Brâul de la Făgăraș, Update – Romania

Făgăraș, the Word, City, Mountains and Region

Wikipedia lists several languages said to be the source of the word făgăraș. (FAH-gah-rahsh) “According to linguist Iorgu Iordan, the name of the town is a Romanian diminutive of a hypothetical collective noun *făgar (“beech forest”), presumably derived from fag, “beech tree”. Another source…is alleged to derive from the Hungarian language word for “partridge” (fogoly). A more plausible explanation is that the name is given by Fogaras river coming from the Pecheneg “Fagar šu”, which means ash water. Another source of the name is given by folk etymology to be Hungarian, as the rendering of “wood” (fa) and “money” (garas), with legends stating that money made of wood had been used to pay the peasants who built the fortress (Făgăraș Citadel) around 1310.”

Făgăraș

The Făgăraș region lies in southernmost Transylvania, in Brașov County. Făgăraș the town (2011 pop. 28,000) lies on the north side of the Făgăraș Mountains, in the valley of the Olt River. The mountains, reaching over 8000 feet, have glaciers, glacial lakes (so far), large forests, and are popular hiking and skiing areas.

Făgăraș town with Făgăraș Mountains in background.

Făgăraș has a long history as the principal centre of a semi-independent region.

Romanian states in the 9th-13th centuries

Wikipedia: “The first written document mentioning Romanians in Transylvania referred to Vlach lands (“Terra Blacorum”) in the Făgăraș Region in 1222….After the Tatar invasion in 1241–1242, Saxons settled in the area. In 1369, Louis I of Hungary gave the Royal Estates of Făgăraș to his vassal, Vladislav I of Wallachia….Therefore, the region became the feudal property of the princes of Wallachia, but remained within the Kingdom of Hungary. The territory remained in the possession of Wallachian princes until 1464.”

1883 engraving of the Făgăraș citadel, first construction ca. 1310.

Brâul de la Făgăraș, the Music

Of all the Balkan countries, Romania is the most prone to name dances after instrumental melodies rather than the lyrics of songs. Brâul de la Făgăraș is a typical example. It consists of 4 melodies, A, A-variation in the same key, B in another key, B-variation, repeat. In lieu of singing, dancers often shout strigaturi (see below). The key distinction for this Brâul is the syncopated rhythm Quick-Slow, Slow, Quick-Slow.

Musician unknown. Found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLI2AwvbJaE
PDF download here: http://www.folkloretanznoten.de/b/
Gheorghe Trambitas playing for a dance in Ohio. Brâul de la Făgăraș starts around 4:00, a formal wear and high heels version of the dance can be glimpsed at times.
Found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=JdrGrXTJBtM&
Neluțu Rusu starts with the B and B-variation combination.
This version has a straight rhythm – not syncopated. The dance, which uses a similar format to other Brâul de la Făgăraș is performed by Karen Faust, below.

Brâul de la Făgăraș, the Dance

Brâul, meaning “belt”, is the name of a whole genre of Romanian dances – the most widespread genre in Romania after the Hora and Sârba. Typically, they’re line or open circle dances, traditionally for men, featuring much stamping, kicking, cross stepping, etc. Though the handhold in Brâul dances may have originally been hand-to-neighbour’s-belt, nowadays it can be a “W”, “V”, or shoulder hold. For Brâul de la Făgăraș, (bruh-OOL day lah FAH-gah-rahsh) it’s shoulder hold. Brâul de la Făgăraș is considered a variety of Carpathian Brâul. Anca Giurchescu with Sunni Bloland, in their landmark book Romanian Traditional Dances, writes, “The family of Carpathian Brîu types originates along the arc of the Carpathian Mountains, but is widespread in Moldavia, the Muntenian plain, and Dobrogea. It is characterized by syncopated rhythms, an introductory sequence that frequently consists of Sîrba motifs, followed by alternating sequences of circling and virtuosic dancing, the latter initiated by command and performed in place.”

