*a Living dance is a 1st Generation dance that is still performed in the country of origin (or immigrant communities) as part of a social event like a wedding where others can participate (not for an audience) by people who learned the dance informally (from friends and relatives by observation and imitation, not in a classroom situation). For more information, click here and here.
**See interesting comment at bottom.
Bănăț is a geographic and cultural region spanning the borders of what are now Hungary, Serbia and Romania. For more background information, see Bănăț region.
Brâul (Brîul) is a form of dance popular all over Romania. Brâul (modern spelling, pronounced BREW) or Brîul (Communist-era spelling, pronounced BREW) is a huge family of Romanian dances. From the authoritative website Eliznik “The word Brâul (pl. Brâuri) comes from the Dacio-Illyrian language group meaning belt.” Serbians and Bulgarians, Romania’s neighbours, have many dances where they hold on to each other by the belt. Romanians might have had many at one time, hence the name. However in today’s Brâul dances “the belt hold rarely exists in Romania except in the name of the dance and has seemingly been replaced by shoulder hold, front or back cross-hand hold, or now when women dance as simple low hand hold.”
Originally, Brâul dances were a men-only affair. Nowadays, women dance Brâul with the men. They’re line dances, sometimes short lines, featuring fast instrumental music and tricky footwork.
Eliznik “There are three basic types of the Brâul separated by their region, although there is some cross-linking between sub-types and some variety in classifications between different researchers:
In the Banat mountains region there are two different types of Brâul. Firstly, the ‘old-type’ Brâul bătrân which is the local generic dance which is danced both as a men’s dance and as a social dance similar in context to Hora. Secondly, the fixed form Brâul which has many variations that are named after a place or a dancer.“
Brâu (de) din bănăț, Brâu bănățean Music
Brâu (de) din bănăț, Brâu bănățean Dance
The basic pattern is a mirror-image set of irregular walking steps in 8-beats.
Start on the L foot – 1&2, 3&4, 5, 6, 7&8, or QQ, S, QQ, S, S, S, QQ, S, or LR, L, RL, R, L, R, LR, L, then
Start on the R foot – 1&2, 3&4, 5, 6, 7&8, or QQ, S, QQ, S ,S, S, QQ, S, or RL, R, LR, L, R, L, RL, R,
Note this 8-measure pattern is basically the same as the Serbian national dance Kolo, in another order: Serbs start with the 2 Slow steps, and instead of QQ,S, Serbs do S,QQ, thus:
Start on the R foot – 1, 2, 3,4&, 5,6&, 7,8&, or S, S, S,QQ, S,QQ, S,QQ, or R, L, R, LR, L, RL, R, LR, then
Start on the L Foot – 1, 2, 3,4&, 5,6&, 7,8&, or S, S, S,QQ, S,QQ, S,QQ, or L, R, L, RL, R, LR, L, RL,
Bi-directional (Back-and-forth pattern)
Same footwork in terms of weight-changes and timing, but a change of direction.
A back-and-forth at an event – a wedding? 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPCobl9H3Qk
“A trea” & a patru”variations; the Romanian devojačko*
S, S, QQ, S, is a 4-measure pattern known throughout the Balkans under many names. Some scholars call it the devojačko pattern. In keeping with the fast 8-measure structure of Brâul , I’m equating S, S, QQ, S, with the Romanian S, ,S, ,S, S, S, , .
If you look closely at Beatrice & Mădălin’s wedding dance, you’ll see elements of all the variants shown above danced at the same time. 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHRnZCL9yGw. Here’s another similarly varied party dance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPCobl9H3Qk
Brâu (de) din bănăț, Brâu bănățean Performances
John Uhlemann wrote: This is interesting. As soon as I got on line years ago, I looked up this dance and all I found was that it was “no longer done”. All the music (including the 20 examples I have in my collection) was in 7/8. Here is an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi0E8pIaVjQ . This was all confirmed by the Romanian/American ethnochoreologist John Omorean at a workshop in Chicago. The one exception was a dance taught by Mihai David years ago called “Brîul lui Ioșcă” which was in 2/4, done in a shoulder hold, and had a second step that was basically the same as in the samples you gave. The dance pattern in your examples is known all over the Banat in couple dances as well, so this seems to be a fusion of old items into a dance that everyone can do. One source (again, at a Chicago workshop) said that the old 7/8 brîul/brâul was basically like the Serbian U Šest, but done in a belt hold and in 7-8. This would make it much like the old dance Žikino Kolo the way many tamburica bands play it. I hope some other of your readers could comment on this.