The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
Information: A dance and song.
Opsa (OHP-sah) is currently one of the most popular dances at Croatian and Serbian dance events in the major cities of the Upper Midwest and the Pennsylvania/Ohio area. Its melody is relatively recent, having been composed and recorded in former Yugoslavia. The origins of the dance per se are obscure it seems to have arisen here in the United States, possibly around Pittsburgh. On the other hand, its structure has the same five-measure pattern as the old Serbian Vranjanka. I first saw and learned it at the Tamburitza Extravaganza weekend in Los Angeles, 1993, where tamburitza players and fans of tamburitza music from all over the United States had gathered, and Opsa was played and danced dozens of times.
Opsa (Op Sa) is certainly Vlah, not Rom. There are several variants:
op sa // op sha // op asha = "jump this way"
op sa sa // op sh asha = "jump this way too"
sa sa // sh asha = "and this way"
op sa ya ra sa // op sha yar asha = "jump this way and again this way"
Translation: Opsa! is a spontaneous exclamation often used while dancing. There is no exact English translation, but it is something like "whee," "yippee," or "ee-haw!"
Other names: The Serbs in Milwaukee do the dance Sa, Sa when they hear the music Opsa.
Formation: Open circle, men and women, hands joined and held at shoulder height to start.
Note: A variant of Vranjanka.
|1||Facing very slightly R of center, step R in line of dance (ct 1); step L, continuing in line of dance (ct 2).|
|2||Continue, stepping R in line of dance, turning to face center (ct 1); close L beside R, without taking weight on L (ct 2).|
|3||Still facing center, step L slightly L (ct 1); close R beside L, without taking weight on R (ct 2).|
|4||Still facing center, step R slightly R (ct 1); close L beside R, without taking weight on L (ct 2).|
|5||Step L to L, turning to face slightly R of center (ct 1); bring joined hands down and a little backwards as you step back on R (ct 2); step Lft across, beginning to move in line of dance, at the same time raising joined hands to previous position (ct &).|
|1-32||Repeat entire dance from beginning.|
|Notes by Dick Crum, 7/94.|
1. \: Nek' se igra ovo kolo, ko ga ne bi vol'o? :\
1. Let's dance this kolo everyone loves it.
I first saw this dance several years ago at a Tammies post-performance dinner-dance in Milwaukee they led it. I picked it up there and taught it to folkdancers in the Milwaukee area and at the Door County Folk Festival. Serbian and Croatian bands have played Opsa since that time in the Milwaukee area for the dancing public.
What is interesting in Milwaukee is that when Croatians hear this melody they do the dance as you described, sort of a lesnoto with a back step. When Serbs here hear the melody they do the dance Sa Sa which is really like Makedonikos or what I call a "running Čoček".
We have happily been doing both versions for many years in Milwaukee.
I remember Steve Kotansky discussing the origins for the music Opsa . . . at that time he seemed to think it was of Rom origin. I have always heard that the dance for Opsa was created in the Pittsburgh area which would fit in nicely with the Tammies as the source for spreading the dance across the United States.
The directions I have for this dance are essentially the same as Michael's, except that the "close" steps are "touch" steps instead, meaning that you touch the ball of your foot slightly in front rather than right next to the foot with weight on it. Dick Crum taught Op Sa at a workshop in Ithaca, New York, in October 1998. Though he didn't hand out written directions, this was the way he did the dance at that time. He did say that there was a lot of variation possible and that the dance was a prototype Čoček.
Michael Kuharski's posting of my syllabus notes says about all I know about Opsa. I learned it at the Tamburitza Extravaganza in 1993. Shortly thereafter I visited the folkdancers in Toronto, and they were already doing it. I asked around and couldn't really track it down. I'm sure it's a United States product I don't think it originated with the Tammies, but it may have started somewhere around Pittsburgh and the Tammies picked it up "around town."
The recording is not old it reflects the kind of Romani/Macedonian style music that has been popular in Belgrade and other Serbian towns for about 15 years now. (Gori More is another example.) I'll bet that if it was danced at all when it first came out in Serbia, Sa Sa (or Čoček or whatever its current names are) was what people danced to it.
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