Băluța is a type of Hora danced in the regions of Vlașca, Argeș, Muscel, Vâlcea, Romanați and Dolj in southern Romania, and a variation of this dance is also danced the Vratsa region of Bulgaria under the title Balutsa (Балуца) and in the Vidin region under the title Shira (Шира).
The generic characteristic of these dances is that there are two parts, the first is a travelling part, progressing around the circle, that is formed from a repeated combination of 2 slow steps and 4 or 6 fast steps, and the second part is performed in place or moving side to side.
Many videos of this dance are on our page: Videos: Băluța (Балуца) and Shira (Шира)
In Romanian dance classification Băluța is generally classified within the “Rustem” dance type due to the asymmetric rhythm of the steps. The notations for versions in Oltenia are notated as 3/8 whereas the other versions are notated in 2/4  however the dance steps in reality may still be performed in asymmetric rhythm.
Băluța is a colloquial term for “blond”, such as for a white horse from “băl” (old Slavic bala вѣлъ) +diminuative -uța. Shira is from Romanian “șir” meaning row, Shira is “rows” (plural), Shirul is “the row”. Șir is from the Latin word “series”.
In the Vratsa region of Bulgaria this dance can also be titled Shala una (Шала уна), for example from the repertoire of the dance groups from the villages of Ohrid, Portitovtsi and Asparuhovo and also under the title Chele une (Челе уне) by the group from Mihailovo (but announced as Balutsa at the Koprivshitsa festival in 2022). These names sound like derivations from the typical strigături for the first step of the figures. In simple form these are just și una! but can also have the extra syllable și-ii! una! , și-ii locu or și su-cu a.
As is typical in Romania, there are different dance choreologies under the same title. There is another dance titled Băluța comprising of crossing step combinations and moving forwards and back in a line.
|Figure A1||Figure B1||Figure A2||Figure B2|
|Băluța and Shira||Travelling figure||Interface figure||Travelling figure (in opposite direction)||Interface figure|
The generic characteristic of these dances is that there are two parts, the first is a travelling figure progressing around the circle and a second interface figure is performed in place or moving side to side. So between the travelling steps there are some steps in place (or just side-to-side or forward and back) before the travelling figure recommences.
Generally the dance repeats alternating between the right and left directions, however in Pădureți the direction only changes when a command is shouted and in Urluieni the dance is only to the left.
The feature of the travelling figure is that it is formed from 2 walking steps and 4 or 6 fast steps, which are repeated a number of times, and can be performed either to the right or left.
There appears to be three variations of this travelling figure:
- Oltenia (Romania) a 24 measure phrase comprising repeats of 6 fast steps + 2 slow steps,
- Argeș (Romania) and a few other villages 1 slow step + 4 fast steps + 1 slow step,
- Bulgaria a pattern of 4 fast steps + 2 slow steps repeated 3 or 4 times.
Click for more details …
|Travelling figure steps||Locations|
|6 fast + 2 slow
|Știubei, Căciulatu, Obârșia de Câmp – Dolj
Izvorul Rece – Vâlcea
|1 slow + 4 fast + 1 slow
|Lăpușata – Vâlcea
Pădureți – Argeș
Vrav – Vidin
Ohrid – Montana
|4 fast + 2 slow|
|x4||Novo Selo – Vidin|
|x3||Antimovo, Florentin, Gamzovo, Kapitanovtsi, Kosovo, Kutovo, Negovanovtsi , Pokrayna, Rakovitsa – Vidin
Asparuhovo, Portitovtsi, Sumer – Montana
Beli Izvor, Manastirishte, Mihailovo, Sofronievo – Vratsa
|x2.5||Gradets – Vidin|
|xN||Stoicănești – Olt|
The notations from Dolj and Vâlcea are based on a 6 counts travelling figure that is repeated five times and concludes with a shortened pattern to fit the musical phrase of 24 measures. The second part is 8 measures so the total dance is 32 measures concordant with the music, that is then repeated in the opposite direction.
