The suites we perform have draw on the wide range of traditional dance types in Romania
Dances from Transylvania:
The Fecioreşte men's dances
- Ariesul - men's Fecioreasca from central Transylvania
- Chimitelnic - men's Fecioreasca from the village of Chimitelnic, central Transylvania
- Crihalma - Fecioreasca from the village of Crihalma danced by the women from the early 1970's
- Caluser - men's ritual dance from south Transylvania from which the Fecioreşte has its roots.
These are part of the old stratum of men's group dances in which a group of men perform in unison, often with their roots in the old ritual customs. These are found across Europe except in the Slavic and Hungarian countries.
The Romanian Căluş of the Danube regions and Căluşer of Transylvania are ritual men's group dances which use sticks as a prop. The Transylvanian versions include the steps of the slow Fecioreşte, and are related to dances such as De bâtă and Haidău. Older variants of the lad's dances are found around places such as Rupea, which includes the version from Crihalma.
In central and northern Transylvania the Fecioreşte is generally danced as a couplet of the slow and fast Fecioreşte, this can be seen in Arieşul.
Influences from the Austro-Hungarian empire recruiting dances of the late 18th century have led to the many rhythmic boot slapping sequences, such features are found throughout the countries of the Hapsburg empire. These are incorporated in the Transylvanian lad's dances, such as the version from Chimetelnic and Arieşul.
Fecioreasca fetelor from Crihalma is a women's version of a men's dance originally from the villages of Crihalma and Ticuşu Nou (county of Braşov). The women often danced together with the men in a group formation at events such as weddings and this further developed into a version danced only by girls in the early 1970's. The first part is in a circle with slow walking steps in a syncopated rhythmic pattern followed by the Fecioreşte. This has no hand slaps and the basic movements are leg rotations, heel-clicks in the air and leaps.
Suites; slow couple dance, men's dance and fast turning couple dance
- Transylvania - suite from north-east Transylvania; Purtata, Barbunc, Invârtita
- Câmpia - suite from Gherla, central Transylvania; Româneste de Purtat, Ponturi, De-nvârtit
The walking dance is known as Purtata, Româneşte de purtat, or De-a lungul by the Romanians of Transylvania comes from the first generation of couple dances to spread through Europe. It is danced with couples promenading in a "horse-shoe" formation. It probably made its way to the peasant populations via the courts and now remains in the folk dances from Norway to Transylvania.
In the Câmpia suite walking dance, slow men's figures and slow turning dance are danced to an asymmetric rhythm (10/8 = 4+3+3) which is characteristic to the Romanians of Transylvania and south west Romania.
This is followed by the Fecioreşte lad's dance, in these cases called Bărbunc from the Verbunc military recruiting dance and Ponturi from the figures or Pont (from the Hungarian).
The Învârtita is the Romanian version of the "turning dance" which spread through Europe after the walking dance. In this dance the couples take a close hold and the dance features rapid turning as a couple in either direction in place. Again, variants of this type of dance can be found from Scandinavia to Transylvania. The variant from Maramureş incorporates characteristic rhythmical stamping and the Transylvanian variant includes many spins for the women.
The dances are traditionally danced in sequence starting with the the slow walking dance, then the turning dance. Sometimes there is a slow turning dance followed by the fast turning dance. In Transylvania they have remained as separate dances, whereas elsewhere in Europe they may be combined into one dance, or one part may have been dropped.
Dans cu sucitoare
Sucitor means rolling pin. This dance was choreographed up for a competition in the 1940s using typical steps with a theme of clashing two rolling pins. The dance won the competition and continued to be danced in the village of Feleac, county of Bistrita-Nasaud. Feleac is in the "Transylvanian heath", Câmpia.
Polca din Aleşd
Aleşd is a town in Bihor on the western side of the mountains separating from Transylvania from the Hungarian plain. The Bihor Polca is the local name for the Ardeleana. In Bihor the dance has influences from the north Romanian styles giving rhythmic stamps for the men. The women, conversely, make light scampering steps.
The music is played on a "Stroh violin", called "vioara cu goarna" by the Romanians. This instrument was invented in England by Augustus Stroh and used in the recording industry from the late 19th century to the start of electronic amplification. A standard violin was not powerful enough to record on the wax cylinders wheras the Stroh violin uses a mica resonator and a horn, much like the gramophones of the time, to amplify the sound.
