popular dance in Thessaly, is basically a Syrto to Karagouna music.

Nisiotiko [Island] Syrto

Syrto on the island of Nisyros.
Nisyros
Syrto on the island of Naxos. No matter how fancy the leader’s improvisations get, he hasn’t lost track of the ‘basic’ step – the line can keep doing the ‘basic’.
Syrto in couples, Chios
Chios

Ballos

Many of the Greek islands were at various times controlled by Europeans, especially Italians. The Italian custom of dancing in couples as opposed to gender-separated lines eventually influenced the Greeks to a compromise – keep the basic Syrto step while facing [but seldom touching] a partner. The result is Ballos.

Village of Alyki, Paros. Violin – Michalis Gabierakis, Lute – Costas Patelis. Ballos dancing [by Nasia Konitopoulou & Barbara Yakoumis], starts at 3:00.
Sikinos Island, Ballos dance. At 3:23 the dance becomes a Sousta, the Syrto from Crete. The main difference is the rhythm changes from S,Q,Q, TO Q,Q,S,. However, most Sousta dancing is done in a S,Q,Q, rhythm. See below.
Sikinos

Sousta

Sousta is Greek for ‘spring’ and can apply to a wide range of upbeat island Greek dances, couple or otherwise. Here I will show only the couple dance of Crete, whose rhythm is usually S,Q,Q, and basic step is Uneven Walking. The difference between Ballos & Sousta has more to do with intensity, mood & tempo than footwork, though Sousta seems to allow more touching. Many performing groups do this dance. I’m showing only Living versions.

Uneven Walking – Q,Q,S, – Quick, Quick, Slow,

Râčenica – Bulgaria

The Bulgarians’ most basic, widespread and common dance is the Râčenica [ruh-cheh-NEE-tsuh]. It has a fast Q,Q,S, beat, which applied to Uneven Walking, becomes something more like Uneven Running. The Bulgarian State under Communism destroyed village life, and so ‘improved’ folk dance [see:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/begin/folk-dancers-type-2-of-3-performing/] that basic, simple râčenica dances became a rarity – replaced by elaborate performance-oriented choreographies in râčenica rhythm. However, basic râčenica is still taught to children.

Râčenica supposedly began as a solo dance, then became a couple dance [like Ballos & Sousta]. Below is a basic Râčenica for 2.

A fairly simple couple Râčenica from Varna.
Couple Râčenica contest!

At least one version of a Râčenica is still going strong as a folk custom in Bulgaria. A common feature of weddings is when members of the bridal party try to ‘steal’ cakes from each other while doing a basic Râčenica step.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Râčenica‘s as line dances, mostly kept ‘alive’ as museum pieces by performing groups.

For more on Râčenica, see:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/racenica-bulgaria/

Geamparalele – Romania

Dobrogea, the part of Romania that’s home to Geamparale, used to be in Bulgaria – hence the Râčenica 7/16 Q,Q,S, rhythm. There doesn’t seem to be a specific dance associated with the rhythm – generic hora and polka moves work fine, though.

Oberek – Poland

Dance starts at 0:43. The oberek, also called obertas or ober, is a lively Polish dance. The name “Oberek” is derived from “obracać się” which in Polish means “to spin”. It consists of many dance lifts and jumps. It is performed at a much quicker pace than the Polish waltz and is one of the national dances of Poland. The Oberek, in its original form, is a Polish folk dance and is the fastest of the Five National Dances of Poland. The Five National Dances are: Polonez (Polonaise), Mazur (Mazurka), Kujawiak, Krakowiak and Oberek. The Oberek consists of quick steps and constant turns. The beauty of the oberek depends on each individual dancer’s talent of spinning at the fast tempo of the Oberek, which shares some steps with the Mazur. Source: Wikipedia

Yemenite – Israel, Cifra – Hungary, Two-step – Europe, Pas de Basque – Europe

Although none of the above steps can claim to be the basic pattern of a whole dance, each is an essential ingredient in many dances, and each is an example of the basic Q,Q,S, Uneven Walking figure. See also Yemenite – https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/dance-information/yemenite-step/

Uneven Walking – S,S,Q,Q,S, – Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow.

Šetnja, (Dodji, Mile or Prodje Mile) – Serbia

From 0:23 to 1:08

See also:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/1st-generation-dances/childrens-dances-1st-generation-or-living/setnja-%d1%88%d0%b5%d1%82%d0%bd%d1%98%d0%b0-dodji-mile-or-prodje-mile-serbian-childrens-dance/

Devojačko kolo/Девојачко коло – Serbia

See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=42&v=N6XptOEsofo

Hora din Banat, Hora Banateana – Romanian Banat

Although this appears to be a class with instructor, I have seen YouTubes of this footwork at weddings.

Odeno Oro – North Macedonia

See also:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/1st-generation-dances/odeno-oro-macedonia/

Körtánc (Várba Harangoznak) – Hungarian

See also: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/1st-generation-dances/childrens-dances-1st-generation-or-living/kortanc-varba-harangoznak-hungarian-childrens-dance/

More? I’d be delighted if you sent me more examples of Uneven Walking dances. I’ll add them to this post and you’ll get the credit [unless you decline].

Comments:

The St. Louis Bulgarian community does the solo/couple ruchenitsa in a variety of styles depending on what part of Bulgaria they come from. It is definitely not a children’s dance here. I was in a wedding in the village of Amara in Romania, north west of Dobrogea, some years ago, and the geamparele was popular, with couples in the center and everyone else in a circle around them doing simple 1,2,3s. I understand the dance has spread north almost to Bucovina.

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