Samokovsko horo (L*), Самоковско хоро (Biala Rosa, Gankino) – Bulgaria

*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 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.”

Nikola Obrazopisov (1827-1911): National round dance (horo) from Samokov area, 1892.

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.

“Cherry blossom eyes.” Nikolina Chakardakova
Here’s Nikolina singing it. Notice the dancers’ Q,Q,Q,S pattern. This choreography is much more stagey and complicated than the popular ‘folk’ Samokovsko horo.
Николай Славеев [Nikolay Slaveev]. Василке млада невесто [Cornflower young bride]
Nikolay singing and playing.
Another popular song is Biala Rosa, sung by Slavka Kalcheva. This song is so popular worldwide that several dances in 9/8 (like Gankino, a 4-measure pattern) have been attached to it. Here we can glimpse the common 3-measure pattern, which some dancers call “Biala rosa”, after the song.

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]. I have a shorthand name for it that I think is more descriptive; T-12A, which stands for 12-step Taproot foot pattern in a 9beat uneven (Aksak in Turkish) rhythm. For more on the T-12A, click

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.

Samokovsko horo, as currently taught in Bulgaria. The dance without the teaching is demonstrated, starting at 4:37. Note the music is Slavka singing “Biala Rosa”.
Fancy variation. Demonstration starts at 4:10.
Basic dance. Music: Nikolina Chakardakova
Shipka Hotel, Sofia, 2013. Fancy variation. Music: Nikolina Chakardakova, towards the end of the recording.
Plovdiv, 2019. Music: Nikolay Slaveev
Around 2:03 the leader with the red sash pulls a Samokovsko.
Singer: Ilia lukov. 2016, location unknown.
Caption: Bulgarian wedding from Goce Delchev (Nevrokop)! Music, Slaveev

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!

Labeled Biala rosa. Location unknown
A medley of Bulgarian favorites – Eleno Mome, Biala Rosa starts at 2:31, followed by Daichovo and Pravo. Obzor, tavern “Pri Hashovete”, 29/07/15.
Labeled Gankino horo / Biala Rosa. Varna, Bulgaria, 2009
Slavka singing her hit to the Bulgarian community in Toronto, Canada, 2010
Labeled Biala Roza, Gankino Horo, taught by what appears to be Bulgarians in Canada.
Labeled Gankino Canadian-Bulgarian Assn., Toronto, 2010
Labeled Biala Rosa. South Africa, 2018


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.”

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