*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.
This update, which includes corrections, more YouTubes, their locations, and an expanded section on why Samokovsko horo is also called Gankino and Biala Rosa, was inspired by a question sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jim Gold. Thanks for your curiosity, Jim!
Samokov, the City
Samokovsko horo is named after the town of Samokov [population about 27,000].
Wikipedia says: “The town’s name is a compound word of “samo” and “kov”, respectively meaning “self” and the root of the verb “forge, hammer”, and comes from the samokov, a mechanical forge powered by water, since the town of Samokov was a major iron-producing centre during the Middle Ages. [It] is situated in a basin between the mountains Rila and Vitosha, 55 kilometres from the capital Sofia. Due to the suitable winter sports conditions, Samokov, together with the nearby resort Borovets, is a major tourist centre…..It is thought that Samokov was founded in the 14th century as a mining settlement with the assistance of “Saxon” miners. It was first mentioned in 1455 and in Ottoman registers of 1477 as Vlaychov Samokov…In the 16th and 17th centuries, it grew into the greatest iron extraction centre in the region, with western travellers describing it as ‘a fairly large city’….Some of the best craftsmen, woodcarving masters and builders came from Samokov and were recognized for their skills in creating detailed and impressive woodcarvings, painting beautiful icons and building unique architecture….with notable figures like Zahari Zograf, Hristo Dimitrov and Nikola Obrazopisov.”
Samokovsko horo, the Music
There are several songs currently associated with the dance Samokovsko horo. What they have in common is the 9/8 rhythm. The 9 beats are broken into further subdivisions of 2+2+2+3, quick, quick, quick, slow, Q,Q,Q,S.
Samokovsko horo, the Dance
Samokovsko horo seems to be a local Bulgarian name for a pan-Balkan dance; a 3-measure [3 times 9 beats] pattern, similar to the basic Taproot Dance, but with extra walking steps. Macedonians give the pattern many names (or no name) Šareni Čorapi, Devetorka, Makedonsko Oro: Romanians call it Schioapa. Bulgarians also call it Biala Rosa, after a popular song by that name with 9/8 rhythm. I’ve seen Serbians dance it to the song Niška Banja. Dance scholars call it Devetorka. (“ninesome”, due to its nine beats) [click https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/devetorka-macedonia/]. I have a shorthand name for it that I think is more descriptive; T-9A, which stands for Taproot Dance in 9 beats with an uneven (Aksak in Turkish) rhythm. For more on the T-9A, click https://folkdancefootnotes.org/begin/the-taproot-family-t-4-t-6-t-8-t-7u-t-9u-t-11u/
Jaap Leegwater introduced Samokovsko horo to North Americans in 1987. In his notes from then, Jaap wrote: “Nowadays it is done throughout all of Bulgaria and has become one of the most popular whirling circle dances at weddings and holiday gatherings…The dance is known under many different names often indicating where it is being done, by whom, and to what song or melody…” Those words appear to apply today as well. Here’s the dance, taught as Devetorka by Jaap Leegwater in 2008. In his intro, hear him state it’s also known as Samokovsko horo in Bulgaria.
Note: Some Bulgarians and some Bulgarian expats call the dance Gankino. Though Gankino is usually defined as having an 11/8 rhythm [Q,Q,S,Q,Q,] in fact the footwork of the basic step can be done to a 9/8 rhythm just as easily. Put another way, Devetorka/Samokovsko horo could be danced just as easily in 11/8. The weight changes, number and direction of steps, are the same. There are slight, almost miniscule differences in the timing of the steps, but I defy you to feel the difference when tipsy at a party, which is how most Bulgarians dance. One dances the footwork patterns one knows to the rhythm the musicians are playing.
Same with Biala Rosa. When the song became a big hit, everyone wanted to dance to it. The footwork of Devetorka/Samokovsko horo worked fine. Who wants to bother learning a new dance – I just wanna move to this cool song!
John Uhlemann wrote: “This dance, called devetorka in the US, is called “pravo” by the folks in Pirin, even though it is not at all what we call Pravo here. Galia Kuo, in Chicago now, grew up in Pirin, where it was the main dance.
It should also be mentioned that all 2+2+2+3 = 9/8 music is useful for Samokovsko Horo. Daïchovo is also in 9/8, divided 2+2+2+3, but that final “3” is a 2 with an added pick up beat, so we would say that Daïchovo is 2+2+2+2+1, whereas devetorka/Samokovsko is 2+2+2+1+2, with that final “3” being a “quick-slow”. It has to be played that way, or the little hop-step at the end doesn’t work. Dzhanguritsa is also in devetorka-style 9/8.”