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Belasičko Oro
By Ron Houston

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Ron Houston

BACKGROUND

Information: A dance.

This line dance comes from the town of Strumica. The footwork is influenced by the rocky terrain. The dance is done by the shepherds in this area. Presented by Atanas Kolarovski in Chicago, October 1968.

Translation: Named for a nearby mountain, Belasiča.

Pronunciation: be-LA-seech-ko. I believe the name is accented on the second syllable (3rd from last), which you hardly ever hear. Oh, and also: A-ta-nas Ko-LAR-ov-sky! (Does he pronounce it that way?!) That does conform to standard Macedonian pronunciation but the further east you go (Strumica's pretty far east) the more that rule breaks down.

Region: Macedonia

Meter: 2/4

Music: Dances of Yugoslavia, Voyager Recordings VRLP 402, Side B, Band 1 (LP); Worldtone WT-10003 Side A (45 rpm).

Formation: Broken circle, leader at R end. Hands joined and held down to begin. As originally danced, men and women did not join hands, but held a handkerchief between them. Today usually only the leader holds a handkerchief in his right hand and uses it to signal pattern changes.

Style: Body is held erect but relaxed. The bouncy character of the steps is reflected throughout the body. When directions say to 'step on the heel' it is not meant that the toes are pointing in the air, but that the ball of the foot is on or close to the floor and the heel is bearing the weight.

Sequence: Steps may be repeated as often as leader desires. In actual Internatioal Folk Dance practice, each part is always done for 16 measures, thus associating a specific melody phrase with a specific part.


BARS ACTION

1.   Hands joined and held down.
1 Moving in LOD, step on heel of R ft (ct 1); Close L to R, bending L knee (ct 2).
2 Step on R heel in LOD (ct 1); Close L to R, bending L knee (ct &); Step on R heel in LOD (ct 2); Lift L leg in preparation for next step, R knee bends a little (ct &).
3 Still moving in LOD, repeat MEAS 2, reversing footwork.
4 Turning to face center, step on R ft (ct 1); Lift L leg in front of R, knee bent (ct 2).
5-8 Repeat MEAS 1-4, reversing footwork and directions (move RLOD).
 
2.   Hands up to shoulder height, elbows bent.
1 Facing center, step on R heel to right side (ct 1); Close L behind R, bending L knee (ct 2).
2 Step R to right side (ct 1); Close L behind R (ct &); Step R to right side (ct 2); Lift L leg, knee bent, beside R leg. R knee bends during this small low lift (ct &).
3 Step L next to R, lifting bent R leg next to L (ct 1); Raise and lower L heel as lower R leg is extended fwd a little (ct 2).
4 Repeat MEAS 3, reversing footwork (ct 1); Lift L leg in front of R, knee bent (ct 2).
5-8 Repeat MEAS 1-4, reversing footwork and directions (move RLOD).
 
3.   Hands are held down.
1 Turning to face LOD, step R (ct 1); Bring L leg up to R so that L ankle is behind R calf. L knee is turned out. At the same time R knee bends sharply (ct 2).
2 Turning quickly to face RLOD, step L-R-L. The size of these steps may vary but there is movement in RLOD (cts 1&2).
3 Still moving RLOD, step R (ct 1); Raise R leg (knee bent) in front of R, as R heel is raised and lowered (ct 2).
4 Repeat action of MEAS 2 at a near run, but turn to face center on last step L.
 
4.   Hands raised to shoulder height, elbows bent, during first measure.
1 Facing ctr, step R in front of L, lifting L leg behind R (ct 1); Step L behind R, raising joined hands to shoulder height (ct 2).
2 Step R beside L (ct 1); Raise L leg (knee bent) in front of R, NO heel lift (ct 2).
3 Bending R knee, turn L knee to left (ct 1); Straighten R leg and return to position as in MEAS 2 CT 2 (ct 2).
4 Facing center, step L-R-L (cts 1&2).

NOTES

These NOTES slightly revised from UOP Folk Dance Camp Syllabus, 1968.

