Romanian Căluşeri

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Ritual Căluş and Căluşeri map

Ritual Căluş in Transylvania

Until the beginning of this century the ritual summer Căluş was still found in central Transylvania (for example Socolul de Pădure in Mureş county). The shepherd’s dances 'a mutului' and Gătejul may be remnants of the Căluş. Old sources indicate Căluşer was originally performed at Whitsun indicating this was the same tradition as Căluş, but now this custom has disappeared and the dance has been integrated into the winter cycle under the names of Turca or Ceata de Juni.

The Transylvanian Căluşeri is only found in its old form in the Banat mountains and Hunedoara county. It is performed between Christmas and the New Year and is known by the name Călutul (pony) or Căluşerul (horseman). Franz I Sulzer of Vienna described this tradition in 1781. The living tradition exists in the Hunedoara villages of Boiu, Beriu, Ludeşti, Orăştioara, Geoagiu, Romos, Boşorod, Dâncu Mare. In Romoş 15 to 20 men perform the Căluşer dances through the village, the suite of dances being; Căluşerul, Romana, Banu Mărcine. The tradition includes a masked animal like creature called the ‘Turca’ who was killed on the day after New Year. A characteristic trait of the Căluşer dances is that the leader demonstrates the figure in advance to the rest of the group who then perform it a number of times. In the southern Căluş a system of codefied signals would be used by the leader.

The Csango people near Braşov have a similar custom called the Boricza.  The name of this custom is Slavic, but the custom has Romanian influences, and was danced during carnival but now takes place at Christmas. Although the Csango are politically identified as Hungarian by religion they may have an ethnically Romanian ancestry and thus could be expected to continue some Romanian customs. The tradition has two dumb men (mutes) called Kuka and a 1899 description describes a play where one is killed and resurrected in the manner typical of many of the fertility rituals.

1855 re-introduction

In 1855 a group of Transylvanian intellectuals led by Iacob Mureşan and Stefan Emilian collected folk dances from peasant dancers Ion Caluseriu & Simion Giugudeanu who were brought from from Arieş (Mureş county) to Braşov. They refined these dances to a fixed form and structure concordant with the melody, and with simplified movements at a slower tempo. From these they created the dances Jocul căluşerului, Romanul (in a quadrille like formation) and Banul Maracine, which were first performed on stage in Năsăud. These dances spread through Transylvania via the Cete de Juni (groups of young men) and were performed at town festivals and ballrooms to demonstrate national identity in Austro-Hungarian times. 

These dances spread back to the villages where localised variants of these new forms developed having lost their original ritual purpose. It is interesting to note that the ease of acceptance and wide range of variants now to be found after only 100 years suggests that in many villages there were remnants of the former Căluş traditions in the latent repertoire. Compare this with the Hilt-and-point sword dances and “Morris” type dances, which have less varied development over a far longer time period.

Derived men's group dances

Many Transylvanian men’s dances are clearly derived from the “corps” ritual dance. The De bâtă of central Transylvania continues to use a stick as a prop, in Haidău from Alba county the man uses his partner as a support. The Fecioreasca found in various forms across Transylvania maintains the initial travelling round the circle figure, and sometimes as a stationary resting chorus figure, which is followed by a number of figures (ponturi). This is also found in a number of the dances in the Hungarian repertoire such as the Korcos from Szek. In the more central regions these figures have increasingly included leg slapping sequences from the relatively recent Verbunc, adding to this highly complex patterns created by Romanian choreographers looking for eye catching stage performances.

These basic elements are found in the solo Transylvanian men’s dances such as the Hungarian Legényes, and in some of the Romanian "group dances" which have been transformed into solo versions. This process of solo adaptations appears to occur when there are too few men to perform these dances or they are performed competitively. Making a link between the ritual men’s dance and the lad’s dances of the Romanians and Hungarians of Transylvania may be controversial due to the nationalism now incorporated in traditional folk dance. This form of men’s dance is not found in the Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Hungarian and Serbian populations surrounding the Romanian peoples, thus such a link would seem logical. However, similar ideas exist in some west European dances which may be linked or independently created.


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© Eliznik2005, First issue 2002, Last updated Nov-07