Sa (L*), Sa Sa, Op Sa, Niški sa,sa – Serbia

*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.

SA, Sa Sa, Op Sa, Niški sa,sa, – 4 names for one of the most popular dances in Serbia today. see: https://www.sutori.com/story/history-of-serbian-folk-dancing–jdnvwwpdTU2KLeYX2RvLmLiL

According to Dick Oakes, “Op Sa is a spontaneous exclamation often used while dancing. There is no exact English translation, but it is something like “whee,” “yippee,” or “ee-haw!”

© 2018 by Ron Houston. Opsa (Op Sa) is certainly Vlah, not Rom. There are several variants:
op sa // op sha // op asha = “jump this way”
op sa sa // op sh asha = “jump this way too”
sa sa // sh asha = “and this way”
op sa ya ra sa // op sha yar asha = “jump this way and again this way”

Serbian dance authority Alex Marković, [in personal email correspondence, 2019], writes; “In various places throughout southeastern Serbia (from Nis and Leskovac down through Vranje and up to the Macedonian border, as well as among Kosovo Serbs), “sa” refers to a three measure dance pattern. It can also refer to tunes in various iterations of 2/4 or 4/4 that people would dance this step to- many of those are also categorized as “čoček.” [Bold type my emphasis – DB]

So Opsa, Sa Sa is, basically, an exclamation that was turned into a song, also a common name in South Serbia and Kosovo for a pre-existing 3-measure dance pattern. As the song-dance combination spread to all of Serbia and beyond, 3 meanings conflated to become a particular dance to a particular tune.

Sa, Sa sa, Opsa, Niški sa, sa; MUSIC

The music for Sa is a form of Čoček.

For lyrics to these songs, click: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/music/lyrics-english-translations/opsa-sa-sa-english-lyrics/

For sheet music, click: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/music/sheet-music/sa-sa-sa-sheet-music/

The earliest Sa, Sa YouTube I could find is a recording made by Roma musician Miki Sibinović in 1976. A 1983 recording – Nislijka sa-sa by Boki Milosevic, credits M. Sibinović as the composer.

YouTube title Sa, sa. 1976. Lyrics (below) same verse repeated. Chorus is not available, differs from the chorus of the Nenad recording below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNUFpoCCOfo

//Nek’ se igra ovo kolo Let’s dance this kolo,
ko ga ne bi vol’o// everyone loves it.
//kolo ide tako lako It moves so freely and easily
da zaigra moze svako// everyone can dance to it.

YouTube title Op sa. Nenad Jovanovic, ca. 1980 Same tune, more verses, refrain differs from Miki Sibinović, above.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbL93pm_Wbk

There have been many spin offs and variations of the tune since; most local communities dance the “sa” step to lots of tunes with the right meter and “groove”, though, so these specific melodies are not the only ones connected to the “sa” dance.”

YouTube title Niški Sa Sa. A slightly different melody. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LN_dEGIdoE
YouTube title Opsa sa. Mahir Burekovic (Audio 2002) Found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ3ZYWtzrP0
YouTube title Op-sa. From Bulgaria, Esil Duran – (2002) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBkGGh1ZKvU
YouTube title sa sa cocek. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHQEaP6Tt38

Sa, Sa sa, Opsa, Niški sa, sa; – the DANCE

Note: Opsa, etc. can be applied to 3 different dances –

1. the 3-measure dance known in Serbia, Croatia, & the diaspora, also called Niški sa, sa or sa sa kolo.

2. a 5-measure dance known in North America among Serb and Croat immigrants. Both dances are done by recreational folk dancers to the same Opsa recording! For the 5-measure dance, see Another Opsadifferent footwork below. Also,

3. the term Opsa or Sa, sa can be applied to Čoček music that accompanies solo Čoček dancing by both genders, as in the Bulgarian and Serb YouTubes above.

The 3-measure Serbian dance turns out to be our old friend the Taproot Dance (T-6), this time called Čoček. Alex Marković “The basic pattern is the same as the video examples you gave of Serbs in Serbia dancing sa sa or Niški sa sa; this is one common version of the dance, but I think it is also one that has been popularized by folk dance troupes. In many local communities, though, people do not dance with such large steps or with the “geography of movement” that you see in those videos. Instead, the dance looks like this (video of dancers in Vranje, from the 1970s)” below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dhUZQEpw-o

