Dospatsko horo (1?*, 2*) – Rhodopes, seuBulgarian

*1st Generation dance. A dance that developed in a traditional way – not ‘taught’ by a teacher or choreographer, but ‘learned’ by observing and imitating others in your “village”, where the village’s few dances were the only dances anyone knew. It usually is ‘generic’ – the dance pattern is fairly simple and not tied to any particular piece of music. The dance phrase may or may not match any musical phrase (be concordant), but the music’s rhythm must be suitable for performing the footwork. This dance may have many variations, but they’re performed at the whim or inspiration of the leader or (sometimes) any other dancer so long as it doesn’t interfere with the flow of neighboring dancers. For more, click here, here, and here.

*2nd Generation dance. A dance that developed and was disseminated in a non-traditional way. 2G dances are specific – have a fixed format designed to correspond with the arrangement of a particular recording., whereas 1G dances are generic – have a shorter sequence that works with live music – where many different songs are played and arrangements vary according to the tastes of musicians and dancers. For more on the differences between 1st & 2nd G dances click here.

There is some doubt whether Dospatsko horo is a traditional 1G dance. What’s for certain is it is named after the town of Dospat in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria.

“The town was probably founded by Despot Alexius Slav in the 12th or 13th century, from whose title (despot) its name is very likely derived. As of December 2010, the town has a population of 2,425 inhabitants who are mainly Bulgarian Muslims.” Wikipedia
The Rhodope Mountains, in turn, box in a separate ethnographic region within Bulgaria named, believe it or not, Rhodope (bottom of map).


For more sheet music, click here.

8/8 rhythm

Excerpt from Folk Dance Problem Solver ©1997 by Ron Houston “According to all Bulgarian sheet music and to Rosen Toshov’s book [Akro Taktovi: Eseta (Sofia, 1994)] Dospatsko has an 8/8 rhythm of slow, quick, slow, counted 1-2-3, 4-5, 6-7-8. Most Rhodope tunes use a sustained E minor drone because the Rhodope kaba gayda [flabby bagpipe] can produce only that bass accompaniment. Dospatsko, however, used the fundamental chord-chord bass line and originally was played on tupan (drum) and zurna (ear-spliting tool of the devil), indicating vestigial Turkish influence.”

7/8 rhythm

Contemporary arrangements, however, present the rhythm as 7/8 (slow, quick-quick), perhaps confusing it with the more common lesnoto rhythm of Macedonia to the southwest.
Another, faster version by the Theodosii Spassov Quartet.


Dospatsko horo (though not the Moreau version) is described in two Bulgarian sources: Biblioteka: Tantsova Samodeynost: Rodopski hora i igri (November 1961), and Sbornik Bûlgarski folklorni hora (1970). What is in doubt is how much the dances known by recreational folk dancers as Dospatsko Horo bear any resemblance to what was traditionally danced in Dospat.

Excerpt from Folk Dance Problem Solver ©1997 by Ron Houston “Dospatsko comes from the Pomak (Bulgarian Moslem) culture of the town of Dospat in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria….(Some) Islamic cultures discourage women from dancing, especially with men. Dospatsko, a men’s dance, has added for the stage a woman’s role, that of dancing a ‘bloop bloop’ step in the background…

Ron Houston, in personal correspondence, writes “Tantsova Samodeynost is a series of how-to magazines published by the state-owned “Science and Art” publishing house. Sbornik Bûlgarski folklorni hora (1970) by Boris Vulkov. It is a publication of the “Committee for Art and Culture” of the government “ministry for amateur arts. Both publications were created for the amateur level of what I call the farm system – a way that most dancers were introduced to performance dancing (in the old days), and one way that dancers advanced to the larger ensembles (another way would be graduation from a state-sponsored dance school). Vulkov apparently collected the dances in his book from previous works, such as Tantsova Samodeynost. In other words, neither source appears to be original research, but rather self-help manuals of dances formalized for amateur dance groups. I find it curious that both works describe the same 8/8 Dospatsko horo in 1961 and 1970, because Moreau was gathering many of those dances in the late 1960s, but came back with the 7/8 Dospatsko.

My best guess is that Dospatsko was one of those heavily emotive improvisational man’s dance such as Atanas’s Adana, or the Hasapiko of rebetiko tradition. Someone formalized it for stage, and it grew from there.”

