Stamena horo/ Стамена (2*) Macedonia- (Shto imalet kasmet Stamena (S*) Bulgaria – Update

*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.

*S is for Song. So? A song with a life independent of whatever dance it may be attached to. Why that’s important is explained here.

The revision is to the D section, (last line of the dance notation), under THE DANCE Stameno horo.

THE SONG- Shto imala kasmet Stamena is a very old Macedonian folk song.

Though it’s clear that Stamena is a girl’s name, and that “Shto imala kasmet Stamena” translates fairly literally as “Stamina is lucky” it’s not clear whether “lucky” is meant literally or ironically. The pop version of the song by Rayna has only a few verses and seems to end happily. However from extra verses listed below, and from comments by native Macedonians, there may be more to the story of Stamena and her dancing.

Stefce Stojkovski Orchestra from Macedonia. 2001.
Found in the comments to the above YouTube.  It's actually very difficult to translate this Macedonian song because it contains deeper meanings. Essentially, it's about a girl whose mother is very ill and she cares about because she does not want her mother to die. As she went for the water her mother wanted, she saw people dancing in the village. Her suffering is that she knows that because of her mother's disease she misses the opportunity to meet a partner, because at that time such dances were rare. Stamena, the girl's name, is torn between her natural desire to marry and both love and respect for her mother who is dying.
This is a translation of the text, which can certainly be better, but it can help you understand it more clearly
Enjoy it completely 🙂

What a fortune Stamena had?
Her sick mother lay in bed

What a fortune Stamena had?
Her sick mother lay in bed

Her sick mother lay in bed
She wished cold spring water to had (have, DB)

Her sick mother lay in bed
She wished cold spring water to had  

She wished cold spring water to had  
From that colorful fountain

She went to the colorful fountain
to take for her mother cold spring water 

While she was coming back from fountain
In the middle of the village there was the dance

From an attachment sent by Steve Ayala (Thanks, Steve!) One reviewer explained:
The song is very old – about a story from a long time ago, so I am not fully comfortable about
the hidden meaning behind the lines. I am not an expert in Bulgarian folklore, so this is just my
understanding. [N.B. There are early 20th century phonograph records of this song.]
It is a story of the time long time ago when there were water fountains (чешма) outside of
the villages. Very likely Stamena was not allowed to go alone outside of the village. But as her
mother was ill and asked for water, she had no choice but to go alone. And very likely she was
not allowed to join a dance line in the center of the village, where all her friends were gathered,
without someone from her family watching over her. So she took advantage of the occasion to
join in the dance – without a family bodyguard. This is just my opinion. I just love this song!
Look up in google images for the words “чешма” and “стомна” to see what exactly those
things look like, because the English-equivalent words for them are not exactly correct. Old
dialectic forms of some words are only heard in some regions of Bulgaria today. посакала =
поискала =asked; зеде = взе = took; вракяше = връщаше = was coming back. Oро =хоро
=horo =Bulgarian/N.Macedonian traditional folk dance.

Shto imala k'smet Stamena, Stamena         Stamena had bad luck,
majka ì bolna legnala, legnala.                   her mother was ill and laid on the bed.
Majka ì bolna padnala, padnala                  Her mother fell sick,
pobarala voda studena, studena.                 she asked for some cold water.

Stamena gi zede stomnite, stomnite           Stamena took the jugs, 
otide na cheshma sharena, sharena.            she went to the colorful fountain.
Otide na cheshma sharena, sharena            She went to the colorful fountain.
da napolni voda studena, studena.              to fill the jugs with cold water.

Koga se od voda vrakjashe,                        When she was returning from there,
u selo oro igraja, igraja.                               she found boys dancing the oro.
U selo oro igraja, igraja,                              The boys were dancing the oro in the village,
na tanec mladi Stojane.                               Stojan was dancing, too.

Stamena mi stomni ostavi, ostavi,              Stamena left the jugs on the ground,
i do Stojana se fana, da igra.                       and grabbed Stojan’s hand to join the oro.
Stojan Stameni dumashe, dumashe:            Stojan told Stamena:
- Stameno lichna, ubava.                             - Beautiful Stamena.

Kako shto si lichna, ubava, ubava,               If only you were diligent
ushte taka da si rabotna, rabotna.                 as much as you are pretty.
Koga kje zemesh da predesh, da predesh,   When you start to spin, to spin
so toa furche drenovo, drenovo.                  that spindle made of dogwood, dogwood.

Taman shto si zhica zaprela,                        Just as soon as you stop weaving the thread,
odma te dremka, nadole, nadole.                  a doze starts to pull you down.
Ti si legna malku da dremnesh, da dremnesh,  You lay down to take a nap,
mamurlukot da go razbiesh, razbiesh.            to break the drowsiness.

Stamena na Stojan dumashe, dumashe:       Stamena told Stojan:
- Stojane more Stojane, Stojane.                 - Stojan, hey Stojan,
Kako shto si lichno, ubavo, ubavo,             if only you were as diligent
ama i ti da si rabotno, rabotno.                    as you are handsome.

1. She was lucky Stamena, Stamena, mother. (x2) she was sick, she went to bed, she went to bed. (x2)
2. Her mother was sick, lay down, lay down, asked for cold, cold water. (x2)
3. I wanted water cold, cold, from that fountain patterned, patterned. (x2)
4. Stamena took the pitchers, the pitchers, went to the fountain, patterned, patterned. (x2)
5. To pour water cold, cold. When she came out of the water, she came back, she came back, in the middle of the village I play, I play
Macedonian Suzana Spasovska – Shto Imala Ksmet Stamena [Audio 2013]

Also popular among Bulgarians

Caption: “Residential complex “Chinari” – How lucky Stamena was”
Caption: NIKOLAI SLAVEEV (from Rhodope, Bulgaria – Don). HOW LUCKY STAMENA WAS.

