- (1*) is my designation for a 1st Generation dance. For an explanation of 1st Generation dances, go to the bottom of this page.
The literal, dictionary, translation of “Arap” is, of course, “Arab”; however, in Balkan folklore the word “arap” or “arapin” occurs frequently referring to an ill-defined, dark-complexioned, malevolent adversary or superhuman being. There is a whole cycle of epic poems about Marko Kraljevic and the “crni arapin”. Dick Crum, eefc ListServ, May8, 1998,
As to Arap, this word is rarely used [in Greece] to mean an Arab; the most common word for Arab is Aravas. Arap or Arapis usually refers to a black person….I should add that in Turkish “Arap” has two meanings: “Arab” and a dark or black person (including a person who painted or masked his face with a black dye or object in Anatolian mythology). Many Africans who were brought to the Ottoman palaces were/are called either Habesh (Ethiopean) or Arap. If a person has a dark skin, s/he may get this nickname, such as Arap Ali. [Turkish words can not end with a ‘hard’ consonant like ‘b’ or ‘d’ (in which the voice box is used), they are converted to their ‘soft’ counterparts, like ‘p’ or ‘t’ respectively (without voice box), if they are imported from other languages]. Yvonne Hunt, eefc ListServ + personal correspondence, May 8. 1998, Oct 6, 2021.
Today in the Balkans, arap perjoratively describes anyone of imagined darker skin pigmentation than the speaker. In today’s Bulgarian, the accent falls on the last syllable (ah-RAHP). Occasionally, it has been presented as AH-rahp, but that could be an error or a dialectical difference found in [North] Macedonia. Ron Houston © 2008 Folk Dance Problem Solver
The DANCE in (what is now) Greece
There appear to be at least two dances called Arap (also Arapaki and Arap Havasi) to be found in what is now Greek Macedonia (also called Aegean Macedonia).
The first Arap is a dance done at carnival time, where men dress up in costumes and ‘dance’ or mime or generally act up. It has many local foot patterns (Zaramo, for instance).
“Arap” (Gk: Arab) is a carnival dance of Greek Macedonia. Revelers dress up in costumes to look like “Arapides” (Arabs or black men) and camel drivers. This happens during New Years (January) and Apokrias (Carnival, just before Lent, usually around middle or late February) celebrations. They use soot
from their ovens to create a black-face, throw a flokati over their shoulders, and lurch around with a long sword, like Charon. I don’t recommend this outfit at your favorite folkdance club, however. 🙂 Yvonne Hunt would probably be the most authoritative source of information about this if anyone has a further interest. Joan Friedberg, eefc ListServ, Dec 4, 2003.
The second Arap, also known as Arapaki and Arap Havasi, is a more specific 8-measure, 2/4 time dance, done only in Serres Prefecture (the Greek equivalent of an American county).
Here’s an excerpt from Yvonne Hunt‘s amazing ©2015 book “A Nest Of Gold” Nearly 500 pages +CD and DVD on the history, customs, celebrations, and dances of the Serres Prefecture. [Arap Havasi] is a frequently encountered dance name, and was heard in almost all parts of the prefecture. In spite of this, I have seen it performed in only two villages: Kimisi and Iraklia. I encountered it in Kimisi in 1983, and found it danced not only by the local performing group but also by the villagers on various dance occasions. With ensuing visits to the village in the next several years, I observed that it was still being danced but mainly by the older generation, especially after the dissolution of the performing group. When a group of companions at a taverna requested it during apokreas celebrations in 1992, the musicians gladly complied. However, when the dancers had been on the dance floor for about a minute, younger celebrants (in their 30’s and 40’s) began to shout both at the musicians to stop playing and at the dancers to leave the floor because they did not want to see and hear these “old dances”. They wanted to continue their celebration with Syrtos and Tsifteteli. Indeed the dancers, I being one of them, not only left the dance floor but also left the celebration.
I have seen the dance performed in the village [Kimisi] only once since that time, but admittedly am not there for many dance events. One informant said only old people now dance it. Another agreed. He also stated that at one time it was a “free” dance and later made into a dance for people holding hands.