In Argeș region the pattern is 4 counts “a slow step performed on the first measure and 5 faster steps on the other 3 measures”. There is a difference between the Bulgarian (Vrav, Ohrid) and Romanian (Argeș) versions for the “1 slow step + 4 fast steps + 1 slow step”. In the Romanian case the first slow step is to the side and the first fast step is a large step across so the “&” is the fast side step, whereas in Bulgaria the slow first step is a large step across so the side step in on the count and the closing step is on the “&”.
In Bulgaria (and Stoicănești in Romania) the most common pattern is 4 fast steps + 2 slow steps, but this is repeated only 3 times typically in Bulgaria.
Generally in Romania the dance phrases remain concordant with the musical phrases, at least to the 4 measure phrases, but in all the Bulgarian versions (apart from in Vrav, Novo Selo and Rakovitsa) the travelling figure of the dance plus a single interface step causes an odd number of counts, thus the repeat to the left direction is on the opposite beat of the music compared to traveling to the right, so the first step is on count 1 to the right and count 2 to the left. The travelling figure is repeated three times, so 12 counts, followed by a single “interface” step making the sequence 13 counts.
In Vrav and Novo Selo the travelling figure is repeated 4 times (so 16 counts) and the in place figure follows directly. In Rakovitsa the melody is cut short so that the dance remains concordant to the music.
Click for more details …
|Interface figure steps||Locations|
|Single crossing||Antimovo, Florentin, Kapitanovtsi, Kosovo, Kutovo, Negovanovtsi,
Pokrayna, Rakovitsa – Vidin
Asparuhovo – Montana
Beli Izvor, Manastirishte, Sofronievo – Vratsa
Izvorul Rece – Vâlcea
Stoicăești – Olt
|Syncopated single crossing||Mihailovo – Vratsa
Portitovtsi, Ohrid – Montana
|Continuous crossing steps||Gamzovo, Novo Selo, Vrav – Vidin
Sumer – Montana
Sofronievo – Vratsa
|Bidirectional phrase||Știubei, Căciulatu, Obârșia de Câmp – Dolj
Lăpușata – Vâlcea
Pădureți – Argeș
Gradets – Vidin
Generally this is a figure that is mostly in place, but can be a repeated motif that might travel a little in alternating directions, which is inserted between the travelling figures.
In Bulgaria the most common figure is “single crossing” (step in place, step across in front, step in place and a low hop, then repeated with the opposite foot). There is a syncopated version of this in the Montana and Vratsa regions which often coincides with the dance being known as Shala una. Another figure is continuous crossing steps (step in place, step across in front, step in place and repeat with opposite foot, and continue to end of the phrase).
In Romania the notated versions mainly have bidirectional phrases and not crossing steps. The common form at parties now tends to just have a forward and back Hora before the next travelling figure.
The dance can be in the formation of either open or closed circles, although a closed circle seems to predominate in Romania and an open circle in Bulgaria. The hands are held generally either at shoulder level (so called “W” hold) and/or in low hold (so called “V” hold), however in Bulgaria there are a few examples in belt hold (Beli Izvor – Vratsa, Kutovo – Vidin) and crossed hand-hold in front (Antimovo – Vidin).
Popescu-Județ list regions where this dance was popular (presumably during the 1950s) as Vlașca, Argeş, Muscel, Vâlcea, Romanați and Dolj, however there are few references in the later collections of dances from these regions. So it appears that the popularity in Romania decreased quickly from the mid-20th century. The variability of choreology and regional versions in Romania suggests this dance had time to evolve and diverge in the local dancing prior to the mid-20th century.
Whereas in Bulgaria, most examples have a very similar choreology and structure, including the odd number of counts for the dance, suggesting the popular dance is more recently distributed from a single variant. This is also suggested by the border of Shira being at the current Bulgarian-Serbian border whereas the old strata fund of dances was practiced by the population either side of the border. The naming as Shira in the Vidin region is clearly localised and in Romanian (meaning the Latin based language), but this dance name does not appear within Romania suggesting this naming is local to Vidin region.
It should be noted that there are some different variations in the Vidin region (Gradets, Vrav, Novo Selo) that do not follow the common version suggesting these are older versions or more closely related to the Romanian versions.
The name Shala una or Chele une appears to be specific to the Montana region, but is not in Bulgarian language, instead sounding like a derivative from a Romanian shout at the start of the figure, something like “and at one” or “like at one”.
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