1 December 2017 – Casa Municipala de Cultura Făgăraș. Brâul de la Făgăraș seen from 2:32-4:02. Basic circling sequence, alternating with 3 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place

This is where my categorization scheme gets into trouble. Clearly it would be difficult for Brâul de la Făgăraș to be a Living dance. By it’s very nature it’s almost impossible for individuals in a line to ad lib their own ‘virtuosic’ sequence while in a shoulder hold. This is not an ‘everybody dance’, something has to be worked out in advance, which can be seen in the Gheorghe Trambitas YouTube above, at the 6:08 mark where people are having difficulty co-ordinating.

In a ‘village’ situation there is a Living tradition where lads try to impress and compete with each other by forming small groups and creating, practicing and performing ‘virtuosic’ sequences, either to impress the girls, compete with neighbouring villages, or simply because they had the desire and energy. Possibly this performance tradition evolved from something simpler. The last YouTube shown here, by ANSAMBLUL FOLCLORIC CANADIAN ROMÂN HORA, could be an ‘everybody dance’, with only 2 alternating sequences. Then people started coming up with more and more difficult sequences, and soon the dance was ‘not for everyone’, but still a vital part of the village repertoire.

However since the Communist takeover in the 1940’s, performances were no longer local ‘village’ affars. Competitions were organized on a regional and national basis, competition became fiercer, ‘experts’ from the government began deciding which moves were ‘appropriate’, dancing became a career choice. A performance dance became much more than a couple of guys having fun.

Fortunately the Brâul de la Făgăraș seen in these YouTubes is believable as a Living dance, as the moves are possible with less-than-professionally-trained competence. The format of alternating sequences of circling and virtuosic dancing is adaptable and indeed we see several variations in the format here. While the only example of this danced in what I consider ‘village’ circumstances (the Gheorghe Trambitas YouTube above) is little proof of its widespread ‘village’ use, the fact that an experienced Romanian musician chose to play this music at a dance party tells me his Romanian public knows the music and has an idea of what to dance to it.

Posted by Cristian Radu. Unspecified location. Basic circling sequence, alternating with 5 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place
27 March 2009, Casa Armatei, Brasov
Suita Mare” Fecioreasca “Dans de la Ghimbav” “Braul din Sibiu” “Braul de Fagaras”4:53.
No basic circling sequence, however 6 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place
Brașov
These girls had a tough assignment – 5 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place while simultaneously reciting strigaturi! See https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/dance-information/strigaturi-romania/
Caption reads “Danced by Alina, Delia, Cristina, Simi and Simona, on the stage of the International Folklore Festival for Children and Youth, CĂTĂLINA – Iaşi, August 4, 2007.”
Iași, also known as Jassy. In December 2018, Iași was officially declared Historical capital of Romania. It is also Romania’s 2nd largest city

A separate post, on garfield2206: https://garfieldsiprietenii.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/braul-de-fagaras/ lists some strigaturi used in connection with this dance;

Numai eu stiu ce penibil mi s-a parut prima oara cand am inceput sa dansez cu tot cu strigaturi la Braul de Fagaras. „Uiu iuiu-ul” ala ma omora:
Uiu iuiu iuiu iu!
Foaie verde de-artaras,
Asta-i Brau de Fagaras.
Asta-i brau ardelenesc,
Obiceiul stramosesc.
Uite crucea-ncrucisa,
Isi marita popa fa’.
Cu totii sa ne silim
S-o facem, sa n-o gresim.
Si-nainte, si-napoi
C-asa-i jocul pe la noi;
Sus la pinten uite-asa
Sa nu ne raza lumea.
Sus la pinten pintenas
Ca la noi la Fagaras.
Foaie verde cucuruz
Si cu asta noi ne-am dus!
Dansul nu e greu, se urmeaza exact pasii descrisi in versuri (unde este crucea, se face o cruce din picioare de patru ori, apoi de doua ori se face pasul inainte-inapoi si in final pintenul „pintenas” de patru ori). Dansul nostru seamana cu cel din filmuletul urmator (doar ca lipseste „iuiuuuul” )

