Ceată de feciori – men’s group dances

Men’s dance forms

There are three different formations typical for Romanian men’s dances;

  1. “Ceată” formation where the dancers are not connected, but dance in unison in a circle, often in single file around the dance space, or as a single row or two rows facing each other.
  2. Chain dances where the dancers are connected but holding each other’s hands or shoulders. Most commonly these dances are called Brâul although some are based on Hora or Sârba.
  3. Solo and improvised dances.

Some men’s group dances can be linked to customs, some may be derived from rituals, some are more to do with collecting money, and others are just part of the local dance repertoire.

The term Ceată

“Ceată” is used in Romanian dance texts for the forms of the dance formations where the dancers are not physically connected but dance in unison as a coordinated group.

However, Ceată in Romanian language refers to a group or society that gathers for a common purpose, such as to perform carols and other customs. The same word is used in southern Slavic, чете, and also in Turkish, çete. These societies are also known also Jienii or Junii meaning youths, Irozii meaning the Herods and other local names.

Confusingly, the Romanian dance researchers refer to this dance formation as Ceată, even if the dance was not in the repertoire of a society called Ceată, but was the formation for dancing in other contexts such as at weddings, parties or festivals. Also Ceată can refer to the noisy rabble characters, the drummers or an assembly of all the other participants that do not dance in formation and unison. In translation to English, Giurchescu used the term “corps” (as in corps de ballet or army corps).[1]

Ceată dance form in customs

In Romanian customs there is a clear differentiation between the “ugly” characters, these being masked characters and zoomorphic characters (such as goat, bear and stag), and the “beautiful” characters who are unmasked. In general the Ceată type organised dance is performed by the “beautiful” and unmasked characters.

The dancers are not connected, but dance in unison in either a circle, often in single file around the dance space, or as a single row or two rows facing each other. In the custom context there is often a fixed number of dancers (usually an odd number including the leader).

Holding a stick or other weapon

In customs it is most common for Ceată dancers to hold an item; in Căluș and Călușeri a long stick, in Căiuți a representation of a horse head, Irozii in central Moldavia hold a short stick, Ofițeri might hold a sword or long shaft hammers, and the Arnăuți hold a mace.

However, the Călușeri of Banat and many teams from Hunedoara do not hold a stick or other prop. In Bucovina dancers do not hold a prop in the customs of Irozii and Bumbierii. These dances are linked to the Carpathian shepherd’s dance types which are also danced in social contexts without holding a prop.

In the social context of Carpathian shepherd’s dance types and their derivatives in Bucovina, Maramureș and the Transylvanian Feciorește props are not used, it seems that long sticks and swords are not part of the social context. The only exception is the De bâtă (meaning for club/bat) type dances of Transylvania which are clearly related to the Călușeri dances.

Dancers in the chain dances performed in customs do not hold sticks or other items. If a chain dance is performed as part of the custom, such as the Hora at the end of Căluș, the sticks are put on the ground before dancing.

In general the dancers do not perform fighting movements or clash their props, although clashing can be seem in some traditions that hold swords such as Hurta from Bosanci.

One can only speculate if these dances were initially performed within customs and rituals, hence the dancers were holding a prop and therefore dance without being physically connected. However it seems consistent that the stick (or weapon) is not brought into the social dancing event.

Men’s group dances in a European context

The closest related custom is performed in the southern Balkans (the area where Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece meet) where groups of men known as Rusalii dance in a circle holding swords. The Hungarian Verbunk (recruiting dance) can also be a men’s dance with a military leader, but this has a known history unrelated to the old custom.

In Western Europe there are men’s dances that have the format with a row facing row, with short sticks held and the dancers perform spatially geometric figures with choruses of stick clashing: English Morris, Piciayos of Cantabria in Spain, the Pauliteiros of Portugal, Catalan Ball de bastons, and the Morrisco dances of Spain. In central and western Europe there are the hilt-and-point sword dances in which the dancers are connected by holding each end of the swords and perform figures.

The Romanian men’s dances do not represent any form of fighting with the props, unlike a few fighting dances in the European repertoire, such as the Botoló and Pasztortánc stick dances[2] in the Hungarian repertoire and the sword fighting dance Moreska from Korčula, and the Albanian fighting dances.

Romanian group dance types

The ‘classic’ Romanian ethnologist classification of group dances is based on differentiation by current function and region, where the regional forms are generally significantly.