I do not know this as a carnival dance from central Macedonia or anywhere else. That doesn’t mean that there is no dance by that name done at some carnival celebration. I am not familiar with it. I do know it from the Serres Prefecture. In fact, to date I have found it in at least three different forms. Two of them I have seen and know the music for. The third, a dance of mimicry, I have only had described to me in various villages. Yvonne Hunt, eefc ListServ, May 8. 1998. Arap of the Serres region is NOT a carnival dance. It may be danced at any occasion. It does mean Arab, but is more commonly used to mean someone who is black. Yvonne Hunt, eefc ListServ, Dec 12, 2003
Joan Friedberg, eefc ListServ, May 6, 1998 In the Serres region, the local people have a traditional dance called “Arap.” The music for it is played on zournades and daouli. This is done at carnival time, and it may also provide great entertainment, but it is a genuine folk dance known by natives to the region. It consists of very deliberate lifts and steps and does NOT have seven variations. Some dance directors of performing groups in Greece are guilty of “choreographing” dances for the stage and, in the process, transforming the dance, but I don’t know of any instances of the outright invention of dances in Greece. Most Greek dances have been distilled and filtered down through the folk process and thus have an aura of authenticity (IMHO) about them, as this one does. Some U.S. folk dancers, especially those who know regional Greek dances, also know this “real” Arap.
Yvonne Hunt, eefc ListServ, Dec 12, 2003. ….Yannis Maindarlis changed the name from Arap to Arapaki when he went to perform at Dora Stratou Theatre. He changed or “hellenized” the names of several other dances as well. Some have told me it was Stratou’s request as she did not want to present dances with Turkish names–I never discussed it with Yanni. However, he also used the “hellenized” names when he took his dancers from Kimisi to other nearby villages to dance…..
Below – 3 different recordings of Arap Havasi/Arapaki – each uses the same melody, vaguely similar to Zajko kokorajko.
Yvonne Hunt, eefc ListServ, Dec 12, 2003 (excerpts) ….I first saw the dance at Dora Stratou Theatre in 1980, danced by Yannis Maindarlis of Kimisi, Serres. I subsequently learned it from him in Kimisi in 1982 and have danced it with the villagers there many times.
In my own simplified notes it is: Arms: W. Style: high wide leg lifts for the men in the typical local style;
lower lifts for women. Begins with with weight on L.
1-4: Four “lift steps” in LOD, facing center at end of fourth, with weight on L. 5: Cross R in front of L, taking weight, T Step L to left, 6: Close R to left, no weight. 7, 8: Repeat 5&6 above, but in place rather than moving to L. When music speeds up, lift step becomes hop step. Other steps remain the same but livelier.
Note: Yvonne’s dance description (above) matches the Arapaki YouTube (also above), except for the arm swings. Commenting on the YouTube in personal correspondence with Yvonne (2021), she wrote: However, I never observed such arm/hand movement at anytime in either of the two villages where I observed it. This looks very much like something a dance teacher has added to “make it more interesting”. Also, after the 4 lift-steps to the right, the right, left, close sequence should move slightly to the left; the second such sequence is in place–as I saw it both in the village and at D. Stratou Theatre.
Joe Graziosi, eefc ListServ, June 3, 1998, As Dick and Yvonne pointed out, the dance Arap is originally from the Serres region of Greek east Macedonia (people should realize that Yvonne Hunt has done the most intensive and extensive on site research on the dance traditions of Serres prefecture.) I first learned Arap as performed in the village of Kimisis [sic] (formerly Spatovo or Ispat-koy) from the late Ted Petrides in 1982 and then again from Paul Ginis in 1984? after he collaborated with Yvonne to film many of the dances of this village. I taught the dance in 1985 and 1986 at several workshops using music I obtained from Ted which happens to be the same music as recorded by Mitsos Hintzos that Yvonne mentions in her posting. I also had George Chittenden and David Bilides learn the tune and George has played it on the zurna on occasions at my request. In any case this tune is not Zajko but is similar however to the tunes Nizamikos from Naoussa, Rudo Yiagne from Edessa/Voden and Pembe from Vardar [N] Macedonia.
A Region Divided
Recall that before 1912, what we now call Macedonia was, and had been for centuries, part of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). Turks, Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, Roma, Sephardic Jews, Armenians, Vlachs, and many other ethnicities were intermixed – no ethnic territories, all ‘Empire’.
After 1913, the Macedonian part of the Empire was split between Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. When the respective armies moved in to claim ‘their’ land (in order to make more loyal, ‘secure’ border regions) people on the ‘wrong’ side of a new border either fled, were evicted or killed.
Joe Graziosi, eefc ListServ, June 3, 1998. I also wonder if the dance Arap was originally part of the local repertoire of Pirin Macedonia or was brought there by the large number of Slavs who fled the Serres region for Bulgaria after the Greek army occupied the area during the Second Balkan War.
