Tag Archives: Folk Dance

Windsor Caroussel of Nations

Background Information: 

The informant is a middle-aged person who grew up in Windsor, a city in Canada. They emigrated to Windsor from Turkey, at a young age. They are describing a festival that they remember from their childhood. 

Main Content: 

ME: Can you tell me about the Windsor Caroussel of Nations? 

ED: So there was this festival called the Caroussel of Nations when I was growing up, and you know Canada prides itself on being a multicultural society and they consider themselves a cultural mosaic, as opposed to a melting pot, like the US. They fund a lot of festivals that, you know, help people stay connected to their cultural backgrounds and stuff. So one of those things was the Caroussel of Nations and it was around Canada Day. It was a festival where all of the cultures that wanted to get involved sign up, and they get a little grant for their space, and people have arts and crafts that they sell or display, there’s some different venues that have people who do shows like cultural dancing and displays. There’s always food, of course, which is probably the biggest thing and my mom would always make Turkish shish kebabs and shish koftes and things like that. People from all the community go around and check out all of the different cultures and enjoy the food and the environment.

ME: Did you ever participate? 

ED: I used to do this Turkish dance as a kid, we used to dress up in old traditional Turkish outfits and do a traditional Turkish line dance called Halay, you know? We would do that as a display, we would be like performing monkeys for the visiting Canadians (laughs). It was a lot of fun, everyone was coming together and the whole Turkish community would come together to put this on, it was fun visiting the other communities too. I think it’s still going on today.

Context: 

This interview happened at my house.  

Thoughts: 

The informant is my father and it seems that he really enjoyed it growing up. It seems like the Turkish community in Windsor would rally together to put on a good event and it would bring the community closer together. I have attended this festival once, and it is really amazing to see dozens of different cultures on display. It is also interesting to analyze the approach that Canada takes as a “cultural mosaic” as opposed to the “melting pot” here in the United States. I think that festivals like these are great examples of the difference. This festival is not about assimilating to Canadian culture at all, but it is about celebrating the folk dancing and traditional food from the countries that people immigrated from.

Néptánc

Main Text: 

Néptánc

Background on Informant: 

My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage. 

Context: 

They explain: 

“In our tradition, dance is a huge part of our culture. Our version is called ‘néptánc’ or folk dance in translation. 

Where I grew up the most popular form of this dance was the csárdás, which I think is the national dance of Hungary, but we still practiced it in the Szekelyfold. 

It’s known as a courting dance and while it begins slowly by the end it is super fast paced and you need the power to be able to keep up. 

My mother enrolled me in an after school dance program, but it was normal for all of us, our parents wanted us to have strong ties to our past. We also wore traditional folk clothing which includes for me included, a vest, white button up, black trousers, and of course the long black boots (sometimes hats). 

Some kids would go on to join dance troops, but I was never that passionate about dancing. We would perform at carnivals, recitals, and during the holidays for the people in the village. 

I remember some the steps but most of I’ve forgotten, but it is still a tradition practiced today”. 

Analysis/Thoughts: 

After learning more information about Hungarian folk dancing from this interview I was fascinated by how much it remains an integral part of Hungarian culture. Even from my own experience, parents continue to enroll their kids in dance clubs that teach children these dances, as they continue the traditions of their childhoods. It is fascinating how the dance has remained the same over all these decades and centuries and how it is viewed as a performing art. 

I like how dance allows children to grow up with the culture of their parents and grandparents and so forth and serves as a connection to the past and their national culture. In order to preserve this branch of Hungarian culture, these values and ideals have continued to be passed along generations, and will continue to be so as Hungary takes great pride in establishing their connection to heritage. 

Annotations: 

For visual reference:

For more information check out:

Kurti, Laszlo. “The Ungaresca and Heyduck Music and Dance Tradition of Renaissance Europe.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 14, no. 1, 1983, pp. 63–104. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2540167. 

A Dance for the Feminine Divine

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘B’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 34-year-old Gujarati woman, born and raised in Gujarat.

B: Garba is the folk dance of Gujarat, and a religious—also very social and happy—event that originates in Gujarat, but also among Gujaratis all over the world. It comes from a Sanskrit word, I believe, meaning womb, and here we dance around a clay lamp in a circle, the lamp is also called the ‘womb lamp’. It’s performed by women, around the lamp with a light inside of it, but as time has passed I think men also do perform it sometimes for fun. The circle kind of represents the Hindu view of time, it’s circular, like the circle of life. There are nine nights of dancing, the festival Navratri, as a form of worship to the Goddess Durga, our devi (goddess). Men and women dance late into the night from the evening onwards in honour of her, but women generally perform Garba specifically, as a celebration. Like many other Hindi religious practices and rituals, and this is part of one… this is done on our feet, it’s barefoot, because going barefoot is like respect for the earth on which we walk, you know? The foot is the body part that touches the earth, the mother, and dancing barefoot is like our way of connecting with her, as well as devi—Goddess Durga. It’s a dance that worships, celebrates the feminine form of divinity. 

Analysis:

Hindus are polytheists, and have many gods and goddesses, some favoured by people with specific jobs, others by people from specific regions or families, and all of these different groups of people have specific festivals and traditional ways of honouring these gods. One such example is the affiliation of the Gujarati festival of Navratri, and one of its dances, the Garba, with the goddess Durga. Durga is, as my informant states, a representation of the feminine divine, one of the most prominent Hindu goddesses. The connection with the earth that is also emphasised by my informant is important, since it furthers the image of the feminine mother, since, a) the earth is the mother, b) the goddess Durga is the mother, and c) the women dancing themselves are also, often, mothers. Simultaneously, the lamp being called the “womb lamp” and the word Garba coming from a word meaning “womb” adds to this, essentially creating an all-round aura of fertility and conventional* divine femininity around this celebration, along with its general enjoyment and euphoria with all the dancing and collective experience.

*I say conventional here in reference to the idea that fertility and motherhood is associated here with femininity and vice versa, when it is not always so in reality, those need not coincide, this is simply a derivative from what the informant is stating.

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!