Sunday evening  Davis International Folkdancers class at the  Davis Art CenterDavis International Folkdancers at Octoberfest performance at I-House in Davis, 2008Davis Internation Folkancers at Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis 2008



Dances of the Balkan countries (countries located on the Balkan peninsula, including Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Bosnia, the northern part of Greece, Bulagaria, etc.) share specific characteristics, though there are many local variations. They tend to be done in short lines, open circles, or closed circles. Traditionally men and women often danced in separate lines, or in separate parts of a long line (i.e. men at the front, women at the end of the line). Recreational folk dance groups tend to have everyone dancing together in mixed groups, though you still see separate lines in some dances.

Music is at the heart of the fascination dancers find in Balkan dances. In addition to the familiar 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 rhythms, the Balkan countries also use many complex rhythms which are fun and challenging to dance to, such as 7/8, 7/16, 9/16, or even combinations of two different rhythms in the same dance.

The traditional instrumentation is simple but mesmerizing. Bulgarian and Macedonian dances are often performed to the accompaniment of the "gajda", a bagpipe found throughout the Balkans and the Middle East. (Indeed, bagpipes are found in many cultures, including the British Isles, Spain, and elsewhere). Wooden flutes and kaval, zurnas, various types of drums, and stringed intruments such as gudulka, are also common in the Balkan dances. Bouzouki has become popular throughout an ever wider area, and of course the modern accordion and clarinet, which allow use of multiple keys and span several octaves, are great favorites, often replacing earlier traditional instruments that were more limited in musical scope.

Balkan dance steps range from the very simple traditional village dances, usually based on a walking step, to very complex dances with fast, intricate steps. Many of the latter dances have been choreographed specifically for performance purposes, often by dance groups competing in local folklore festivals held in various parts of the Balkans. The energy level varies considerably, but the dances that really get us "hooked" on Balkan dancing are the fast, energetic dances with multiple steps. Line dance steps are traditionally called by the leader, or changed at the leader's whim, with the rest of the dancers picking up the step as quickly as possible when the leader changes.

The hand holds for Balkan dances include the simple "V" hold, in which you join hands with your neighbor, with hands held down at your side; and the "W" hold, in which hands are joined at about shoulder height, with elbows bent. Balkan dances may also use belt holds, front or back basket holds, shoulder holds, traditional couple dance formations, or no handholds at all.

Davis Folkdance Home Page