Ardeleana couple dance

Ardeleana type” as a dance in a column formation

The notable feature of many couple dances in western Romania is the ‘column’ formation, and this is the basis of Giurchescu’s “Ardeleana type” category, where the most distinguishing characteristic is that partners face each other and are arranged in a very compact double column[1]. When this is a community dance with very many couples, such as Ardeleana in the Banat mountain region, the formation is an open circle forming a “horse-shoe” in the dance space, a formation that is common for central European dances. The dancers face and their partner hold and are arranged with the men facing into the dance space and the women facing out. When there are fewer couples, or there are several smaller groups of dancers, the formation becomes a straight column of dancers.

Ardeleana type” as the common formation for dancing is common throughout Crișana and neighbouring regions (Maramureș, Bihor, western part of Sălaj, Arad, Banat, and Hunedoara (Hațeg) counties). Also the dances among Romanians living within adjacent parts of modern Hungary in the villages of Micherechi (Méhkerék) and Aletea (Elek) fall within the Bihor and Arad ethnographic zones respectively.


Arad region: dance group from Gyula – 2008

In Ardelene (plural of Ardeleana), the column moves evenly to the right and to the left, the figures involve the dancers moving from side to side in the same direction, the men and women using opposite footwork. As the opening dance in the local dance cycle this dance would last 15 to 20 minutes [2].

This column formation gives the dancers a strong community feeling, as is the case with the older chain dances, and “therefore Ardeleana can be seen as a nexus between chain and scattered couple dances”[1]. In many locations and contexts column structure has now been replaced by dancing couples scattered in the dance area. This allows for more variation and individual improvisation, for example as in De doi and Ardeleana in the Banat mountains [1] where there are numerous figures using movements of the arms to turn the woman.

Sub-types of Ardeleana

Ardeleana, at Svinita Easter ball – 2013

Giurchescu’s classification separating the Ardelene into sub-categories of “slow”, “syncopated” and “fast” is a useful basis as the cycle of couple dances progresses from slow to fast and commonly includes one or more of these types. This is very similar in definition to the sub-categories of Transylvanian dances (Învârtita). However, these sub-categories are represented by different unrelated dances in the regions of Bihor, Arad and Banat, so this does not indicate that dances in a particular category are actually connected in choreology or history.

Ardeleana couple dance types
  • Polca, Poarga, Luncanul (Bihor), Țarina (Țara Moților)
  • Pre loc (Banat plain)
  • Ardeleana (Banat)
  • Lența, Duba, (Banat plain)
  • Pe Picior (Bihor, Arad) is related to the men’s Bărbătesc in Maramureș and Învârtita and Roata in Oaș in terms of the step patterns, particularly the men’s stamping motifs.
  • Sorocul (couple dance type) is only danced in the Banat plain region and appears to be a slow syncopated Ardeleana to slightly asymmetric music related to the southern Transylvanian Învârtita.
  • Mărunțel (Bihor, Arad), Întoarsa (Banat plain)
  • De Doi (Banat mountains) and also is related to the local Brâul bătrân in terms of the step pattern

Within these forms of column dances there is variety in interpretation and dynamics. In general Ardelene have small movements, in the mountain area the bilateral displacements are small, however on the plain the amplitude of movements can be high and the syncopated step allows a long movement for the steps, such as seen in Ardeleană and Lunga from: Aletea, Micherechi, Bedeu, Săcal, Gyula [2].

Dances from the “Ardeleana type” column dance category can be interpreted differently, such as Sărita with very long steps, or the addition of forward and backward movements as well as the basic bilateral movement. There are figures where the boys make stamping steps and heel clicks with their boots. In the Arad region when the boys make these figures the girls remain behind and maintain the simple bilateral walks [2].

Ardeleana, in local understanding

The dance “Ardeleana” is danced in pairs, that is, a man and a woman, placed in a row, or in a circle next to each other. The man holds the woman by the waist (on the belt), or by the right-hand, or even with both hands; and the woman holds her hands on the man’s shoulders, or by the hands. The music calls (sings) different Ardelene that all start slowly, until all the dances have lined up. […] The first dancer shouts with a “ai” or “ureză”, and then all the men at once kick with their right foot hard into the ground; at this sign the musician changes his tone to a higher sound, the rhythm gets faster, and the dancers begin to jump with large steps […] When the dancer get tired, the fiddler plays the song as at the beginning of the dance, then the dancers stop jumping and start dancing slowly as at the beginning.

Liuba, 1898 [4]

Giurchescu also makes a sweeping inclusion of all column formation dances in the “Ardeleana type” category. Also Gheorghe Popescu-Județ (ballet master and traditional dance collector) rather sweepingly attributed “all jocuri de doi, and all ardelene” from Banat to a Transylvanian origin [3], obviously the name Ardeleana makes reference to Transylvania (Ardeal in Romanian).