I was interested in Michael's comments on Belasičko – this is the first time I've seen the written dance description although we've done the dance in our group for years. Our version is similar with a couple of minor variations, the main one being Part II, measure 2, count 2 where instead of stepping right and lifting the left leg in front as two separate actions, we make a small leap onto the right, simultaneously lifting the left foot in front and holding it there.

Regarding the music, there seems to be more than one recording. The one we dance to uses the same tunes as in the VIFD music, but in a different sequence. The VIFD sheet music shows a series of 6 repeated tunes. The dance only requires 4 of these to be done one time through, so by repeating the 6 tunes twice the dance can be done three times. Our recording, on the other hand, seems to be based on a sequence of 4 tunes, matching the length of the dance, except that in one of the repetitions it skips one of the tunes as I recall it. Our recording also starts with the 3rd tune in the VIFD music.

To my ear the tune doesn't sound so much like a medley as a connected series of variations with key changes as is found in many other tunes.


Michael said:

SEQUENCE: Steps may be repeated as often as leader desires. [In actual IFD practice, each PART is always done for 16 measures, thus associating a specific melody phrase with a specific PART.]

Quite true, although there are 6 musical phrases (A, B, C, D, C', D') and four dance phrases. So the first time through the dance, the 1st part is done to A, the second time through it's done to C', and the 3rd time through it's done to C. The other parts progress through the musical phrases similarly. As Michael indicates, mess with that order (either as a dance leader or in your band's arrangement), and you'll make some folk dancers unhappy.

Rumors from usually reliable sources say that's Atanas himself on lead accordion on the usual recording. I did see/hear him play Belasičko on the accordion at a Chicago workshop, a few years back.

For more background on this dance, you might want to ask Bob Leibman. I recall Bob questioning Atanas rather closely when Atanas taught Belasičko in the Boston area in 1966.

Figure 3 was learned slightly differently by Bob and me, though we each put in a syncopated movement (either at the very end of meas 2 or the very beginning of meas 3). It seems to me that over the years the dance got smoothed out, as reflected in the dance notes Michael Kuharski provided. (As I've mentioned before, Boston area folkdance circles did not produce written dance notes in that era.)

This dance is also fairly popular among folkdancers in Japan, always done in the set pattern.

With regard to Belasičko, I remember hearing a rumor that Atanas had created the dance (from Macedonian steps and styling) and people found out and were quite angered. Any one have any information on this?

(The story contrasts many recent ethnochoreographic researchers, who feel quite free to say, "I created this dance based on Bulgarian, Armenian... steps and style" and quite freely teach their dance.)

For the information of Graham and others, the tune "Belasičko Oro" which Atanas Kolarovski used for the dance of the same name was originally released on RTB EP 14729 (45 rpm). This record features (the late) Macedonian flutist IVAN TERZIEV accompanied by a (unidentified) folk orchestra. The other titles on the disc are: Donkino Oro and Ograzdensko Oro. Under the titles, it mentions that Terziev is the composer of these tunes. Another record (RTB EP 14728) features Terziev playing Berovka Oro, Strumičko Oro, Ratevka Oro and Kazi, kazi Katil Gjorgji. Here too, it says that Terziev is accompanied by a folk orchestra (unidentified). Based on the "sound" of the backup musicians and arrangements, my feelings is that the orchestra is most likely in part composed of musicians associated with the old "Galevski-Nancevski" formation which played regularly for Radio Skopje. From a picture on the cover of another RTB record "Makedonska Ora" (RTB EP 14700) featuring the G-N orchestra it looks like Terziev is a member of this band.

From the catalogue numbers, I would guess that these records were produced in Yugoslavia in the mid-sixties. Atanas Kolarovski taught Belasičko in the late sixties using his LP released on the VOYAGER label (Seattle, USA) VRLP 402 side II band 1 (Belasičko Oro). As far as I can tell, this is the same version as the RTB one. One interesting point: the liner notes on the Voyageur LP state that the tunes uses Gajda, kaval, karadusen, tarabuka, tambura, daire and tûpan.


