An exploration of traditional Romanian folk dances.

Every evening on Romanian television, you can find at least one show or program dedicated to traditional folk music or dance. Music and dance, like tuica and Christianity, is woven so deep into the Romanian culture that not even communism could quash it.

Max wanted to learn more about Romanian dances, so we focused our explorations on that subject today. The hora is the starting point for all traditional Romanian dances. It gathers everyone into a big closed circle where the dancers hold each other’s hands and the circle spins, usually counterclockwise, as each participant follows a sequence of three steps forward and one step back. The dance is usually accompanied by musical instruments such as the cymbalum, accordion, violin, viola, double bass, saxophone, trumpet or even the panflute.

There are many different kinds of horas to dance, depending on regions, seasons, and occasions. All you need is a few willing dancers and a good reason to celebrate life (i.e. you’re alive is a good one). Max loved watching the videos and noting the differences in the steps and patterns of each hora.

  • Learn how to dance the Romanian hora with the simple step-by-step.
  • Watch Hora fetelor, or “the girl’s hora”, performed by a Romanian folk ensemble.
  • Watch Hora de la Sud, or “the hora from the South”, performed by the Fluieras Dance Ensemble.
  • Enjoy watching a wedding hora in Moldavia, performed by some happy gentlemen. Then watch this mixed-sex wedding hora from Bucovina. Good stuff.
  • Read the lyrics ro Hora Unirii, the celebratory hora song written to honor the unification of the Romanian nation in 1856.
  • Learn about Hora Bucuriei, or the Hora of Joy, the celebratory hora performed when Romania was admitted to the EU in 2007.
  • Wouldn’t it be cool if American schools taught folk dances?

The sirba (or Sârba) is a Romanian dance normally played in 2/2 or 2/4 time. It can be danced in a circle, line, or couple formations and was historically popular not only among Romanians, but also Ukrainians, Hungarians, East European Jews, and the Poles of the Tatra Mountains. It is fast-paced and triplets are usually emphasized in the melody. More sirbas and sirba-isms to explore:

  • Watch a Sirba de nunta, or “wedding sirba” in traditional folk costume with customary calls and responses.
  • Watch a Sirba from Oltenia, or, at least, danced by those with Oltenian roots.
  • Listen to a Sirba din fluier, or a sirba solo on flute.
  • Even better, listen to a Sirba la cimpoi, or a sirba performed on a traditional Romanian bagpipe.

If you research the roots of kletzmer, you’ll discover that this vivacious and beautiful music genre shares seeds with Romanian folk dances and melodies. According to Wikipedia:

Above all the musical styles which influenced the traditional Klezmer musicians, the Romanian influence seems to be the strongest and most enduring. Traditional Romanian music was heard, adopted and adapted by Klezmer musicians. This fact is reflected in the dance forms found throughout the entire surviving Klezmer music repertoire (e.g., Horas, Doinas, Sirbas and Bulgars etc.).

Hopefully, when my mom returns from Romania, she will teach our family to dance a personal favorite, the Ciuleandra, which is diminished unless the rich voice of Maria Tanase holds it up. On a parting note,fedelesul wins the prize for the goofiest traditional folk dance, which means I need to find a circle for it very, very soon…

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