Locally only some dances are known as Ardeleana and others clearly have different origins (for example Duda, Judecata, Desca etc.). In the Banat mountain region dances are clearly split into Ardelene and De doiuri by locals. Also dances that locally are known as Ardeleana can have multiple alternative formations, in Codru Moma region Ardeleana is danced in a column, as a “wheel” (roata) and the couples are freely dispersed in the dancing area [2].

In many respects locally defined Ardelene are similar to the simpler forms of the Transylvanian couple dances, but generally without the turning figure, which could imply an origin pre-dating the Învârtita couple turning dance. The column structure in close formation requires the man and woman to use opposite footwork and move side-to-side, whereas when dancing as a separate couple it is typical to use the same footwork and rotate as a couple, which easily leads to the turning figures of the Învârtita.

Ardeleana, the musical understanding

Bartók [5] discusses the subject of “dance melodies” from the perspective of the origins of the music. In the case of the “Ardeleana type” he separates these into two different paths of evolution.

First, derived from the Bihor “parlando” type songs that appear to have no influence or connection to the neighbouring Hungarian areas. This type of “Ardeleana” covers the music for the dances Mărunțel and partly the melodies for Bihor style Ardeleana. Anca Giurchescu notes that the nucleus of the wider definition of “Ardeleana type” as column dances is centred in Bihor [1]. This tentatively suggests that this older form of melody, this form of column dance and the form of syncopated men’s steps have remained isolated in Bihor without influence from centuries of fashions in music and dance from Transylvania and Hungary.

Second, melodies derived from an older style of music that he refers to as “Kolomyka type” after this older style that is still found in Ukrainian regions. This style of “Ardeleana” (very often called Ardeleana locally) incorporates a change from the straight notes of the Kolomyka to pairs that are short-long or long-short, Bartók refers to these as the “real Ardeleana”.

These melodies are prolific in Transylvania where the Romanians often refer to them as Țigăneasca, probably relating to the Roma musicians that distributed the melodies [6], and in Banat, Arad and Bihor these melodies are known as Ardeleana (suggesting an origin in Transylvania).

Bartók links this style of Ardeleana to the Hungarian “Verbunkos type” and proposes they are derived via the Hungarian “Verbunkos”. Bartók makes no consideration of the historic timescales for the popularity of Hungarian Verbunkos that started in the 18th century versus Ardeleana being a popular dance in Banat that must be connected to Transylvania prior to the addition of the couple turning figure that is the feature of most Transylvanian dancing. Generally Bartók primarily considers the melody and not the dance to which layers of popular fashionable melodies and songs can be added.

Choreographic form, motifs, & music

type names form structure motifs music
slow Ardeleana Polca, Poarga, Luncanul (Bihor) Țarina (Țara Moților) couples arranged in a column dancer moving to the side and back, either in the same or opposite direction as their partner men have stamping steps, and leg slapping sequences 2/4
Ardeleana, Lența, Duba (Banat) couples arranged in a column dancer moving to the side and back, either in the same or opposite direction as their partner interweaving and encircling arm patterns with the women performing rapid turns 2/4
fast Ardeleana Mânântel (Bihor, Arad) couples arranged in a column dancer moving to the side and back, either in the same or opposite direction as their partner men have stamping steps, and leg slapping sequences fast 2/4
De Doi (Banat) couples arranged in a column dancer moving to the side and back, either in the same or opposite direction as their partner interweaving and encircling arm patterns with the women performing rapid turns, step pattern is related to the Brâul bătrân fast 2/4
syncopated Ardeleana Pe Picior (Bihor, Arad) couples arranged in a column dancer moving to the side and back, either in the same or opposite direction as their partner men’s step patterns are related to the Maramureș Bărbătesc and Roata in terms of the stamping step patterns to a fast tempo 2/4 (split 3+3+2)
Sorocul is particular to Banat and is related to the syncopated Învârtita of Transylvania couples arranged in a column dancer moving to the side and back, either in the same or opposite direction as their partner many gentle and almost stately steps 2/4 slightly asymmetric


  1. Giurchescu, Anca & Bloland, Sunni (1995) Romanian traditional dance : A contextual and structural approach, Mill Valley, California, Wild Flower Press.
  2. Nistor, Viorel (1991) Folclore coregrafic Vol 1, Bucharest, Editura muzicala a uniunii compozitorilor si muzicologilor.
  3. Popescu-Judeţ, Gheorghe (1953) Jocuri din Banat, Bucureşti, Editura de Stat pentru Literatură şi Artă.
  4. Liuba, Sofronie (1898) Jocuri copilarescu și jocuri sau dansuri poporale. Gregorie G Tocilescu (editor), Revista "Tinerimea Romana" serie noua.
  5. Bartók, Béla (1967) Rumanian folk music. Volume 1: Instrumental melodies, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff.
  6. Bartók, Béla (1936) La musique populaire des Hongrois et des peuples voisins. Archivum Europae Centro-Orientalis II, 197-244.
Published on 29th July 2021, last modified on 15th April 2023