I remember talking to Alex Piperkov, former musician (guitar) with the Galevski-Nancevski Orchestra now living in California. He spoke highly of Terziev a clasically trained musician with a good knowledge of traditional melodies and styles especially of his native region (Strumica, East Macedonia if my memory is correct). ~Yves Moreau


Alex Piperkov told me that he played on that recording. ~Linda Levin


Regarding the confusion over the written score, Belasičko is on pages 14-15 in VOLUME 2 of Vancouver IFD Music Book © 1982 Deborah Jones. There is also a transcription on page 20 of the recent Pinewoods Intl Collection (Tom and Barbara Pixton © 1998 NightShade Productions).

I always assume that a complicated dance like that, done only to a recently composed tune, has been invented by someone. Hard to imagine the village folk doing it. ~David Owens

About those chords in Belasičko: I listened to the Belasičko recording last night. As far as I can tell, these are the guitar chords on the record:

melody 1: C-G, G-C, C-G, G-C repeated four times

melody 2: F-F, C-C, C-G, G-C (4x)

melody 3: Am-Am, C-C, Am-D, Dm-Am (4x)

melody 4: G-G, G-Am, G-G, G-Am (4x)

melody 5: Dm-Dm, C-F, Dm-G, Gm-Dm (4x) vmelody 6: C-C, C-Dm, C-C, C-Dm (4x)

(measures are separated by commas)

Little question, in #3, D should be Dm? and in #5 G should be Gm? Or does it really go from major to minor?

Thank you Patrick. That's very close to the way I've been playing it:

1: C-G, G-C, C-G, G-C repeated four times

2: F-F, F-C, C-G, G-C (4x) (one extra F)

3: Am-Am, G-C, Am-Dm, F-Am (4x) G matches C in #5, F instead of 2nd Dm

4: G-G, G-Am, G-G, G-Am (4x)

5: Dm-Dm, C-F, Dm-Gm, Bb-Dm (4x) (Bb instead of 2nd Gm)

6: C-C, C-Dm, C-C, C-Dm (4x)

I use similar chords to those Dean shows with the exception of the last bar in melodies 3 & 5. In place of the last Dm I usually play F,G in melody 3. In melody 5 I use F,A in place of the Gm. I use a different chord structure in melody 5 than in melody 3 because of the way the notes are laid out on the guitar. The F-A sequence in melody 5 allows me to emphasize the notes F&A changing to E&A, with the A acting as a drone while the melody moves down the scale. In other words I'm only plucking 2 or 3 strings. I could do the same thing in melody 3 by plucking C and E chords, making sure to include the high E note in both, but it doesn't sound as good to me as the F,G sequence which is more emphatic. In melody 3 when I pluck a D chord, I'm plucking the notes D-A-D, which means it's neither major nor minor. In melodies 1 & 2 I don't play chords at all, but just use thumb and finger to play melody plus harmony on the 1st & 3rd or 2nd & 4th strings. (This follows the harmony in the VIDF song book.) When played this way on a 12 string guitar the result is a melody line that is both above and below the harmony line because of the octave string pairs.

The guitar plays on the backbeat, so where there are places where everybody rests on the backbeat (for example, the last "Am" in melody 4 on the 2nd and 4th repeat), there is no guitar chord. It's interesting that melodies 3 and 5 are not the same, even accounting for transposition. The first difference is in the second measure of melody 5, where the first chord should be an F. On the recording, there is no guitar chord at all at this spot on the first time through melody 5 – just the F chord at the end of the measure. It's only when the melody is repeated that the guitar plays C-F. It's almost as if the guitarist took a moment to pause and decide which chord belonged there.

About the Pinewoods International Collection: Tom Pixton, who spent countless hours putting it together, did not attempt to duplicate source recordings in terms of setting chords to the melodies – he just relied on his own sense of good taste. I think there's even a disclaimer to that effect in the introduction to the book. Tom's chords for Belasičko are probably not what most people would choose for that tune, but they work. I've played Belasičko with Tom for several years, and I haven't heard anyone come up to us and complain that the chords weren't "just like the record".


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