Romanian traditional dance contexts
A rich variety of traditional dances still exist in Romania due to the continuation of the feudal system until the mid 19th century and subsequently the isolation imposed by Ceauşescu, which resulted in the continuance of a peasant life style. Romania is a unique European country as its folklore still exists in its natural environment, but this is now fast vanishing with the spread of western culture and modern technology.
Organised performances by village folk dance groups within Romania can be traced back to the mid nineteenth century and earlier. Folk ensembles based in towns date from the period immediately after the 2nd World War. The first professional ensembles were founded around 1949, with amateur ensembles in the main regional towns from around 1950.
Romanian dance types
Any "dance" is a combination of elements: formation, regional style; motifs, musical rhythm, choreography and the social occasion. A change in one or more of these elements can give another dance, sometimes too subtle for a visitor to understand. As newer dance formations become fashionable these combine with elements of the existing music and dance repertoire to give new local variants. New melodies may be used for old dances and new dances danced to old melodies.
Romanian dances are classified at the top level by their formation.
Dance formations have their routes in different periods of history and have mostly been maintained to the present day. This allows an easy categorisation into;
- chain dances including the basic social dances, men's dances, and a large repertoire of fixed sequence dances
- Ceată men's group dances with includes many ritual dances
- Couple dances which have a more recent origin
The dance section of this website is organised according to the "classic" Romanian ethnologist classification scheme. This uses various formation, musical, choreographic motif, and function features to produce a classification tree.
It should be noted that the dance "types" are generally termed in Romanian by names which are also particular dance names, and dances with these names may also appear within other categories.
Within these categories there are selections of various dances which fulfil the classification, but may be actually linked by choreological development with other dances placed in the other types.
In parallel with the "classic" classification, grouping by musical, choreographic form, motifs, and function is provided to lead to a deeper understanding of the development.
The selection of dances performed in each village is often done in a fixed order, the slowest dances first, then sometimes men's showing off dances, ending with the fastest dances. These are known as dance cycles and exist in all regions to some extent, but are possibly most developed in Transylvania.
Many Romanian dances are accompanied by loud shouts and calls known as Strigături which are called rhythmically, but often across the musical melody and rhythm. Such calls seem to be specific to Romania, and are only otherwise found in the Hungarian minorities of Transylvania.
Individuality and improvisation is found both in couple and line dances with men demonstrating their agility and dance ability.
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More than 20 visits to Romania: ethnographic tours, museums, festivals etc. between 1988-present
Record, tape & CD collection (~3000 titles)