  • Dances that have retained a custom or ritual function (Căluș, Călușeri, Căiuți, Irozi). I previously classified these as “ritual stick dances”, but not all retain a stick, and most now have a function within a “custom”.
  • Carpathian men’s dances, sometimes termed as Carpathian springing dances, are from the social repertoire, but are danced in Ceată formation without sticks or other props. This includes the regions along the Carpathian mountains; Oaș, Maramureș, Bucovina, east Transylvania and southern Transylvania.
  • Transylvanian lad’s dances is a genre shared between the Hungarian and Romanian communities. This genre can appear clearly defined in region and form, but hides a complex background that led to the genesis of the genre. From the Romanian perspective the genre might be termed Feciorește (lads’ dances). The older layer of such dances is seen in Ceată dances linked to the Carpathian Ceată dances, however this merges with the dances that have complex figures of leg and boot slaps, the Romanian Ponturi and Hungarian Legényes, that can be performed in a solo competitive context. Another example, Haidău, has the figures of Ponturi performed by the man while using his partner as a support prop, in a similar function to a stick. The De bâtă stick dances which are clearly de-ritualised in function and derived from the Călușeri dances are often Included in the genre of lad’s dances. From a perspective of classification based on choreology, De bâtă is better placed in the context of Călușeri. Also the (Austro-)Hungarian derived Barbunc is generally placed in the Transylvanian lad’s dances category.

Another pan-European genre of men’s ‘leaping over sticks’ dances (Ciobăneasca peste băț and Pre bât) is generally included in the Ceată dance category, but is unrelated in form or origin to the other Ceată dances.

Choreographic form, motifs, and music

In the Ceată formation the dancers are not connected, but dance in unison in a circle, often in single file around the dance space, or as a single row or two rows facing each other. The steps for moving in the circle are simple walking, syncopated walking or a 3-step pattern. The moving figure can be augmented by additional stamps and spur-clicks, but in general figures using stamps, jumps and spur-clicks are performed in place.

The figures can be alternated with the walking figure or resting figure, a choreographic structure common to the Carpathian Brâul, common Sârba, and Ceată group dances. The figures can be a continuous repetition of a single motif, or have a structure with a closing motif at the end of the figure.

In Transylvanian Călușeri and Feciorește the music can be asymmetric and the dance includes some leg slaps.

type names formation structure motifs music
Men’s group dances in customs and rituals Căluș circle led by vătaf, row with vătaf in front walking in circle, dances/figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, spur-clicks 2/4
Călușeri (Transylvania)

including De bâtă

circle with vătaf in centre column or two facing rows entry dance, resting step, figures hops, kicks, slaps to legs and claps, step hops, spur-clicks 2/4, 10/16 (4+3+3)
Căiuți (Moldavia) circle, row, two facing rows separate dances jumps on both feet, jump closing feet with spur-click, stamping, three count pattern for entry into dance area 2/4
Irozi, Bumbierii, Hurta (Bucovina) circle walking in circle, figures syncopation, stamps,  hops, spur-clicks 2/4
Irozi, Arnăuți, fițeri with Cerb (Moldavia) circle 3-step in circle 3-step holding weapon 7/8
Arnăuți (Moldavia)

Villages Buruienești and Frumoasa

two facing rows figures bidirectional figure, vigorous steps and hand movements, “hand clapping” figure 2/4
Carpathian men’s group dances Northern Moldavian: Trilișești, Țânțăroiul, Pădurețul circle walking in circle, syncopated walking in circle, figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, heel-clicks 2/4
Shepherd’ dances: Ceanunul, Brânza, Siminicul, Războiul circle 3-step-stamp in circle, 3-step in circle, figures in place 3-step-stamp, jumps,  spur-clicks 2/4
Maramureș: Bărbătescul, De sărit, Roata circle sequence of single motif figures syncopation ♩♪♩♪♩, stamps, jumps, spur-clicks 2/4
Transylvanian Feciorește circle group in circle, walking in circle, resting step, figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, spur-clicks 2/4 and asymmetric
Lads’ dances


From the Romanian repertoire: Feciorește, Ponturi, Barbunc

From the Hungarian repertoire: Legényes, Figuras, Sűrű Magyar, Sűrű Tempo, Fogasolas, Pontozó

group walking (plimbări) and figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, heel clicks, boot slaps, high kicks 2/4 and asymmetric
individual figures hops, heel clicks, boot slaps, high kicks 2/4 and asymmetric


  1. Giurchescu, Anca and Bloland, Sunni (1995). Romanian traditional dance : A contextual and structural approach. Mill Valley, California: Wild Flower Press.
  2. Martin, György (1974). Hungarian folk dances. Budapest: Corvina.
Published on 11th July 2022, last modified on 12th July 2022