The DANCE in (what is now) Bulgaria
Today, Bulgarians consider Arap to be a Bulgarian dance, from the Pirin region, the area won in the 1912-1914 Balkan Wars. “Arap came to the town of Petrič and the Struma River valley in Pirin (Bulgarian Eastern Macedonia) with refugees from the village of Spatovo, Ser region (Aegean Macedonia) during the sad days of forced Hellenization following World War I.” Tantsova samodeynost, #1, 1958, translated by Tatiana Nikolova-Houston in https://sfdh.us/encyclopedia/arap.html. “Spatovo, Ser” is now called “Kimisi, Serres”. See the second ‘DANCE in (what is now) Greece‘, above.
I have not seen any YouTubes of Arap horo being danced in a ‘village’-style social event either in Pirin or other parts of Bulgaria. However there are lots of YouTubes of urban Bulgarian recreational dancers doing Arap. They look much like recreational dancers in Western Europe and North America, but younger and with more energy.
Yves Moreau, eefc ListServ, May 8, 1998 I have found in my Bulgarian book collection and notes several mentions of the dance ARAP. Kostadin Ruitchev describes it in “Folklorni hora ot Pirinski Kraj” 1963 and the dance has often been part of choreographed suites for such groups as Pirin Ensemble (Ruitchev was choreographer of Pirin in early years). The dance according to him originates from Serres region (now in Greece). Jaap Leegwater did teach Arap in 1984 and has two nice recordings on his cassette JL 1984.02. One is played on zurna and tapan by musicians from Debren; the second one is kaval, tambura, etc. Jaap says he learned the dance from Ivan Piperkov in Blagoevgrad in 1975 and later saw K. Ruitchev teaching it at a seminar in Holland. If I remember well, Jaap taught it at a workshop in Vancouver BC a few years back. The dance is very similar from the Crum-Boxell version. The music has that same slow heavy tempo.
Like Pravo, Arap is a foot pattern that has been danced to many different songs, the name of the dance often being the name of the song. Currently, the most popular song associated with Arap in Bulgaria is Neveno mome, in 2/4 time. For English lyrics, click here.
The DANCE among ‘western’ recreational folk dancers
North Americans likely know the dance Arap as the pattern introduced by Dick Crum and/or Dennis Boxell, using the recording of Zajko kokorajko.
Dick Crum, eefc ListServ, May 8, 1998, revised Dec 2003. My involvement with Arap is as follows: When the Kutev Ensemble first came to the U.S. (I don’t have the date handy – early ’60s), I went to N.Y. to see the premiere at Lincoln Center. I knew some of the singers and dancers, and over the next few days there were a number of dance parties and other get-togethers. Two young men in the group (brothers or cousins) were born and raised in a village near Serres (their word was “Sersko”), present-day Greece, but were Slavs and had emigrated with their parents to Sofia. They showed us this dance from their native village. It was called “Arap”. The music, which one of them played on a gudulka and, on another occasion, on a kaval, was very monotonous and “minimalistic”, consisting of a 2-measure 2/4-time phrase repeated endlessly with barely perceptible melodic variation (the 2nd measure had 2 accented quarter-note beats, a distinct “bam-bam”, in a way reminiscent of the 3 beats that typically end a passage in a hornpipe). To my inquiries, they stressed that “Arap” was NOT a stage choreography, but exactly the way they had done it in their village. They did not sing any lyrics to it. We liked the dance and I jotted it down; it was an 8-measure dance.
Not long after that, I came across Aco Sarievski’s rendering of “Zajko kokorajko” on a Jugoton disk, and realized that it was the same tune as “Arap”. Though it had the vocal, it certainly was the same melody, so I began teaching “Arap” to it. My earliest dated syllabus notes for it are from a workshop I did in Chicago in 1964. During my oral presentation I was careful to mention that the lyrics had nothing to do with the dance, that it was an unrelated humorous Macedonian song about a hapless rabbit would-be bridegroom. But it wasn’t long before people began requesting the words. I sat down and transcribed them and gave them to Ira Gessel, editor of the MIT Song Book. I also gave copies to a couple other folk dancers. Soon after that, people started calling the dance “Zajko” and unenlightened folks began to see rabbit-like elements in the dance, and I imagine some were already seeing pagan fertility ritual origins in it.
Dick Crum, eefc ListServ, May 8, 1998, revised Dec 2003. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1972 I visited the Intersection folk dance coffee house one Wednesday night (regular Balkan night at that time), and at one point heard the familiar tune, and saw the floor fill up with dancers doing a very fast dance to it, totally unrelated to what I knew as “Arap” – the footwork was intricate and in the style of “Ratevka”, “Kopacka” or “Berovka”, but everybody was doing it. When I asked what it was, I was told “Zajko kokorajko”. I’m not familiar with the “Skopsko za ramo” mentioned by some other contributors – maybe that’s what it was, although my knee-jerk (excuse!) reaction to that title would be the old familiar lesno as done in Skopje.
