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Fatiše Kolo

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Information: A dance.

Translation: They join hands in the kolo.

Pronunciation: fa-TEE-shay KO-lo

Other names: Vranjsko Kolo

Region: Vranje, south Serbia

Note: The Macedonian community in Saint Louis does exactly the same dance to the song/tune "Devojče, Devojče."

Anatol Joukowsky FROM DICK CRUM


There are to my knowledge two different dances named Fatiše Kolo circulating (no pun intended!) in the United States recreational folk-dance scene, one that I introduced in 1967 and another introduced by Anatol Joukowsky, also in the late 1960s; I don't know the second one exactly: it has grapevine steps plus individual complete turns by all dancers at the end of the pattern. The version I taught is exactly as Martha notated it with the addition of "hands joined and held forward at shoulder height, without straightening elbows; leader (on R end of line) may flourish handkerchief in R hand."

Dick Crum 2005 Source

I learned the dance in Vranje in 1952 while on tour with the Duquesne Tamburitzans. We performed there and were hosted by the local dance group, who taught us a few Vranje dances, including Fatiše kolo vranjske devojke, whose steps and lyrics I notated. Already at that time the old dances of the area were no longer spontaneously alive at local doings, but this group (some of whom were members of the families of the older dancers seen on the 1948 dance film doing Vranjanka to the tune of "Belo Lenče") was dedicated to preserving them. I recall their performance as being minimally "choreographed" and impressively tasteful (except for their mandatory "Partizansko" number where they all trooped on in uniform with rifles and went through an epic mock-combat drill to a peppy tune in Pajdučko meter!). Those were my earliest Balkan dance research days, and in retrospect I realize I should have asked more questions; however, retrospect sometimes has the advantage of greater wisdom, so I'm better prepared now to make some background comments on the dance.


I was later to learn that the melody of Fatiše kolo vranjske devojke was used by the Serbian composer Petar Konjović in his opera "Koštana," based on the Vranje-based play of the same name by Bora Stanković. Whether Konjović took the melody from the folk repertoire and stylized it for his opera, or whether, like so many of that work's tunes, he composed it and it was later embraced by the local vranjanci and perpetuated as their own, I don't know, although it wouldn't take much research to find out. In the opera score, the song is entitled, interestingly enough in the light of current Eastern European Folklife Center (EEFC) e-mail discussions, "Velika čočečka igra." I have never seen a performance of Koštana, so I don't know how the dance has been staged by modern choreographers.


The music first became available in the early-to-mid-sixties in the United States on an imported RTB 10" 33 disk entitled "Musical Landscapes of Yugoslavia – Vranje" ("Muzički pejsaži Jugoslavije – Vranje"), recorded by an ad-hoc group of singers and Djordje Karaklajić's "Veliki narodni orkestar."


The metrical pattern of the "9" IS unusual: 2 3 2 2 (q-S-q-q), found principally in Bulgarian and occasionally in Macedonian music. On the other hand, at that time Macedonia was known as "Southern Serbia" and to Belgradians "Southern Serbia" started at Niš. So maybe this treatment of the "9" was Konjović's impression of a suitable rhythm.

(Side note: The composer Belá Bartók was one of the first "Western" musicians to investigate what he called "Bulgarian rhythms." In his actual works, however, such as his "Bulgarian Dances," he never used an actually attested Bulgarian rhythm pattern – he was totally familiar with the "ethnomusicological" data, but in his own work he merely implemented the "principles" of it. Maybe Konjović did the same thing.)


Fatiše Kolo, contrary to common belief, does not mean "a Kolo called 'Fatiše'" (I heard of a folkdancer up north who called it "Fatima's kolo"). It is actually the 1st two words of the first line: "Fatiše kolo vranjske devojke" ("The Vranje girls joined in a kolo" or, with Serbian word order: "They joined in a kolo, the Vranje girls.") "Fatiti" is dialect for "hvatiti" meaning "to join, to grasp (hands)." The song goes on to tell how the Vranje girls "fatiše kolo" near the town well in Vranje, led by "Mitko's beautiful daughter Taša" (characters from the play/opera). Another character, Koštana herself, was an actual person, a Romani woman whose photo appears in one of the volumes of the Janković Sisters "Narodne igre." The sisters told me the story of how the aging Koštana was brought from Vranje to Belgrade to see the opera bearing her name, and created a scene in the theater, screaming "To nisam ja! To nisam ja!" ("That's not me!").


