Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Following Dance - an ancient dance from the Rhodope mountains

In the Rhodope mountains there is an unique ancient folk dance: the Following Dance (Bulgarian: Слядно хоро). This dance still exists in the small mountain village of Chernichevo. The great Bulgarian academician Lyubomir Miletich, who wrote about Chernichevo, claimed that this was a specific mournful dance, performed only once a year. And this is the truth.

The Christian community of Chernichevo danced the mournful dance each Good Friday, when Christians grieve about Jesus' death, and according to the tradition, it wasn't appropriate to dance fast and lively dances. Also the songs, sung with the dance, were sorrowful.

On September 28th, 2013, with the folklore group of the village, we presented some of the traditions in a famous TV show on air. The effect was just... sensational!

The Following Dance is special in the way in which people dance. In difference with the ordinary dances, when people stay shoulder to shoulder (see examples 1 and 2),  in this dance the dancers follow each other. Women and men dance separately, not together (the dance in the TV show was an exception, just to illustrate the know-how). Women follow one another by putting hands around the waists, and the men by putting hands on their shoulders.

We also know that during the Balkan wars gangs of Ottoman volunteers (aka bashi-bazouk) killed about 90 people from Chernichevo. Prof.Miletich wrote that a year later the people in Chernichevo still were in grief for their victims, therefore they didn't dance their playful dances. Instead, they danced only the Following dance, which as we noted previously, was performed only once per year. And even today, the local peasant still speak with a deep sorrow about their relatives, who died in the massacres. This was a collective trauma that still resonates in the locals' souls.

Additional curious fact is that several decades ago the great Bulgarian composer and arranger of folk songs Filip Kutev used the Following Dance for one of his spectacles! On its basis he created a male dance with the same steps. 

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