Tag Archives: Folk Dance

The Dabke Dance

This interview is a transcribed conversation between me, interviewer, and interviewee, referred to as SM. 

SM: I’m from Lebanon and in Lebanon and many other Middle Eastern Countries along the Sinai Peninsula, we commonly do this dance we all refer to as the dabke. I always see it at family weddings and other celebrations like birthdays.

Me: So what does this dance look like?

SM: So this dabke dance is done with both men and women, and it’s basically when people line up together and hold hands or link arms and then in a circle begin to dance and stomp their feet in synchronization. They also, like, sway their bodies from side to side in synchronization. Everyone dances and, oh, everyone sings as well in the circle. The circle rotates and people just keep swaying and dancing and stomping.

Me: Ok, and why do you do this dance?

SM: I was told by my dad, and other family members, that the dabke actually originates in Lebanon when we as Phoenicians used to make our homes out of stone and would put straw, wood, and finally mud on top. My dad said they used to have to stomp on the mud to pack it into the straw and be sturdy. Apparently the only way to do that on the roofs of the homes was to have men line up and stomp in synchronization.

Me: Have you ever done the dabke?

SM: Yeah, I’ve done it at a couple weddings and stuff – usually it just breaks out and everyone gets swept into it.

Background:

Interviewee was born and raised in America, but his parents are both Lebanese. He lived in Dubai during his teen years and has always had very close ties to Lebanon. He visits Lebanon at least once a year and speaks with his parents regularly, where they speak in Arabic and often chat about history. They also all continually practice many Lebanese and Arabic traditions and share folklore. 

Context:

This interview was conducted over a video call. Interviewee and I are romantically involved, so the conversation was very open and casual. He was very willing to help out and share some of his culture’s lore. 

Thoughts:

It is interesting to hear a young person’s rendition of a traditional dance that clearly is still prevalent in Middle Eastern culture. His recollection and the version he knows is only one of many – many different dabkes emerged in different Middle Eastern countries. The interviewee explained the history of the dabke quite well – it is adapted from a roof dance. I greatly enjoyed learning about this and would love to see it in person. 

For a different version and more history of the dabke dance, refer to this link: https://www.arabamerica.com/dabke-cultural-background-preparing-arab-american-wedding-season/

Καλαματιανός/Kalamatianos (Dance)

DESCRIPTION

Καλαματιανός (Kalamatianos) is also a greek folk dance that is performed alongside the folk song with the same name.  It is to be performed in a faster Syrtos, 4/4 rhythm.  It is, like it’s musical counterpart, performed at festivals, parties, weddings, and Glendis (Greek Nightclub parties).

“It [Καλαματιανός (Kalamatianos)] is also the most basic Thessalian style dance in Greece.”

MAIN PIECE

The dance is to be performed in a 12 step pattern moving to the right, swingiing your arms while holding them together.  Your right foot to the side on 1, then left crossing forward on 2.  Then your right foot crosses forward into neutral on 3 and then cross FORWARD on 4.  Repeat beats 3 & 4 for 5 & 6, then 7 & 8. Instead of taking a step back to neutral on 9, you will rock back and then close your feet on 10. You will then do a rock step back on 11 and close your feet again on 12.  After this, you repeat the pattern over and over until the song ends.

BACKGROUND

My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s  Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki.  Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago.  SK, my informant, learned this dance from “glendis” in which this dance was done.  SK told me her belief is that this dance, unlike the song that accompanies it, is about coming together and letting loose, while still celebrating your heritage as a Greek person.

CONTEXT

This came from a friend of mine from my church in Southern California.  I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece.  I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.

THOUGHTS

It’s interesting to see my informant see it as a way to connect more with her culture.  In doing further research into this, it seems like more and more greek folk dance lore is performed, not as a way to convey a specific story, but instead the message that greek culture exists and is alive and well.  I find this fascinating as we get into this idea of meta-folklore as this is a reasoning that makes this folklore’s relevance based in the fact that it’s performed because it’s folklore. Folklore performedfor the sake of displaying folklore, how crazy and beautiful!

Sindhi Folk Song Wah Wah Sindhi Wah Wah

Context: RP is a really close friend of mine. She currently lives in san francisco and works at Google. I decided to facetime her and ask her about any folklore. She is fascinated with songs and dancing and told me about this sidhi folk dance. 