Aegean (Greek) Macedonians

Musicians – Akritas, a pioneering progressive rock band from Florina. From their 1973 album Akritas.

And Balkan enthusiasts in the USA

Balkan Camp 2016 Čoček Nation with featured soloists performing a Macedonian favorite at the student concert. Rock Hill, NY.

And Slovenia

Bulgarian pop star Rayna, a singer of pop-folk and traditional music, released her version of the song, which inspired the choreography below.

Rayna was born in Sandanski, Pirin, Bulgarian Macedonia, in 1981. In 2011 she released her 9th album (of 16), entitled Macedonian Girl, which contained the track Shto imala kasmet Stamena.

THE DANCE – Stamena horo

After the collapse of Communism in Eastern European countries in the 1990’s, state-funded folk dance culture went into immediate decline. Governments had little money to support the numerous academies, professional and semi-professional touring groups, or local dancers, singers and musicians. Also, the very idea of ‘official’ traditional folk dance came into disrepute due to its association with failed government policies, and changing tastes in music. Folk dance was ‘for grandmas’ as younger generations eagerly embraced the glitz and freedom associated with Western materialism and modernity.

About ten years later, as the harsh realities of capitalism made many residents second-class citizens and the honeymoon with all things Western began to fade, younger Balkanites began to re-evaluate their own heritage, recognizing its intrinsic value. Thus folk dancing was reborn in a younger generation, incorporating elements of the old and new. Nowhere was this rediscovery and re-invention more dramatic than in Bulgaria.

A new generation of singers emerged, blending traditional songs with Western dance tracks and electronic instruments. Out-of work professional dancers set up their own studios and began charging for lessons, building up social clubs based around traditional dancing. T-shirts emblazoned with the club’s logo became the new ‘costume’. Out-of-work choreographers began creating ‘new’ traditional dances geared to particular recordings. Stamena horo is a spectacular example of these trends.

Velingrad, 2017. I count about 150 dancers!

Warning – this is not an easy dance! I can find no YouTubes of recreational groups in the West performing this dance, though several people have notified me of it being taught recently (see Comments below). I have yet to see posted a print dance description. I notice that those in Bulgaria performing it are mostly fit young people. It appears that the state of folk dancing in Bulgaria today has many similarities with the state of recreational dancing in the West in the 60’s and 70’s, when most of the dancers were young and fit and were enjoying the challenge of mastering ever more complex dances. It appears Bulgaria’s young dancers enjoy dancing a uniform step in a uniform way – emulating the few surviving professional troupes, just as we emulated the performing groups that inspired us. Bulgarian youth – several generations removed from subsistence-farming rural life, are learning dances, not from their elders, but from highly trained instructors – graduates of professional academies.

Recreational folk dancing has come full circle – a new younger generation overcoming urban isolation by discovering the joys of moving connected together in a community. The difference is that its popularity is growing in the countries of origin, as a source of national identity, chosen by each individual, (not imposed by the state). In contrast, recreational folk dancing is still declining in those places where its appeal was its novelty; a music and dance decidedly NOT part of the national identity, and where the advanced age of its practitioners (like me!) tends to discourage incorporating such athletic dances requiring sharp memories and quick reflexes.

An excellent, very detailed instruction. 2020. Caption: (Google translated): The horo is not authentic…….its authors are Svetla and Stamen Stamenovi from Targovishte.
Notation by Don Buskirk from observation of the teaching YouTube above.
Stara Zagora, 2021.

Shto imala kasmet Stamena in Greece

Although Greek Macedonians dance to the song Shto imala kasmet Stamena, their dance is not the complex Bulgarian choreography, but rather a simple traditional Taproot T-6.

Pella, Greek Macedonia 2022.
Kella, (Gorničevo or Gornichevo) a village in the Amyntaio municipality of the Florina regional unit, Greece .


John Uhlemann wrote: I love this. The song has been around a long time. I knew it from Balkan Camp (the video of Čoček Nation doing it was taken at east coast Balkan Camp – our grandson is in the back row of the band in the video you put up as part of your excellent post). The dance does not have any difficult steps, it is just a long step pattern. I am delighted to see it done in such an enthusiastic way. Someone has been teaching it in the US; it was “reviewed’ on a Zoom session about 2 months ago.

Rex Ward wrote: I accidentally discovered Stamena one day while perusing Bulgarian dances on YouTube. I learned it from one of the instructional videos that I found there and then taught it to the local recreational folk dance group that danced with in Salt Lake City. This was before Covid, probably in early 2019 or sometime in 2018.

Steve Ayala wrote: Thanks so much for pulling together such an extensive synopsis of the Bulgarian song and dance Stamina. Here’s a note sent to our local dancers last spring after Michael Ginsberg taught the dance at Marilyn Smith’s Razzmatazz weekend workshop in Mendocino Woodlands State Park.

Hello fellow North Bay dancer:

Imagine yourself in the late 1800s in rural Bulgaria, when most families’ water came from a stone fountain at the edge of the village. And remember – in those days, young women would seldom go far from home alone, without a family member.

But on this day, Stamina has no choice. Her mother is feeling bad, and craves a drink of cool water. Then on her way home, she finds a dance going on in the main plaza. The name of the song says what all her girlfriends are thinking – Stamina is so lucky.

From another attachment sent by Steve Ayala

In his May 23, 2020 EEFC culture corner talk, Yves Moreau cited Stamena as an example of folk dance vitality in 21st century Bulgaria. Mitko Petrov taught it during Ira Weisburd and his 2018 Bulgaria folk dance tour, and Weisburd taught it during a May 23 2020 Florida ZOOM class.

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