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The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)

Rustemul

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BACKGROUND

Information: A dance family.

The -ul ending, pronounced "-oo" (colloquial) or "-ool" (more formal usage) is a form of the Romanian definite article.

Translation: Russian (or, possibly, from the word "resteu," a bolt used in yoking oxen).

Pronunciation: roo-STEH-mool

Region: Romania


COMMENTS

The first dance called "rustemul" to be taught in the United States was by Martin Koenig to a tune on the old Balkan Arts label. The dance most United States folkdancers know as "Rustemul" was taught, as one post said, by Mihai David and is a group of Rustem-type steps choreographed to fit a particular piece of music. Mihai taught another Rustem choreography to a bagpipe tune, but since he had already used the name "rustemul," he called the dance "Cimpoi" (meaning "bagpipe"). The original pirated music was called "Rustem" and was played by Ion Laceanu, I believe.

You bring up an interesting and important point about the origin of the dances we do, and it pertains to what we are learning now, not just the "old" folkdance repertoire. Those of us lucky enough to learn dances in their original context (at weddings, feast days, etc.) in the country of origin are often at a loss to find appropriate music when we want to teach the dance here in the United States. I am fortunate enough to have a ton of Romanian LPs at home, but when I wanted to teach Starodavny (from Moravia) some years ago, I was stuck with only one tune – it worked fine, but the people in that region use a variety of tunes, and learning it as a set number of measures is not "authentic." Some teachers are less bothered by this and will teach any plausible step-figures they can think of to whatever music they have at hand. Some of these can be quite "artful" (e.g., Floricica Olteneasca), some not. Țarina din Maramureș is a circle dance in the United States, but a Țarina is a couple dance; in addition, the dance was taught to music from the Arad district of Southwest Transylvania, not from the Maramureș, which is in the north.

Some say it doesn't matter, as long as we all have fun. On the other hand, if fun is all there is to this, why do we have to say the dance comes "from" anywhere at all?

–John Uhlemann


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