About Godeč and the Nišava River
Godeč is a town (pop 4500) in western Bulgaria, not quite on the Bulgarian/Serbian border, but on the headwaters of the Nišava River. The Nišava soon flows into Serbia (and through Niš, of Niška Banja fame, just prior to), emptying into the Morava on its way to the Danube. Before current political boundaries were drawn, when for hundreds of years all of the Nišava River was in Ottoman territory and roads were few, Bulgarians of Godeč traded downstream (north) and were strongly influenced by Serbian culture, while Serbians also picked up Bulgarian cultural traits. The style of dancing on both sides of the (relatively new) border is very similar.
Godečki čačak is not a čačak.
Godečki čačak (goh-DEHTCH-kee CHAH-chahk) is a classic example of what I label a 2nd Generation folk dance – otherwise known as “arranged folklore” (For more on this, click https://folkdancefootnotes.org/begin/how-balkan-folk-dances-are-made-arranged-folklore/). Though the dance is considered Serbian and/or Bulgarian by recreational folk dancers, no one in either Serbia or Bulgaria would call a dance similar to this by this name. Likely no one in Serbia or Bulgaria has ever danced this particular choreography, nor would they recognize the American-made (1967) recording that is the universally-used musical accompaniment. According to the ©2015 Folk Dance Problem Solver, the dance’s creator, Dick Crum, “choreographed Godečki Čačak as part of Serbian Medley #6, ‘Nišava Valley Dance Suite’ for the Duquesne University Tamburitzans (of Pittsburgh, PA) for the 1964-1965 performance year. Possibly to appease his largely Serbo-Croatian audiences, he termed those dances ‘Serbian Folk Dances,’ and he may have felt that a Serbian dance deserved a Serbian dance name, such as ‘čačak.”
However Godečki čačak is not an example of a Serbian čačak, though there are similarities. [For more about čačak, click https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/cacak/]. Both this dance and čačak have a 10-measure dance pattern that goes right and left. However the čačak pattern typically has a 5+3+2 measure sequence that is not symmetrical to the right and left, while this dance has a 2+3 measure to the right, 2+3 measure to the left, symmetrical sequence. Instead of a čačak, Godečki čačak is an arrangement of a Za pojas “by the belt” dance, referring to holding on to the next person by their belt.
Za pojas – the dance form of which Godečki čačak is an example
How Crum created Za Pojas–Godečki čačak and how it has evolved
The ©2015 Folk Dance Problem Solver states “Inferring from the EFC listserve messages, Crum apparently derived the motifs and musical score for Za pojas-Godečki čačak from [the book or periodical] ‘Godečki narodni hora’ in Tancova Samodejnost 3:2 (Sofia, Bulgaria, 1959).” In other words, although Crum may have seen versions of Za Pojas live, he got his steps for his Godečki čačak out of a book. The Problem Solver says “Crum frequently mentioned ‘a dozen or so variants”, so the 4-part dance created by Crum was a distillation of many different steps, likely collected for the publication in varying locations at different times.
Introduced in 1968, Godečki čačak was an immediate hit among recreational folk dancers. Almost as immediate was the evolution of the dance. Quoting again from the ©2015 Folk Dance Problem Solver “As with other wildly popular dances, this dance lost its original styling as it spread across the folk dance world and through the folk dance decades. Unfortunately, even Bulgarian folk-ballet ensembles changed the dance from Crum’s low, solid Godeč Šop styling to the higher, lighter folk-ballet styling. Be VERY careful-critical when you search for Internet videos of the dance. Travesties abound!”
Line length, though not specified in Crum’s notes, was generally accepted by recreational groups to be short, when in fact Za pojas tradition was for long lines. Some groups favored two opposing lines, though that was not Za pojas tradition either. In notes to the 1971 Maine Folk Dance Camp, Crum wrote “Important to this and other ‘Shope’-style dances is the so-called ‘half sitting’ position: knees should be very slightly bent throughout.” This is not apparent in any of the demonstration videos shown below.
Dance notes found here: http://socalfolkdance.com/dances/G/Godecki_Cacak.pdf
Applying Za pojas practices to Godečki čačak.
As quoted in the ©2015 Problem Solver “Crum explained the name ‘Na dva tanca’ as follows: In some villages Godečki čačak is called Na tva tanca (“with two leaders”). In these villages the men on both ends of the line must be excellent dancers. In the course of the dance each leader will take turns swinging his half of the line inward toward the other half, then out again. The steps used for this forward movement are those of figure IV; the ‘inactive’ half of the line does one of the more stationary figures, such as II or III. The co-ordination of these steps or movements, however, is very tricky, and depends on quick, almost imperceptible signals as well as years of practicing together! (Folk Arts Workshop, YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, February, 1968).”
“Kasimir Petrov, (1990, Bulgarski Narodni Tantsi Ot Severozapadna Bulgarija), said much the same, but in Bulgarian: Typical for this horo, is that while the ‘chelo’ [čelo, “forehead”, right end leader] performs [Figure 3]…..the ‘opashka’ [opaška, “tail”, or left end leader] performs simultaneously [Figure 4]…. Typically, the best dancers hold the end, who without obstructing the line of the horo, masterfully turn it forward and backward. Many thanks to Tatiana Nikolova-Houston for finding and translating the Bulgarian descriptions.”
“FORMATION: Men and women form a line or open circle (na lesa). The lines should be long to allow the curling mentioned above….In Goceč [Godeč?], a man would lead each end of the line. ‘Leader (right-end dancer) carries a handkerchief or cane in his right hand.’ (Maine Folk Dance Camp, July 15, 1971)”
For six more variations, consult the ©2015 Folk Dance Problem Solver. Copies are available to members of the Society of Folk Dance Historians. Membership is US$30 per year, US$35 for Canada/Mexico, US$40 for Overseas. The SFDH website https://www.sfdh.us/index.html includes an extensive encyclopedia of folk dance-related information.
Jim Gold wrote: “Well done. Fascinating background material.”