YM: So tell me about this folk song

RP: When I was in India, I used to really enjoy dancing and listening to the Sindhi songs. Basically, they all are about being grateful to the Sindhu god – Jhulelal…And each caste in India has its own state. But Sindhi, our caste does not. Sindh, this state lies in Pakistan, since the India-Pakistan partition…I, at times, listen to these songs when I am here in the US, because I miss it so much. One of the songs is “Wah wah sindhi wah wah” which actually means Sindhis are the best, also it paragraphs detail about the specific traits of sindhi culture. I personally love hearing this one, since it reminds me of our Sindhi culture. 

RP: Also sindhu language is written like Urdu, starts from the bottom corner of the last page, in the reverse direction.

RP:  Basically the sindhi/Sufi songs have deeper meanings which make you realize how vast the universe is and to be grateful.

YM: In your culture what does this song signify? 

RP: I feel this song symbolises the pulse-beat of the nation you could say.. Like the consciousness of the Sindhi people that it manifests in this song or any other Sindhi song. The song has a spirit and you know it has life and vitality and it represents the people 

YM: That’s beautiful

Background info: RP was born and raised in Pakistan, she identifies herself as Indian and Sindhi folk songs have always been her favorite growing up. Sooner or later she plans  to go back to India, because she wants her kids to learn and imbibe the sindhi culture, which will be very difficult If she plans her future here. 

Analysis: This song seems to represent the culture of the Sindhi people. It is folk song and music that is ethno, meaning it is outside of westorn music (foreign musicology.) Sindhi songs and music are usually danced predominantly with your hands, not much leg movement is done. It appears to also represent the consciousness of the nation as a whole, I imagine that when sindhi songs are danced or heard one experiences a sense of identity and individuality. And of course it is a form of self expression for Sindhi people. 

La Guelaguetza

Context

The informant is an acquaintance of my father, and in a previous vacation invited us to watch “La Guelaguetza,” a performance of the many different tribes in Oaxaca and their folk dances. I made some time during my Spring Break to ask him about the festival once more.

 

Interviewer: Back in 2014, you invited my family and I to the festival of “La Guelaguetza” in Oaxaca. Would you be able to tell me about it, and why it’s such a significant festival.

 

Informant: Yes, gladly! For starters, I myself am originally from Oaxaca, and came to Mexico City to pursue my career as a lawyer. However, much of my family is actually native mexican, like many in Oaxaca. I make an effort to go back every July to watch the festival. “La Guelaguetza” is a festival where many different cultures come together to perform their folk dances, because Oaxaca has many different native cultures, not just Zapoteca. The festival spans almost a week full of plays and performances, but the most important part of it all is at the end of the event… In an open theatre, the different groups all perform folk dances, to music unique to each culture, donning their traditional clothes. Most if not all dances are for couples, a man and a woman. Probably the most famous dance is the “hat dance,” but there are many others.

 

(Note: The hat dance involves the man placing his sombrero between him and the woman, with both of them dancing around it in until they meet.)

 

Interviewer: Yeah, I remember the dances being very unique, but what I remember the most is almost getting knocked out by a mezcal pot during the festival. Could you also talk about the food at “La Guelaguetza?”

 

Informant: (laughs) Of course, of course. “Guelaguetza” is actually a Zapoteca word, which roughly translates to “sharing of gifts.” Other than sharing their music and dances, “La Guelaguetza” is also the place where everyone shares their native foods… but not in a buffet or a restaurant. They actually give samples of the foods in the middle of the dance performances.

 

Interviewer: They pass out the food in a very… uhm… unique manner, do they not?

 

Informant: Indeed, it would be extremely complicated and would most definitely interrupt the dance if they tried giving samples to such a huge crowd, so the performers often opt to throw their items into the crowd! Most of the time they’ll bring a type of sweet bread, but you can also expect mole negro, tamales, and yes, even pots of natively brewed mezcal to be thrown your way. “La Guelaguetza” is so significant for Oaxaca because it celebrates all the cultural diversity in the state by bringing us all together through music, dance, and food.