Yves Moreau 2G version

Which brings us to the Dospatsko horo best known by recreational folk dancers, that of Yves Moreau. Yves says he learned his dance in 1969 from Nasko Dimitrov in Smoljan, a city in Rhodope near Dospat. What is not known is whether Nasko Dimitrov was a ‘village’ dancer, or a teacher/dancer from the “farm system”. Certainly Yves’ dance has all the hallmarks of a 2G creation – a fixed footwork pattern that corresponds perfectly to the arrangement of a particular recording.

“Yves Moreau presented a Dospatkso to international folk dancers in 1970 as learned from Nasko Dimitrov of Smoljan, a prominent town in Rhodope. That version is unknown (or very well hidden) in Rhodope and now may be (like it’s recording) a Pirin version imitating the style of Dospat….” As seen in the notes below, Yves specified a formation of “segregated lines”, men with shoulder hold, women with “W” hold. Ron again “Yves presented the dance also in lines of mixed-up men and women to suit the needs of recreational folk dancing.”

Karen Faust demonstrates.

A DVD of Yves Moreau demonstrating Dospatsko, and 19 other dances introduced by him, can be purchased, along with a companion CD of the music, from Yves demonstrates much more knee and foot flexion than shown below. The Karen Faust video, above is closer to Moreau, though her arms move much more than Yves’. Arm movements should emanate from knee and foot movements, not amplified with additional shoulder movements.

Henry (and friend) demonstrate.
Vienna, Austria. 2011.

The footwork of Moreau’s Dospatsko is a classic example of one of the 2 basic pan-Balkan dance patterns – Uneven Walking; the S,Q,Q, version. For more detail, click here.

Caption: Kabilé takes their name from the village of the same name in central Bulgaria, where the band played one of their earliest gigs. They have since become widely known for their bitov (traditional) style and highly-enjoyable melodies. Kabilé’s five members are all life-long, professionally-trained musicians with decades of teaching and performing experience. In 2017, they returned for their first U.S. tour in 5 years. This video was taken on October 28, 2017 at the Folk Dance Center in San Diego, California. The musicians are: Donka Koleva (vocals), Nikolay Kolev (gadulka), Nikolay Doktorov (kaval), Ivan Handzhiev (vocals and accordion), and Dzhenko Andreev (gaida). Accompanied by Mary Marshall (tapan) in San Diego.
The ancient Thracian city of Kabyle was one of the most important and largest towns in Thrace and its architectural remains are impressive, many of them preserved and restored.
Ensemble “Kalina”, Sofia, performs the Moreau version at Trun 2015.
Trun or Tran, Трън
Music used in above performance by “Kalina” at Trun. Musicians – Rila. Album – Bolgákert.

Leegwater 2G version

Written up for 1992 Stockton, but not taught.

Karapaunov 2G version.

Again from the Folk Dance Problem Solver ©1997 by Ron Houston “We learned the second [Dospatsko horo] from that Rodopsko chedo [child of the Rhodopes] Tom Karapaunov, teacher at the 1995 and 1996 Society of Folk Dance Historians Bulgarian Seminars, held partly in Toma’s hometown of Momchilovtsi, Rhodope. Toma’s version occurs in the Biblioteka: Tantsova Samodeynost: Rodopski hora i igri (November 1961), and Sbornik Bûlgarski folklorni hora (1970).”

Ron then provides a detailed description in the Problem Solver.

Ron in personal correspondence “The version that we learned in Rhodope was similar to your third video, [first below] but in SQS [8/8] instead of SQQ, [7/8] with a lot more gravitas, and done only by men, as I remember. Toma told us that he learned it (and most of his other dances) during his military service, while performing with the Bulgarian Army’s ensemble (the outfit that Petur Iliev failed to qualify for). In other words, I do not think that it came from Toma’s Rhodope cultural background.”

Yet another 2G version?

The source of this dance is unknown. It may incorporate moves from the culture of Rhodope, it is non-concordant with the music, although the format is fixed and danced uniformly by both genders.

Labeled Доспатско хоро (Dospatsko horo). Performed by FTC “Bulgarian Rhythm”, a group that appears to be located in London, UK. Music – “Tezhkoto” by the Zornitsa Orchestra, on Balkanfolk records, issued 2002. 8/8 time. 2012.
Triaditsa, 2009. Same choreography as above, using the 7/8 music introduced by Moreau. Dospatsko starts at 3:53. https://www.youtu

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