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”.
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 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/
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/
Nisiotiko [Island] Syrto
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.
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.
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
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
Devojačko kolo/Девојачко коло – Serbia
Hora din Banat, Hora Banateana – Romanian Banat
Odeno Oro – North Macedonia
Körtánc (Várba Harangoznak) – Hungarian
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].
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.