Pljeskavac (Clap Kolo) – Banatean-American

The story of Pljeskavac (Clap Kolo) is an odd one, as there is no trace of a dance by this name in its supposed place of origin, yet the ‘authenticity’ of the dance is hard to deny.

In their book Folk Dance Progressions, (Barnes & Noble, 1947), authors Miriam Lidster and Dorothy Tamburini wrote “The members of the Banat Tamburitza Orchestra in Philadelphia, who originally learned Pljeskavac Kolo from a Romanian, put the dance to the melody of Djurdjevka; as such, Pljeskavac spread throughout the United States.” Here’s the original Banat Tamburitsa Orchestra recording.

The following quote is from the notes promoting the release of a CD collection of the Orchestra’s recordings between 1943 & 1963. The collection is available from Festival Records: http://www.mermaidsofvenice.com/festival/tamburitza.htmlThe Banat Tamburitza Orchestra, founded in 1912 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, by immigrants from San Petru Mare, a Serbian village in Romania, were beloved across the country for the next sixty years.” What’s a Serbian village doing in Romania, you might ask? The answer is contained in the Orchestra’s name – Banat. The Banat is a region whose geographic and ethnographic features are so strong as to transcend the boundaries politicians have drawn across it. Serbs, Hungarians, Romanians, Germans, Roma and others have lived there for centuries, scattered like buckshot across the whole region. For more about the Banat, see https://folkdancefootnotes.org/culture/ethnicity-history-geography/banat-region-romania-serbia-hungary/.

BANAT REGION, showing Sanpetru Mare, home of the Banat Tamburica Orchestra.

Since the Banat Tamburiza Orchestra was founded in New Jersey in 1913, its members must have left Sanpetru Mare before then. Before 1913 Sanpetru Mare was not in Romania – it was a part of the Hungarian division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Serbs and Romanians lived in nearby separate villages, or mixed in the same village – equally second-class citizens to the ruling Hungarians. Music and dance ideas were easily copied and exchanged. For a Serb to learn a dance from a Romanian was no big deal – musicians played dance music for both groups and needed a wide repertoire. What is interesting is that the Tamburitzans decided to fit Djurdjevka – a ‘Serbian’ melody to the dance. Did they not know or like the melody supplied by the Romanian, or did they purposely decide to change a ‘Romanian’ tune into a ‘Serbian” one, to appeal to their predominately Serbian-American audience? Did they also change the name of the dance to a Serbian name? Did the dance in its original form even have a name? As for the dance itself, its basic pattern of slow, slow, quick-quick, slow, is common among Banat Serbs (Šetnja) [See: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/] and Romanians (Hora Banateana).

The pattern is so common in Romanian Banat it’s called Hora Banateana.
This rendition by Dunav utilizes ‘kolo shouts’ – similar to the Romanian practice of Strigaturi,
see https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/dance-information/strigaturi-romania/
An interesting, presumably modern variation.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, Pljeskavac became a very popular dance among Serbs and folk dancers in general. Michael Herman released the Banat Tamburica music under his record label as MH 1009, and was teaching it in California as early as 1951. Dick Crum learned it from Herman and spread it further. John Filcich taught a simpler version, named Clap Kolo [Pljeskavac means ‘clap’] which is also popular. Nowadays Pljeskavac, especially in this simpler version, is mostly used as a beginners’ or childrens’ dance.

So is a dance Serbian because it was named and played by a Serbian band, even if they acknowledge they learned it from a Romanian using a common Romanian pattern and changed the melody to something Serbian? Who can say? What we can say is Pljeskavac is a product of the Banat, a region both Serbian and Romanian.

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