Men’s group stick dances

Many men’s group dance traditions have similar features across Europe. Typical features of a men’s group are some form of a men’s society with a leader, dancing in organised unison, in a circle or opposing rows, without a connection between the dancers, often with a stick or sword as an accessory, and sometimes linked to a custom for health and re-birth.

Romania has many men’s group dances (“corps dances” or Ceată de feciori), and in some of these the dancer has a stick as a prop. There is also sometimes an association with customs or rituals in the yearly calendrical custom cycle. Căluș in the lower Danubian region is linked to health and healing customs and Transylvanian Călușeri possibly was in the past. This custom complex of the Căluș and Călușeri ritual men’s group dances appears to be specific to the Latin language people of southeast Europe, and absent from the co-habiting Slavic or Hungarian peoples.

Romanian stick dance types:

  • Căluș– dances associated with a healing custom in Oltenia and Muntenia, and northern Bulgaria.
  • Călușeri – mostly linked to the winter customs in the areas with the older traditions (Hunedoara and neighbouring areas), however where this is connected to a 19th century nationalist revival in Transylvania this takes place on festive days and at events.
  • Irozi – winter rituals which have largely lost the dance.
  • Feciorește lads’ dances of Transylvania which use a stick or partner as a support for the figures such as Bota, De bâtă, or Haidău.

It has to be noted that many Transylvanian Călușeri are performed without a stick as a prop, but otherwise these dances are same in form and usage.

The term for the men’s group is ceata in the Carpathians and Transylvania, which is also in southern Slavic as чете, coming from an old Slavic for ‘team’ or ‘gang’ (but also in Turkish çete for a gang or armed gang of bandits). Bucsani [1] argues that ceata could equally have derived directly from Latin coetus which has the same meaning of a group.

The leader in both Căluș and Călușeri is the vătaf. This term is attributed to old Slavic language for leader [2], although Bucșan proposes the root is Latin for priest vates.

Sticks or swords

dances in which the weapon is a simple accessory, not being absolutely mandatory for the development of the theme.

Bucșan 1976 [1]

In the Romanian men’s dances that use a stick, these are only used as props, in contact with the ground during figures and are only held up when moving.

There is no clear linkage to the other categories of other European men’s stick dances; those that include stick clashing (such as Morris, Pauliteiros, Ball de bastons etc.), dances that imitate fighting (Croatian Moreska), solo dances or improvised stick dances (for example Hungarian Botoló, Pasztortánc), or hilt and point linked sword dances (such as English Longsword and Rapper, and similar traditions in Europe).

In Transylvania the dances De bâtă and Haidău are of the same form and choreology, but are not linked to customs and are part of the social dance repertoire, hence are often classified with the more general Feciorește lads’ dances of Transylvania.

Choreographic form, motifs, & music

The choreographic structure characteristic to the Romanian group dances are alternating;

  • walking (plimbări), or a basic step, in a circle moving anticlockwise
  • complex figures (mișcare) performed in place. This dance structure of alternating basic travelling step and figures in place is common to the Carpathian Brâul, common Sârba, ritual men’s dances and Carpathian group dances.
  • The figures are formed from combinations of elements, often with a beginning-middle-end structure.
type names form structure motifs music
Căluș Călușul group walking (plimbări) and figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, heel clicks 2/4
Călușeri Banu Mărăcine, Călușerul, Căluțul, Romanul group walking (plimbări) and figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, heel clicks 2/4 and asymmetric
Feciorește De bâtă, Haidău group walking (plimbări) and figures syncopation, stamps, leaps, hops, heel clicks 2/4 and asymmetric

References

  1. Bucșan, Andrei (1976). Contribuţii la studiul jocurilor călușarești. Revista de Etnografie și Folclor, 20: pages 3-18.
  2. https://dexonline.ro/definitie/vataf
Published on 1st March 2018, last modified on 23rd July 2020