 

A video of “Jarabe Mixteco” (lit. Mixteco Syrup) one of the more well known dances performed at “La Guelaguetza”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttlol6TZebE

 

Schuhplattler

Main piece: Schuhplattler is a traditional style of Bavarian folk dance that includes lots of leg movement, stomping, clapping and slapping. The male performers wear Lederhosen and the female performers wear Dirndls. Modern performances of Schuhplattler can be seen at Oktoberfest in Germany, where many in attendance of the wear Dirndls and Lederhosen – a very good look. Schuhplattler dancers may also play the accordion in their performances, which is a nice addition.  

Context: The informant (BB) grew up in Schlesien (Silesia), Germany and immigrated to the United States when she was 24 in August 1960. BB and her husband, who was from East Prussia (now considered a territory in Poland), started a family of 3 children in Orlando, Florida and ran a greenhouse business until their retirement. BB is a devout Christian with Lutheran roots. She is fluent in both German and English. Our conversation took place by the fireplace in my home in Atlanta. Interestingly, the informant never practiced, performed or watched Schuhplattler in her youth, since the Bavarian dance was more popular in the Southern part of Germany, and she grew up in the Northwest. However, when she immigrated to the U.S. and began attending the American-German society, many young German people were practicing Schuhplattler and putting on shows among their friends. So, she sent her three kids to Schuhplattler practice every weekend and accordion practice for 5 years (and they hated it). BB admires the dance because it was a tradition she wouldn’t have really been exposed to if she had stayed in Northwestern Germany.

Personal thoughts: There is definitely some irony in the fact that immigrating to a new country taught her more about her own country than living there, in some small ways. It goes to show the ways in which folk adapt traditions to new cultures, locations and time periods. Additionally, the Schuhplattler dance is a perfect reflection of the German people and their mindset – disciplined and refined, yet still lively and fun within those constraints. For external reference, see “Kolb, Alexandra. “The Migration and Globalization of Schuhplattler Dance: A Sociological Analysis.” Cultural Sociology, vol. 7, no. 1, 12 July 2012, pp. 39-55. ProQuest 5000. Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.)

“Kolo”-Croatian Circle Dance

Informant FV is my grandfather who was born and raised in Split, Croatia. As a young boy, he grew up in a traditional Croatian family who upheld their culture through dancing Kolo. Kolo is a series of folk dances that vary by region. The word kolo is translated into “circle dance.”

For those you are not familiar with the Croatian culture, explain what kolo is and what it means.

FV: “Kolo means circle dance and it is a series of Croatian folk dances performed across the different regions in Croatia. Kolo is a type of dance performed in a circle formation where the dancers, both male and female, follow specific steps holding hands in one big group circle. There is always music accompanied with this type of dancing.”

What are the different regions within Croatia?

FV: “There are four different regions in Croatia. The first one is called Croatia proper. This region is the central part of the Republic of Croatia and it is where the capital, Zagreb, is located. Zagreb is also the largest city in Croatia. The second region is the region of Slavonia. Slavonia is mostly the eastern inland area of the country. Next is Istria. Istria is a northern peninsula that is the westernmost region of Croatia. It is famous for the city called ‘Pula.’ Lastly is Dalmatia, which is the region I am from. Dalmatia is the majority of the coastline of Croatia and it includes the southern cities of Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik.”

Which of these regions perform kolo?

FV: “All of these regions have their own form of kolo. For example, for my region of Dalmatia, we perform a type of kolo called Linđo. Linđo represents kolo for the southern parts of Croatia like Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. Other regions like Slavonia and Istria, they perform what’s called Šokačko and Balun. Šokačko means ‘the shaker.’ Slavonia has more of a Turkish influence on the dance because it’s inland and because of past history and Istria has more of a Venetian influence because of how close Croatia and Italy are in distance. The city of Split also has been heavily influenced by the Venetian culture because of its location alongside the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Split and the region of Istria sustained the practices and dances from Italy. Turkey never occupied Split or Zadar, so these cities maintained their Italian influenced dances.”

What styles were the kolo costumes influenced by?

FV: “The Croatian national costumes are called ‘Narodna nošnja,’ which means, ‘native or national costume.’ These costumes vary in design, style, material and color based on the location of each region. For example, since Dalmatia and Istria are located on the coast, their costumes consist of Adriatic or Venetian influence. The men’s costumes are usually white or black and have dark trousers that are tighter fitting with a white shirt and a vest. They also wear a red silk belt with a black cap. Women typically wear several layers, which include a white blouse, a skirt with a very colorful apron on top that has red, white and gold stitching and fringe. The women wear colorful scarves with red, white, blue and green, along with beads and coral necklaces, which represents the Adriatic coast.”

