Romanian Dance Rhythms (Uneven)

The vast majority of Romanian dances are in even rhythms – 2/4, 4/4, 8/8, 6/8, 12/8.  A characteristic feature of Romanian dance music is syncopation – jagged phrasing within those even rhythms.  Romanians so love their syncopation that occasionally they resort to uneven rhythms as well.  Romanian musicologists use the term aksak to refer to rhythms that are uneven – that is, the pulses or beats appear to be of uneven length.  They’re often grouped in blends of quicks and/or slows, giving the music a skipping, halting, or even jerky feel. (Aksak is a Turkish word meaning “lame”.)


The simplest of these aksak rhythms is Rustem or Rustemul(roo-STEH-moo).  [Rustem derives from resteu, a kind of bolt used in yoking oxen]. .  The overall feeling is of quick, slow, quick, slow; like skipping.  However the relationship between the quick and the slow varies – some slows are slower than others.  Here’s a Rustem (Rustemul is the diminutive form) that starts with 5 beats and a hold, six total.  When the tilinca (flute – see 5 Romanian Flutes under MUSIC) begins playing, you can feel the quick, slow, quick, slow, rhythm.  In this case, it’s 1,2,1,2,3,4, or 6 beats – the second twice as long as the first.


Another, faster version of a 6-count Rustem by the amazing Romani group, Taraf De Haidouks.  At 3:08 they kick into another gear – a fast 2, then at 3:37 go crazy with a lightening 11/8 – Q,Q,Q,Q,S.  The Q’s are 2 beats, the S is 3.


Dancing to this needn’t be as frantic as the music would lead us to believe.


Here’s some Japanese kids doing a great job of a 6-count Rustemul.


And a 5-count Rustemul (1,2,1,2,3,) – the one most Recreational Folk Dancers are familiar with.  Although the sound is poor, I picked this version because it best demonstrates the leap before going into the centre that this Rustemul’s proponent, Mihai David, is now emphasizing in his teaching.


Rustemul can be uneven in other ways.  Here’s a slow 5-count dance – 4+hold.  Only the first dance in this “Suita” is a Rustemul.



As Rustemul is like Bulgarian Pajduško (both Q,S,), so is Geamparalele like Bulgarian Račenica (both Q,Q,S,).  Geamparalele (jahm-pah-RAH-leh-leh) is very much a living dance – especially in the (former Bulgarian) region of Dobrogea.

Geamparalele seems to be not so much a dance as a rhythm applied to other dances.  In these two YouTubes, we see the Q,Q,S, rhythm applied to simple walking, a Račenica-like step, the Taproot Dance, and a kind of Polka.




Cadâneasca  (kah-din-YAHSS-kah) is another Dobrogea dance, this one in 9/16 – Q,Q,Q,S, 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2,3,  The name derives from the Turkish Kadin, meaning “woman”.  It’s considered by Romanian dance scholars to be a Dobrogea variant of Schioapa.  For more examples, see Cadâneasca under DANCE>3a – Living Dances>Cadâneasca.


Hodoroaga (haw-daw-RWAH-gah) translates as “rambling old woman”.  It’s considered by Romanian dance scholars to be a southern Transylvanian variant of Schioapa.  For more examples, see Hodoroaga under DANCE>3b – 1st Generation Dances>Hodoroaga

Performance of a similar dance in France


Schioapa (shkew-AH-pah), “limping”, refers to two VERY different Romanian dances.  Here’s the Living Schioapa popular in Romania today, especially Dobrogea  [see CULTURE>ETHNICITY, HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY>Dobrudja, Dobrogea].  It’s in the aksak (irregular) rhythm of 9/16, or Q,Q,Q,S, – 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2,3.  It’s related to the Bulgarian Daičovo of the same rhythm.  However dance scholars believe its not a case of one dance influencing the other, rather that both dances evolved in tandem.


Învârtita – Various

Învârtita (een-vuhr TEE-tah) – “turning” – is one of the dominant dance forms in Romania, especially Transylvania and both sides of the Carpathians.  Due in part to its wide geographic distribution, Învârtita is danced to a wide variety of rhythms, both regular and irregular.  For most of its history, Transylvania was part of Hungary, dominated by Hungarians, though Romanians were often in the majority.  Thus,   Învârtita is a Hungarian-Romanian (also Polish & Ukrainian) hybrid.  The closer to the Hungarian border, the more Învârtita resembles the Hungarian couple dance Ugros (not Csárdás), with even rhythm.  The closer to the Danube, the more rhythms become irregular, and dancer combinations vary.

9//8 – Q,Q,S,Q, 1,2, 1,2, 1,2,3, 1,2,


This one features the Romanian (originally Hungarian via Turkey) reed instrument, the taragot, a cross between a clarinet and a zurna.


7/8 – Q,S,Q, 1,2, 1,2,3, 1,2,  Jaw harp is a not uncommon Romanian instrument.

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