YouTube title Cocek. Alex Marković; “filmed in Vranje, southeastern Serbia, in the 1970s, for the national television station as part of a show on regional music/dance culture. I think most of the dancers are participants in a KUD, yes; they are all locals (Vranje Serbs), though, so they dance in the way that the majority of people in town also dance- in other words, this is not very stylized or choreographed at all.. Some well-known singers from the town are participants, including Stanisa Stosic (the man leading the dance line) and Divna Mitic. The musicians are local Roma, many of them also famous in their time as the best musicians for local musical aesthetics and traditional repertoires; Bakija Bakic is on trumpet, Kurta Ajredinovic on clarinet, and Jasko Jasarevic on violin.
The basic Taproot Dance is 6 beats, (3-measures of 2/4) thus: step, step, step, ___, step, ___.  
                      1,     2,     3,      4,        5,      6.
Usually it's, R,     L,     R, touch L, L,  touch R,  
                 or R,     L,     R,  kick L,  L,   kick R.   
                 or R,     L,     R,    LR,      L,     RL, 
                 or R,     L,     RL,   R,      LR,     L,
Čoček & Sa have re-arranged the order, but not the sequence, starting on steps 5 & 6, then 1, 2, 3, 4. 
Čoček           L,    RL,    R,     L,       R,      LR, 
                or  L, kick R, R,     L,       R,   kick L,
Sa                 LR,    L,     R,     L,      RL,     R,        
    In addition, Sa takes larger steps, and adds a little hop after each single (not double) step.   
All are accomplished in 6 even beats.  One step per beat is Slow; 2 steps per beat is Quick Quick.

Alex Marković: “One of the main differences between the variants has to do with the syncopation of the steps. In the [Sa] video from Serbia that you shared, people dance “quick-quick-slow”; whereas I also often see (in Vranje, for example) people dance “slow-quick-quick”. Growing up in the Chicago Serb community, “sa” was also always a 3 measure dance (quick quick slow) even in the 1990s; we danced with larger steps and with all measures moving almost constantly to the right.”

The QQS and hops and large steps combine to make a dance for those with energy to burn. Notice how most of the dancers below are young!

YouTube title sa sa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-TswGoxXRk SKUD Frula Calgary
YouTube title Niški Sa Sa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6jppuXRr0k Notice at 1:00 hands pumping down & up.
YouTube title Sa Sa kolo. Fast tempo! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IspPa-HAeHM Hands down & up.
YouTube title sa sa kolo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uk1nBrlxckM Sa sa kolo starts at 2:02.
YouTube title sa sa kolo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C24_aJcjMdg

Alex Marković: Sa vs Čoček: sa, sa – SQQ or QQS? A final few words in answer to my question (Jan 30, 2021) “would it also be fair to say that what distinguishes Sa is precisely the QQS pattern in the footwork and large “geography“?”

“I think it’s safe to say that this is the most typical difference, especially if we take the wide view of the dance as it is known throughout Serbia and the wider diaspora. But the issue really comes down to specific community practices and how the terminology is used, in the end. The labels sa and/or čoček might refer to the tune, or they might refer to the dance step- and those things don’t always line up depending on what area or group you’re looking at.”

Sa has been widely popularized via amateur folk dance groups and media in Serbia, far beyond the regions and communities in southern Serbia where this dance form was “native.” Most of what you can see labeled as “Sa” on Youtube is part of that wider spread, and it’s true that generally those tend to show QQS patterns. But in much of southern Serbia, in places like Vranje, “sa” refers to the dance form with SQQ timing in that 3 measure step pattern, but done to music otherwise known as čoček. I’m not sure if there are some places in southern Serbia where QQS was/is also local practice, and that those were the versions that ended up spreading widely- or if QQS was a misinterpretation/misrecollection or innovation on the dance by non-locals who took it further abroad. But I have on the whole seen SQQ in community practice among south Serbs. So it really depends on which contexts or groups you’re referring to when we talk about sa vs. čoček. Both variants are “legitimately” part of Serbian dance culture at this point, so neither is incorrect in my opinion- it just depends whose practices you’d prefer to “channel” if you will.”

YouTube title Sa Sa. Sa Simplified – just the two-steps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1r5oVCRecE

Another Opsa – different footwork

YouTube title Op Sa. Mikey Dee playing at St. George Croatian Lodge #66, Youngstown, OH, 2019
YouTube title Opsa. Washington Park, Denver International Folk Dancers. 2009

For more on this 5-measure Opsa, click https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/opsa-serbian-american/

COMMENTS:

John Uhlemann wrote: “Nice article – I have seen/been taught all of these. The one in the “circular pattern” I saw at the local Serbian Church about 5 years ago. It was regarded there as a recent fad, and I never saw it again. The first few videos at the original tune”. The most famous version of that was by Boki Milošević, and was called Niški Sa Sa. Yves Moreau taught the basic dance to that recording (I have the original). Dick Crum taught the 5 measure version here about 30 years ago.”

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