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Information: A dance.

In the old days, when it was hard for (especially) Americans to travel to the eastern block, people "learned" a number of dances from various written sources, reconstructing them as best they could. Pasarelska, as per our recent discussion, provides a good example, where it seems clear that someone read Boris Tsonev's book, and found a tune that seemed to work – at least it was in the right meter, nevermind that the tune was Rhodope and the dance was Šop. Putting the two together resulted in a hybrid that presumably never existed in Bulgaria, but has lived a charmed existence in American International Folk Dance circles since the 1960s.

It turns out that a chemistry professor at my university learned and introduced several dances this way. (Including possibly Pasarelska, but he doesn't remember; one set of notes claims it was him . . .). I talked with him for about ten minutes about what it was like in the old days – before there were four different tour options for spending a good chunk of one's vacation and income travelling to Bulgaria for the Koprivštica festival. There was HUGE demand for dances, and very limited supply. Teachers would learn dances from local ethnics (when they could find them), from films (not necessarily with accurate sound attached) of groups that performed in European tours, or from books or notes. At the suggestion of John Filcich, said professor wrote off to the Bulgarian Committee for Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries, and eventually received back a big stack of records, LPs and 78s. As John predicted, the top and bottom five or so in the shipment were smashed, but they protected the ones in the middle (and the LPs were more flexible). There was all sorts of good traditional folk music, recordings by Radio Sofia and the like, but not particularly with any liner notes or explanations. Part of the fun of puzzling these things out was finding a piece of music that could be made to work with a dance one had on paper or film.

Tom Roby

Translation: From Pasarel

Pronunciation: pah-sah-REHL-skah

Region: Bulgaria



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