Google translation: 
Only I know how embarrassing it seemed to me the first time I started dancing with shouts at Braul de Fagaras. That "uiu iuiu" kills me:
Uiu iuiu iuiu iu!
Green maple leaf,
This is Brau de Fagaras.
This is the Transylvanian belt,
Ancestor habit.
Look at the cross,
Isi marita popa fa '.
Let's all force ourselves
Let's do it, let's not make a mistake.
And before, and after
This is the game here;
Look at the spur up there
Let the world not shave us.
They paint her hair
Like in Fagaras.
Cuckoo green leaf
And with that we went!
The dance is not difficult, follow exactly the steps described in the verses (where is the cross, make a cross standing four times, then twice the step back and forth and finally the spur "pintenas" four times). Our dance is similar to the one in the next video (only the "iuiuuu" is missing)
Grupul “Carpatii” – Vancouver Public Library 2010
Purtata, fecioreasca, and braul de la Fagaras, which starts at 3:36. Basic circling sequence, alternating with 3 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place

As presented by Gheorghe Debu. Basic circling sequence, alternating with 6 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place, found on the site www.israelidances.com https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9dlwx7-YPU0N1c0aUx5SkRidkU/view

Looks like the same dance as above.
Basic circling sequence, alternating with 6 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place

There don’t seem to be many recreational folk dance groups doing Brâul de la Făgăraș, even though Sunni Bloland introduced it to North Americans in 1970. Too much stamping for our old knees, perhaps?

Performed by Karen Faust to a straight rhythm, but otherwise similar to other “Carpathian Brîu types….alternating sequences of circling and virtuosic dancing“. Basic circling sequence, alternating with 6 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place.
As presented by Sunni Bloland. Basic circling sequence, followed by 3 ‘virtuosic’ variations in place. Can be downloaded here: www.socalfolkdance.com/dances/B/Briul_de_la_Fagaras.pdf

Another set is found here: http://folkdancenotes.com/dancenotes/briuldlf.htm

Caption reads “ANSAMBLUL FOLCLORIC CANADIAN ROMÂN HORA [of Montreal, Canada, DB] performs hora dance at 2010 Romania Picnic held by Saint Andrew Romanian Orthodox Church (www.sfantulandrei.org )”, [located in Potomac, Maryland, DB]
A very simple Brâul de la Făgăraș starts at 4:11, Basic circling sequence, plus 1 ‘virtuosic’ variation in place; alternating syncopated with straight rhythms..

Comment:

John Uhlemann wrote: I have seen the folklorist version of this in Romania and also had a short class in it here from a visiting Romanian group. They all agreed that what they saw American folk dancers do was not what was seen in Romania. The version I learned in the line in Romania followed the “chorus -> variation” pattern in most of your examples, but it was not an aerobic dance at all, the variations did not move from place and were not “virtuosic”. In fact , the in-place variations were all structurally the same; this means that you could do any of them you wanted, and not disturb the person next to you who might be doing something different. This is one of the hallmarks of a traditional dance. The music in all cases was the syncopated version you have. The regular 2/4 version danced to by recreational groups is not a Briul melody at all, the the result of Sunni Bloland being sent the wrong music (she told me so). She was sent a tape of a dance called “Hațegana de la Mojna”, a couple dance from the mostly German village of Meschen near Sibiu. (I had an opportunity to visit that village , which has a large fortified German church in the middle, in the 1970s.) I have the original recording of that tune on the Romanian label accidentally sent to Sunni. Sunni tried to correct the error by re-teaching the dance to the correct music, available on the Dutch folkdancer Nevofon label, but people had too much trouble with the rhythm, so I have never been to a group that used it (except ours, when the programmer was feeling sadistic – it goes through 3 times). The dance, of course, is not related to other Transylvanian dances, but evolved, as Sunni’s notes say in your article, from southern Romanian styles. I’m glad you posted these variants. The dance is done in a curved line/broken circle. All the other videos have the dance altered to keep the line facing the audience.

Dondancing replied: Thanks, John, for this fabulous information. So the Brâul de la Făgăraș music on the mp3-YouTube convert I posted (same as the Karen Faust post) – is that the Hațegana de la Mojna music you have? The wrong music sent to Sunni?

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