Dances from south Romania:
Suita din Oltenia
Hora - Rustem - Brâuleţ
Oltenia is in the south western corner of Romania extending from the Danube plain up to the Carpathians. The villages have many variants of the older line and circle dances, the spread of couple dances did not reach south of the Carpathians. This suite starts with the Hora, the most common Romanian dance, followed by Rustem which is danced to an aksak 5/8 rhythm. The final dance is the Oltenian version of the Brâul , danced with typical Oltenian fast, sharp dynamics.
Muntenian girl's dance
This choreography is based on the Breaza dance which is thought to have originated in north Muntenia, but is now found along the elbow of the Carpathians covering parts of Moldavia and Transylvania. Breaza (also known as Ca la Breaza, or Ungurica) is a couple dance with a springing style and syncopated rhythm which is likely to be derived from the shepherds springing dances and the Muntenian Brâul.
Suita din Dobrogea
Cadâneasca - Papusele - Brâuleţ
Dobrogea, on the Black Sea coast in south east Romania, is part of the Danube plain folklore with populations of Romanians from other areas, Aroumanians of Macedonia plus Turks, Bulgarians etc. Cadâneasca is a dance in an aksak (uneven) 9/8 rhythm devived from the word for a Turkish harem girl.
Dances from south Moldavia:
Suita din Moldova I / Suita din Moldova II / Suita din Moldova III
Hora - Polca - Bătuta / Bătuta - Arcanul / Corăghiasca - Ciobănasul - Ţărăneasca
The dances of Moldavia have a firm strength with much rhythmic stamping. Moldavian dance suites can start with the circle dances (Hora and Sârba), followed by men's dances and couple dances. Arcanul is a men's variant of the Sârba related to the recruiting dances, and Corăghiasca is the Moldavian varient of the men's Brâu. Ţărăneasca is danced in small circles and the Bătuta is a Moldavian variant of the Învârtita turning dance. There are many local adoptions and creations of the Polka (Polca) and set dances in Moldavia. These are so integrated that the villagers believe they are traditional Romanian in origin.
Suita din Maramureş
Joc de Sânziene - De băut - Bărbătesc - Învârtita
The Maramureş ethnographic region is in a depression within the northern Carpathians separated from Transylvania. It is known as "the land of free Dacians" as Romans rule did not extend to this area. Much later Maramureş came under control of Hungary, then the Hapsburgs. Ethnographically it is liked to that of north Moldavia and Bihor with characteristic rhythmical dance steps, sharpened by the heavy boots worn by the men. In contrast, the women wear light opinci and dance with small light steps.
Sânziene is a custom performed by young girls on 24th June, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, which was while the corn was ripening. This is the closest feast to the summer solstice. Drăgaica and Sânziene are both names for a plant with yellow flowers (English name is Our Lady's Bedstraw). The custom is called Sânziene in Transylvanian and Drăgaica in the South and Moldavia. Small groups of girls between age six and eleven are dressed in white with woven bands across their chests and brightly coloured necklaces. The prettiest girl is chosen as Drăgaica or Sânziene (bride) and is decorated with kerchiefs, a veil and a crown made of plaited ears of grain. The girls process through the village, stopping at every house and field to dance.
During the pauses between dance suites, the young men gather in front of the musicians and sing verses to melodies called De Strigat or De băut while improvising stamping motifs from Bărbătescul.
Bărbătesc is a men's group dance of the Carpathian Springing dance family. This is followed by the Maramureş version of the couple dance Învârtita combined with the variant Tropotita. These are turning dances with figures of rhythmical stamping.
Dance from Oaş
Oaş is a small depression in the hills across the mountains to the west of Maramureş. The music and dance is closely linked to that of Maramureş, although the girl's costume shows later influences from Europe.
This dance uses parts of the couple dance Învârtita and the rhythmical men's steps from Roata feciorilor which is the Oaş variant of the Bărbătesc of Maramureş.
Suita din Banat
De doi - Brâul - De doi
Banat, south-west of Transylvania, comprises a mountainous area of the Carpathians and part of the great plain. This suite of dances from Caransebes starts with De doi, performed as a column of couples. De doi is the Banat varient of Ardeleana which is danced along the western regions of Romania. In Banat the dance is fast with many complex interweaving arm figures. The men's Brâul is an old type of dance found along the Carpathians and is danced to an asymmetric rhythm. The third part of the suite has De doi danced in threesomes (1 man and 2 women).