In what context would kolo be performed?

FV: “Kolo is danced at every major holiday, festival, party, religious gatherings, weddings, etc.”

When or how did you learn kolo?

FV: “I learned kolo when I was a young boy growing up in my family and by attending special gatherings were it was performed. It is a lot of fun once you learn the steps and the rhythm of the music.”

Does kolo have any significant meaning to you?

FV: “Yes absolutely. Kolo is part of my heritage and culture. It is a large part of our Croatian celebrations and festivities to dance kolo, as it is a form of group dance and performed in a group setting. It is something that we use to express ourselves and the music that goes along with it is very upbeat and fun. Every Croatian knows how to dance kolo. It is something that you learn at a very young age.”

Analysis:

No Croatian festivity or celebration would be complete without kolo. Kolo, or circle dance, is the general term for Croatian folk dance that is performed in the four different regions of Croatia. Each region has their own version of kolo with their own styles of costumes or “nošnja.” Kolo is part of every Croatian social gathering like weddings, parties, and festivals. I personally have a special connection to kolo, as I grew up dancing since I was little with my sister and my friends. I have taught my non-Croatian friends the steps and they find it to be a lot of fun. Our parents and grandparents taught us all at a very young age the steps and songs that corresponded to each dance. Now that I am an adult, I have a greater appreciation that I can carry on my Croatian traditions and rituals to my children. Kolo was an activity that allowed my friends and I to grow closer as it united us together through our cultural ties.

For another version and further information regarding Croatian kolo dance, check out BBC’s article written by Rudolf Abraham:

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20140614-fifty-years-of-folk-dancing

Citation:

Abraham, Rudolf. “Fifty Years of Folk Dancing.” BBC. N.p., 14 June 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.

 

Photo credit: Nenad N. Bach 2009

Photo credit: Nenad N. Bach 2009

Skanking

About the Interviewed: Spencer is a former student of the George Washington University, now graduated and teaching English overseas. He describes his ethnic background as “Potpourri”, with his family having a mixture of Scottish-Polish origins with some Irish thrown in the mix. His family has lived in North America for generations, so he prefers to identify ethnically as just that. He is 22 years of age.

When I was a student at the George Washington University, my friend Spencer got really into Ska music.

Spencer: “Ska is a genre of music best described as a combo of Jamaican Reggae and [Western] rock music.” Spencer tells me. “It involves a combination of electric guitar and jazz instruments. It’s pretty uptempo.”

Spencer then tells me about a type of dancing unique to a “Ska” performance.

Spencer: “When you listen to Ska, you’ve gotta Skank. That’s just how you do it. When you Skank you’ve gotta just move to the music. You’ve gotta move to the beat.”

Spencer then gets up and gives me a small demonstration. He performs a sort-of hopping motion accompanied by a fist pump. He hops and jerks to the rhythm of a song I’m playing  on my ipod. As the music grows more uptempo, he begins to hop in a running-man pose. It’s important to note that his Skanking embodies a sort of lock-step movement. It’s a quick transition, and then a freeze; almost like a kind of rhythmic freeze-tag.

I ask him if he’s seen Skanking performed in other ways.

Spencer: “Yeah, people just go crazy. Ska is really loud so people just sort of let themselves go. Sometimes people shake around, they kick and stuff. I’ve seen crazy-ass stuff go down. I’ve seen people get hurt – they Skank so hard.”

Summary:

Skanking is a form of dance closely associated with Ska music. It is accomapnied most often by Ska music, and it consists of bopping and/or running in place to the beat of a song.

Like Ska music itself, Skanking embodies something wild and free. Not unlike “moshing”, Skanking allows an audience to participate in the culture of the music they are receiving. Essentially, they’re taking the positive energy they receive from the music, and sending it right back to the performers in an epic loop of positive feedback.

Regrettably, by his request, I was unable to record Spencer’s Skanking demo, but I’ve found some videos that seems to capture the spirit of the dance pretty well.