Transylvanian lad’s dances

Feciorește dance form

There are a range of men’s dances from Transylvania that are most often bundled together into a single family of Feciorește (lads’) dances, but this can hide the fusion of various dancing traditions and influences that have resulted in this range of developed dances.

Many Romanian Feciorește lads’ dances have the same form as the men’s Carpathian group dances with alternate parts of walking or moving in a circle and figures in place. This is also found in a number of the dances in the Hungarian repertoire such as the Korcos from Szék.

Other dances appear to be related to the men’s group stick dances Călușeri by the use of a stick as a prop and the typical figures based on leg movements.

The Feciorește is danced both as a group dance and as solo forms;

  • In the group form the dance generally consists of the dancers moving around the circle in an anticlockwise direction, sometimes including syncopated stamps and heel clicks, followed by figures using rhythmic stamping, heel clicks, and rotations of the lower leg. This is similar to the Carpathian group dance in form.
  • In the solo form each dancer performs a number of figures facing the musicians. The figures consist of a number of motifs assembled by the dancer, sometimes with specific starting and finishing motifs to give a concordance to the musical phrase.

Lad’s dances

In central Transylvania many villages are mixed ethnicity and the traditional music and dance repertoire is shared, although there are also repertoires specific to each community. Lads’ dances danced by both the Romanian communities (Feciorește) and the Hungarian communities (Legényes) and are the most highly developed in terms of motifs and structure of the Transylvanian dances.

Solo or individual forms of Transylvanian men’s dances are more typical of Hungarian men’s dances, but also Romanian men’s dances have transformed into solo versions by a process of adaptations that appears to occur when either there are too few men to perform these dances, or they are performed competitively at the social event.

Particularly in the central regions of Transylvania, these figures have increasingly included boot/leg slaps and heel clicks as integral elements of the dance rhythm, which are most likely inherited from the dances of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ever move complex patterns are created by Romanian choreographers looking for eye catching stage performances. The Hungarian Verbunk, and the Romanian version called Barbunc, being closest to the Austro-Hungarian form.

Transylvanian dances as a fusion of both Romanian and Hungarian, influences and dance practices leads to an understanding. Nationalism from outside Transylvania is incorporated in many staged performances, national stylisations and narratives of these traditional dances, leading to binary and opposing ideas.

Group men’s dances of Transylvania

The following list is an approximate summary;

  • Feciorește from Southern Transylvanian (a predominantly Romanian area) has some less developed variants which may be the intermediary version between the Carpathian group dances and more developed men’s dances from other parts of Transylvania which include many Verbunk influenced motifs. Many of these dances are in the local asymmetric rhythm.
  • Derivatives of ritual stick dances which include the use of a stick as a prop; Călușerul (from the Călușerii ritual), De bâtă (with sticks), Bota (stick), or Haidău where a woman acts as a prop. The Haidău of the lower Mureș valley takes its name from the Hayduck dances which are found widely in Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary (Hajdu, Botolo) and Poland (Zbojnicki). These were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, the Romanian version retains the Romanian group structure and contains no fighting movements.
  • In central Transylvania the fusion of Hungarian and Romanian traditions have led to the highly developed Romanian Feciorește (also known as Ponturi), and Hungarian Legényes (known in Mezoség as Figuras, Sűrű Magyar, Sűrű Tempo, Fogasolas, Pontozó). These are formed from elements called points (pont) which are combined with a finishing sequence to fit the musical phrasing. The slow Hungarian lads’ dances (Ritka Magyar) are related to the other lads’ dances, but incorporate later music and dance features dating later than the Hayduck dances and before the 19th century Verbunk.
  • The Verbunk (Romanian Barbunc) is derived from the method of recruiting into the Austrian Hapsburg armies in the 18th century. The dance had an informal structure and many figures, including spur clicks, and boot and leg slaps. These features have been amalgamated into the lads’ dances of Transylvania and also added to the couple dances.

Other related dances are;

  • In Bihor, to the west of Transylvania, the men’s dance is known as Ardeleana, or Feciorescul. Elements of Transylvanian dances have found their way to Bihor where they are named Ardel, the Romanian name for Transylvania. Further to the west, the Oláhos (Vlach-like) dances come from the east of the great Hungarian plain. These date from the 17th century and incorporate features from early forms of the Transylvania lads’ dances.
  • In Banat, the men’s dance, known as Sorocul, does not include the boot slaps and heel clicks of the Transylvanian dances, and is stylistically quite different, but clearly related to the southern Transylvanian Fecioreasca with some elements common with the Bihor dances.
  • Feciorește is more recently danced by women in two villages of the upper Olt valley near Brașov (Ticusu Nou and Crihalma) and in Bihor women sometimes imitated the men’s Fecioreasca in the dance Țura Fetelor.

Choreographic form, motifs, & music

type names form structure motifs music
southern Transylvanian Fecioreasca group walking (plimbări) and figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, heel clicks 2/4 or 7/8
central Transylvanian Fecioreasca, Ponturi, Legényes, Figuras, Sűrű Magyar, Sűrű Tempo, Fogasolas, Pontozó group walking (plimbări) and figures leaps, hops, heel clicks, boot slaps 2/4
Derivatives of ritual stick dances De bâtă, Haidău group walking (plimbări) and figures, use of a prop syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, heel clicks 2/4 and asymmetric
Verbunk Barbunc group figures leaps, hops, heel clicks, leg slaps, regulation to the musical phrasing 2/4
Published on 1st March 2018, last modified on 12th July 2022