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 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 (like hops), 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 Geamparalele, 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 – Q,S, – Quick, Slow, (Pajduško, etc.)
Pajduško is the Bulgarian spelling of a pan-Balkan dance, known in every country. Pajduško translates as ‘limping’, and often there’s an element of that movement. It’s sometimes hard to see the ‘walking’ element, because there’s often hopping involved. However, recall that the definition of a ‘hop’ is going up and down on the same foot (as opposed to ‘leap’, which is an in-air shift from one foot to the other). A hop keeps the weight on the same foot during a beat – often it is more of a ‘lift’, where the foot never leaves the ground. For many more examples, click https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/pajdusko/
Rustemul – Romania
Uneven Walking – S,S,Q,Q,S, – Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow. (Devojačko)
Devojačko kolo/Девојачко коло – Serbia
For much more on Devojačko, click: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/1st-generation-dances/childrens-dances-1st-generation-or-living/devojacko-kolo-%d0%b4%d0%b5%d0%b2%d0%be%d1%98%d0%b0%d1%87%d0%ba%d0%be-%d0%ba%d0%be%d0%bb%d0%be-serbian-childrens-dance/
Šetnja, (Dodji, Mile or Prodje Mile) – Serbia
Hora din Banat, Hora Banateana – Romanian Banat
Odeno Oro – North Macedonia
Dramskoto – Macedonia & Pirin, Bulgaria
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].
John Uhlemann comments on ruchenitsa & geamparele: 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.
John Uhlemann comments on Oberek: “The Oberek shown is not typical. This is part of the new Polish folk revival , where village style is promoted – I have several recordings of these bands, and i really like what they do, but they pare everything down to one simple step – rather like going to a teen dance a decade ago where most of the guys are just twisting in place while the guys with the moves are doing all kinds of stuff. The basic Oberek step is in 3/4 in a sort of QQSS. It is very hard for novices to do that in a turning dance, although I have been drilled on it by 2 Polish teachers, and done one improvisationally with a very strong Polish woman who was definitely in charge… I would agree that finding that step in a YouTube and not on stage is difficult. Beautiful dancers like that do exist “in the wild” – One of your Greek videos showed “variations” that rarely get taught, that fit the type, though.”
Katley wrote: “much enjoyed, I especially liked the kids dancing rachenitsa. I think this is part of the school curriculum in Bulgaria.”