Monday, February 16, 2015

The Pleasure of Balkan Rhythms: 9/8 and 9/16

I've been spending this month teaching dances in one of my favorite rhythms: 9/8 (or 9/16, depending on the tempo). Like all the wonderful uneven tempos of the Balkans, this one just keeps you moving - quite unlike the typically even 4/4 of most Western music. 

In Bulgaria and Macedonia, these dances are most often done in a QQQS sequence. The basic move of Daichovo is a classic hop step step step, always danced in sequences of four to fit the phrasing of the music; many variations can be added on or called by the leader. Djanguritsa is also danced in sequences of four measures, but with a characteristic extra syncopated beat added at the end to make it QQQS&. Devetorka is similar to a Kopanitsa, with three-measure phrasing in a more compact form (the rhythm of Kopanitsa is 11/8).  All of these dances can be done to many different pieces of music.

The two Greek dances I've been teaching both originate from areas in modern-day Turkey that were once populated by Greeks. Yetiere is a Pontic dance from the region near the Black Sea. Tessera Matia is from Asia Minor, the western coastal area; this lovely hypnotic dance features a twist on 9/8 that is also found in many versions of Karsilamas - the rhythm is called as QSQQ. Here's a good video of this dance:

The beat goes on at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m.  Come join us!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some Thoughts on Misirlou

I'm guessing, like me, you may have learned Misirlou as a Greek dance in your elementary school P.E. class. Well, it turns out that Misirlou is not really an authentic Greek dance. In fact, it was choreographed in 1945 by a teacher at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, using steps from Sirtos Haniotikos; it was first performed at a program to honor America's allies of World War II.

The exact origin of the song is not clear, but the earliest known recording was by the Greek rebetiko musician Tetos Demetriades, who named the song Misirlou in 1928. The name means "Egyptian" in Turkish. The melody has been so popular that it has been recorded in many languages (including Yiddish, Armenian, and Arabic) and performed by musicians including the Beach Boys, Connie Francis, and surf musician Dick Dale (who was Lebanese-American). The dance also became wildly popular in both the Greek and Serbian communities in the U.S., as well as with U.S. folk dance enthusiasts. Here's a video of the dance:

I have traveled to Greece twice now to study dance and can tell you that no real Greek dancer would be seen dancing Misirlou, though you might find it in a tourist taverna in Athens. Which doesn't mean it's a terrible dance; it is in fact a lovely little dance to great music with fun variations, and it is very much within a broader folk dance tradition of choreographed dances based on traditional stylings and steps that have been introduced by popular folk dance teachers. 

There are many dances in the folk dance repertoire that come from ethnic communities in the United States. One of these is the Armenian Misirlou. There are several versions; this one  is a direct variation of the Greek-American version:

I have been teaching a different version from the Armenian community in Racine, Wisconsin that I really like. You can watch it here:
This fun Armenian Misirlou will one of several dances I will be teaching at the annual Festival of the Oaks at Live Oak Park Community Center, 1301 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley on Sunday, February 8, 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Start the New Year Dancing

Put on your dancing shoes for 2015! 

In Petaluma: 
Mondays 7-9:15 p.m., January 5-May 4 (no class April 6)
Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma
$65 for the 17-week session, or $7 drop-in

At College of Marin, Kentfield Campus, PE #22:
Wednesdays 2:10-3:30 p.m., January 28-March 11 (no class February 25); CRN#
$54 for the 6-week session; registration at: 

I'll be teaching a diverse mix of dances from Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece, Armenia, Macedonia, Israel, and more. All welcome: beginners through advanced dancers, all ages, no partner necessary.

Great exercise, great fun, great music, great company!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dancing in the Holiday Season

Big fun and wonderful music by Gradina at our Annual Petaluma Folk Dance Party!
Dancing Bavno Oro

Jana, Karen and Ken playing an instrumental Pravo Horo

Eight-member women's vocal ensemble Gradina singing Aj Lipo Tije

Risa, Gloria, Lonna, Bea, and Marina dancing Rumelaj

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Get Your Dancing Shoes On: Annual Petaluma Holiday Folk Dance Party

You are invited to the Annual Petaluma Holiday Folk Dance Party on Monday, December 8, 7-9:30 p.m., at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma!

The evening will including dancing to new and old recorded favorites, plus live Balkan music by eight-member women’s vocal ensemble Gradina accompanied by Ken Genetti on tambura, Karen Guggenheim on gaida, Jana Muhar on tupan, and Gaelen Genetti on naval.

This event is hosted by Petaluma Snap-Y Dancers, and everyone is welcome to dance and/or just listen to the fabulous music.

Come enjoy our friendly atmosphere, great mix of dances, and the wonderful wood dance floor at Herman Sons Hall. Admission is $10, and includes refreshments.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Great mix of dances at the International Dance Festival

Over 85 people came to Herman Sons Hall in Petaluma for the International Folk Dance Festival for New Dancers on October 19! Dances were taught by Marilyn Smith, Carol Friedman, Elsa Bacher, Kristalli Papadpoulos, Vince Taylor and Emma Charlebois, Nadav Nur, Susie Shof, Jill Breslauer, and Leanne Schy.

Here's Marilyn Smith teaching Ordu, a Pontic dance from Turkey:

Nadav Nur taught Odeno Oro from Macedonia, with help from Susie Shoaf:

Here I am, teaching the Urban Soul line dance Cupid Shuffle:

And mark your calendars now for our next special event: our Annual Petaluma Holiday Party with live music by Gradina on Monday, December 8, 7-9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Coming up this month in Petaluma: three dances from Rumania:
  • Gary Anderson will teaching Arcanul Batrinesc, an "old men's" dance from Moldova to a wistful song recalling the days when these men could still dance the fast Arcanul, that was presented by Eric Bendix at the 2006 Stockton Folk Dance Camp
  • I'll be teaching Joc Batrinesc, another "old men's" dance from the village of Nicultiel near the Black Sea, as well Moldovian Hora which is a simple classic 3-part hora.
We'll continue to review and dance these three from Albania:
  • Gorarce, a fun and athletic men's dance in 3/4 rhythm that was introduced by Eric Bendix
  • Populli Jon, a lovely lyrical 3-part women's dance from southern Albania
  • Valle Jardana, a popular 2-part Albanian wedding dance in 2/4 rhythm
And three more from Macedonia:
  • Changulovo, one of my favorites that I learned from Michael Ginsberg at Balkan Camp
  • Dolgoto Oro, in QQSQS (16/18) rhythm originally taught by Pece Atanovski
  • Skudrinka, my latest favorite, a lively wild variation of Skudrinka that gets faster and faster

Good things come in threes! Hope to see you all on Monday nights in October (7-9:15 p.m. at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma; drop-in fee $7 - beginners, newcomers, experienced dancers all welcome).