"Although not a specialist in Serbo-croat language, but more familiar with Bulgarian, I can recognize that the form fatiše is an aorist (that is a form for completed past tense not existing anymore in the standard language) 3rd plural form of the verb fatiti, which is a variant of hvatiti, hvatati 'to catch'. The song would then literally mean 'The girls caught the dance'. The variation hv-f is found in some other words also, like hvala-fala 'thank you', and also in Bulgarian. This alternation explains why the word is not found in the dictionary."

–Toffe Bonsdorff, Helsinki Finland.

Supplementary to Toffe's excellent explanation of the linguistic alternation of hv-/f- in Balkan Slavic languages, it should also be noted that there is an idiomatic use of the verb "hvatiti" commonly found in folk lyrics: "to join hands in a kolo oro, horo," which is the case of "Fatiše kolo vranjske devojke" ("The Vranje girls joined hands in a Kolo," i.e., "started to dance a kolo," "formed a Kolo."

"Fatiše" is a dialectal form of the verb "hvatiše" meaning "they joined." You'll find the verb in your dictionary under "hvatiti" = "to grasp." The syntax of the sentence is the reverse of English. If we parse the sentence on the English model it becomes Vranjske devojke fatiše kolo (The Vranje girls joined in a kolo). If you smooth out the translation you can get "The girls of Vranje are dancing the kolo." It is okay in this language to reverse the subject and predicate, especially in poetry.

The two versions of Fatiše Kolo were introduced, respectively, by me (East Coast) and by Anatol Joukowsky (West Coast).

The music of the dance is best known to Serbs who recognize it as the tune from the 2nd (maybe 3rd?) act of the musical play "Koštana," by Bora Stanković, arguably the most beloved stage work Serbia ever produced. "Koštana" (ko'-shtah-nah, accent on first syllable) is the name of a Roma girl, the tragic heroine of the work, whose setting is the romantically associated town of Vranje (whence "Vranjanka," by the way). In the Serbian language it is permissible to put predicate before subject, hence the predicate "fatiše kolo" ("joined in the kolo") comes before the subject ("vranjske devojke" – "the Vranje girls"). Fatiše Kolo is thus NOT a Kolo< called "Fatiše," but the first half of the first line of the accompanying song. The title should really be that entire first line: "Fatiše kolo vranjske devojke." (In the score, it is referred to as "velika čocčečka igra" ("grand čocček").

In the program notes for Koštana, there is always mention that the composer based most of his music on traditional Vranje folk melodies. This has become somewhat controversial, since the work made such an impact on Vranje itself when it came out, that the inhabitants apparently adopted all the arias and dance tunes as theirs, and today (and in 1952 – see below) it is hard to tell whether, and if so, which, tunes are authentically Vranjanski, and which were created by the composer.

In 1952, when the Duquesne University Tamburitzans were touring former Yugoslavia, we arrived in Vranje and presented our concert. The following day was a free day, and we were hosted by the local Vranje amateur folk dance group, who kindly taught us some local dances, among them Vranjanka, Fatiše Kolo..., Duj, duj, and a couple of others. The Fatiše Kolo that I later introduced in the United States is the version we learned that day (your "pa-de-ba" version).

"Koštana" was regularly produced at the Belgrade Opera, of which Anatol Joukowsky was ballet master in the 1930s. He undoubtedly had to choreograph it several times during his tenure there. He's no longer with us, but if he were alive, I would ask him whether he knew a dance from Vranje that fit that music and hence reproduced it on stage, or whether he let his creative imagination work its way, with the result that the version he taught to folk dancers in the United States (the one with individual turns) is his own "character dance" creation.

Dick Crum


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