Belasičko oro – 'Macedonia'

Belasičko – Music

Belasičko oro (beh-LAH-seech-koh, or beh-lah-SEECH-koh, depending on the Macedonian dialect) is the dance associated with a mountain range namd Belasica on the North Macedonian/Bulgarian/Greek border.

Belasica range, circled in red.

According to Ron Houston in the © 2000 Folk Dance Problem Solver, the music for Belasičko oro was composed, or rather arranged, by Ivan Terziev, a classically-trained Macedonian flutist from east Macedonia who combined six traditional melodies into a beautiful medley of listening music. The recording was released in the mid-1960’s on the RTB label as a 45rpm EP, #14729.

Sheet music can be found here: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/music/sheet-music/belasicko-oro-sheet-music/

Belasičko – the ‘Dance’

As for the ‘dance’ Belasičko oro, Ron Houston says it was introduced by Atanas Kolarovski “in about 1966, shortly after the release of the recording in Macedonia. He had spread it to the Midwest and West Coast by 1968, saying that it came from shepherds in the area of Strumica, Eastern Macedonia.” It’s still quite popular among recreational folk dancers. I found 10 YouTubes showing recreational groups worldwide.

This page © 2018 by Ron Houston.

Is Belasičko a Macedonian Dance?

I Googled Belasičko oro looking for Macedonain dancers and only came up with YouTubes of recretional dancers outside the Balkans. I did find a few North Macedonian recordings of the music. I also Googled Беласичко оро – Belasičko in cyrillic – and got the same results plus one other piece of music in 9/8.

According to a Michael, quoted in the Society of Folk Dance Historians website article © 2018 on Atanas Kolarovski:”With regard to Belasičko, I remember hearing a rumor that Atanas had created the dance (from Macedonian steps and styling) and people found out and were quite angered. Any one have any information on this? (The story contrasts many recent ethnochoreographic researchers, who feel quite free to say, “I created this dance based on Bulgarian, Armenian… steps and style” and quite freely teach their dance.)

David Owens is quoted as saying this about Belasičko oro. “I always assume that a complicated dance like that, done only to a recently composed tune, has been invented by someone. Hard to imagine the village folk doing it.” Makes sense to me – shepherds, who spend most of the time isolated in the mountains, where they make their own music to while away the time, creating a ‘traditional’ dance from a newly-released recording they would have difficulty hearing with any regularity?

ANECDOTE, by Ron Houston, quoted in the Society of Folk Dance Historians website article © 2018 on Atanas Kolarovski: http://www.sfdh.us/encyclopedia/kolarovski_a.html . “Atanas taught a number of the dances we now associate with him. A few years later he came through again, and we were startled that some of the details were different. Someone got up the nerve to ask, and the response went along the lines of, “Oh, people get tired of doing the same thing, so you have to change something.” It set my own personal evaluation of Mr. K’s credibility back a whole long way. To me, there was (and still is) a great difference between having someone present a dance as “old, traditional” and having the dance announced as “based on traditional steps/styling/etc.” I can HANDLE either one, I just wanna know! But now, some 30 years later . . . I wonder to what extent this was a LANGUAGE problem? As in: did he really PRESENT it as “old traditional,” or did we blindly assume that, because it was being taught by an “ethnic,” a “real Macedonian,” that that was the only thing it COULD be? Did HE pull that wool over our eyes, or did WE do it to ourselves?! I was at that New Haven (January 1965) workshop with Atanas too but at that time he was accompanied by Dennis Boxell and stuck to teaching basic styling and stance, and taught a Pravoto, Sadilo Mome, Berovka, Tropnalo Oro, and one or two others, all nice basic and about as authentic as you can get (given the inevitable sea changes) Macedonian dances. However, when he was invited to the Boston area by the Taylors in 1966 he was on his own and teaching dances of dubious origin and authenticity, including Belasičko, which I distinctly remember Bob Leibman, who did not “buy” Atanas’ explanation of provenance (questioning him about it), and Tino Mori, which seems like a straightforward Lesnoto . . . Atanas got non-plussed when he did it to the music after teaching us and discovered that the instrumental interlude was shorter than his dance phrase . . . he quit and after a break (for lunch I think) came back with a modified dance phrase for the instrumental interlude. He was not, as far as I recall, invited back to the Boston area, and I believe that was because of the uncertainty as to the authenticity of the dances he was teaching. Since he was and is a fantastic dancer, and capable of teaching village material (Tom Roby reports that Neal Sandler once got him to do an entire workshop of such material), it is too bad that he felt compelled to choreograph so much . . . but on the other hand, he’s pretty gifted as a choreographer. In fact, one of my main quarrels with him is his tendency to create four measure dances from ones that were originally three measure, and longer-phrased dances just to fit the musical phrase, when one of the fascinations for me is the dynamic tension between the musical and the dance phrases. (To my objection he once said, quite seriously, “but that’s the current trend”.) I enjoy many of his dances. I am still mad at Atanas because the last time he taught in Chicago he taught some more of “his” dances . . . then that night a Macedonian band was playing . . . he is up there leading the dances . . . the REAL Macedonian dances, which were not what he had taught all day and many didn’t know (including me). It would have been much better if he had taught the actual dances the band was going to play that night!”

COMMENTS:

John Uhlemann wrote: “Thanks for this. I had come to the same conclusions many years ago, and was familiar with the Ivan Terziev recording and the subsequent history. Like you say, many things are enjoyable, but in the end it is all about transparency.”

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