Dick Crum, eefc ListServ, May 8, 1998, revised Dec 2003. I recently saw a video by a Bulgarian teacher named Ventsi, who I believe now lives in Chicago. He does a dance called “Arap” which is clearly the same dance I learned from the boys from “Sersko”, with one or two minor differences. Also, the version introduced by Dennis Boxell is essentially the same. For more on Ventsi’s Arap, click here
Dick Crum, eefc ListServ, Dec 6, 2003. For those interested in comparing the various versions of “Arap”/”Katerinmome”, here are the notes to the dance “Arap” as I learned it and taught it in the 1960s. See my posting of 12/4. You’ll see that it is basically the dance posted by Jeremy Hull, also on 12/4, the main differences being in measures 4, 7 and 8. I’ve taken the liberty of using a slightly modified form of Jeremy’s “template” (thanks, Jeremy!).
ARAP as learned by Dick Crum in 1963 from two Slav Macedonians from near
Serres/Sersko (present-day Greece) who had migrated from their village to
Sofia, Bulgaria. Formation: line, mixed men and women, hands in “W” hold.
Style: Men: strong; leg-swings are high and broad. Women: strong, but leg-swings much more restrained in terms of height and breadth.
Meter: 2/4Moving in line of direction (counterclockwise around), facing forward in this direction:
- (1) With weight on L ft and facing in line of direction, rise and come down again on L ft, “descending” on count 1, lifting and swinging R ft around in front with R knee flexed; on count 2 step R ft forward in line of direction. [Note: the “rise and come down again” is a movement known by the Bulgarian\term “chukche” [chook-CHEH, ‘little hammer’]. In English it is sometimes called “heel-drop”. Some U.S. teachers call it a “lift”, which I tend to discourage, because the accent is on the “descent” of the heel on the beat, whereas the lift onto the toe is really preparatory, and comes before the beat. The foot is in contact with the ground throughout the step.]
- (2) Continuing forward in line of direction, repeat movements of (1) with opposite footwork (chukche on R ft, step forward on L ft).
- (3) Continuing forward in line of direction, repeat movements of (1) (chukcheon L ft, step forward on R ft), turning to face center by the end of themeasure.
- (4) Now facing directly toward center with weight on R ft, chukche on R ft on count 1, bringing L knee up in front and swinging L ft back a little; on count 2 swing L ft sharply down and forward, L knee straight, L heel almost touching floor in front and leaning back SLIGHTLY.
- (5) Still facing center, straighten up and take two walking steps backwards, L-R.
- (6) Still facing center, close L ft beside R ft, settling onto both feet together with accent and hold.
- (7) Still facing center, step R ft forward on count 1, kicking L ft up in back; on count 2 step L ft backward.
- (8) Beginning to turn R to assume initial position, step R ft R on count 1; on count 2 step L ft across in front of R ft (“passing it”) so as to end up in position to repeat the dance.
For more descriptions of the footwork to Arap as taught to North American recreational dancers, see Ron Houston’s SIFD article here.
*1st G dance
*As explained on the page “what is a Real Folk Dance“, a 1st Generation dance (1stG, a phrase coined by Don Buskirk) stems from a 1st Existence (a phrase coined by Joann Kealiinohomoku) situation. It was originally performed in a “society in which dancing constitutes part of the living tradition” [Kealiinohomoku], not on a stage, by people who learned the dance informally – by mimicking, or from friends or relatives (not from a teacher in a classroom situation).
By my definition, no matter how “authentic” the steps or music are, their particular combination must arise from a 1st Existence situation to be called a 1st Generation dance. If later on that same dance is seen on a stage performed by people from another culture (2nd Existence), the dance is still 1stG.
Some 1stG dances are no longer performed in 1st Existence situations, even in their native land. Nevertheless they’re treasured in their home as part of their culture’s heritage, and are performed on stage by local dance troupes (2nd Existence). I think of them as museum pieces, but they’re still 1stG dances.
If a 1stG dance can be seen being performed in 1st Existence situations, like weddings, homes, parties, street festivals, etc, by people in their everyday clothing (not tricked-up matching sets of “traditional” costumes), then I call it a Living Dance, a special subset of 1stG dances. Dancing in modern clothes, not costume is to me a “certificate of authenticity”, meaning that the dance is relevant in the present day.
It is my intention to back up all 1stG dances listed here with YouTubes of their modern performances in native situations. That includes performances in traditional locations and by expat immigrant groups, but not recreational folk dance groups.