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Information: A dance.

Translation: Vodarka (plural vodarki) means a girl or woman who fetches water for the household from the neighborhood well, spring, fountain, or stream.

Pronunciation: voh-DAHR-kee

Region: Macedonia


Helen Winkler wrote:

A friend of mine has a song on mini disc (we don't know where it came from). I used to do this dance 25 years ago and I think it was called Bozarki, but I'm not sure. I remember the steps as follows:

Moving in lod step R, L, R, touch L
Step L, R then step-together-step
Repeat this
Face center, step R, step L behind, step R, lift L
Sway L, sway R, cross L in front, step sidewards with R, step L across
Repeat this

These are alternated several times

Then there is a transition where the music speeds up consisting of:

Hop-step-step sidewards followed by three pas-de-basques in place (whole sequence is done facing centre and alternating sidewards to right and then left several times)
Then the rest of the dance is Ratevka

Does anyone recognize this dance? Is it really called Bozarki or does it go under another name? Are the notes available? Twenty-five-year-old memories tend to be foggy!


I looked in my tape catalogue and found the Tanec recording of Crpi voda Jano (the "Vodarki" suite) and it is followed immediately by Ovčepolska potrculka which starts with hop steps (potskoči) on the left foot as does Ratevka (I suspect they belong to the same family of dances and all from the east although, not from exactly the same areas). Your recognition of Ratevka probably comes from that is similar to Ovčepolska potrculka, despite the time signature difference.

I therefore strongly suspect that the first two dances in the Tanec Vodarki suite, Crpi voda Jano and Ovčepolska potrculka are the dances you are thinking of. I can't point you to a source for notation, but plenty of people on the list ought to be able to help with Ovčepolska potrculka, Crpi voda Jano might be more difficult.

I've included my original posting which I missed posting to the list the first time.

–Paul Miller

Dear Helen,

I wonder if you remember the name as a corrupted form of "Vodarki" ("the water girls")? Vodarki was a choreographed suite danced by Tanec, the first tune used was the song "Crpi voda Jano" in 2/4, which may be the song on your disc. I never saw anybody else dancing to this tune in Macedonia, but believe that there was a dance to it, which may or may not be the origins of the Tanec versions and a "Vodarki" which I remember seeing danced in international folk dance (IFD) circles in the 1970s. I only vaguely remember the steps, beyond that the IFD version started with a long walking step and the Tanec suite started with the women coming with water jugs on their heads. Crpi voda Jano does not speed up, so maybe the next sections is the net in the suite or we are talking about completely different pieces. Also, I just notice that you mention Ratevka steps; these are in 7/8 so maybe I am on the wrong track.

I had another thought and looked in "Makedonski narodni ora II" by Mihailo Dimoski, (published by the Institute for Folklore, Skopje, 1977) which contains notes and Laban notation for the basic dances which make up Tanec's repertoir. Crpi voda Jano ("Take the water [from the well Jana") is there on pages 41-42. The region given is Skopje and the words are reproduced from Zivko Firfov's 1953 book, Makedonski narodni ora.

I don't have time to translate the description now, but could scan the pages and email them if you can find somebody else to translate them. It will not neccesarily be the same dance you learned before and I don't believe it's really possibly to learn dances from written instructions, although the Laban notation is likely to be more accurate if you have somebody to read it.

–Paul Miller

Let's note up front that "vodarka" (plural "vodarki") means a girl or woman who fetches water for the household from the neighborhood well, spring, fountain, or stream. This is by social protocol done by the junior members of the extended family: unmarried girls or younger daughters-in-law. In a normal well-ordered household a senior woman should never have to go for water. Fetching water is both a daily (or more frequent) work task and an opportunity to get out of the inward-oriented house, exchange gossip, flirt . . .

The recording referenced by Helen Winkler in her inquiry about Atanas Kolarovski's recreational version of Vodarki, the small suite of Eastern Macedonian dances arranged for ensemble, is a cut from the 1973 LP album Bay 201 "The People's International Silver String Macedonian Band" Side 1, Band 4 (time 4:03). Striding boldly out of the fecund cultural matrix of not-yet-too-late-20th-century California, the grinningly self-styled "P.I.S.S. Band," declaring itself "totally together behind playing ancient and modern Balkan music in a style that would have blown Constantinople's mind," consisted of Nancy Lewis, Karana Hattersley, John Austin, Dave Wilkinson, Pat Lindenau, and Jim Russell. Forgive a clueless North Coaster for asking: where are those good folks today? This group had a playful espirit and delighful musicality, having fun while producing excellent dance music with sound Balkan fundamentals beyond expectations for American groups of the time and inspiring a lot of us to try harder and move faster in the direction of verisimilitude in our playing of Balkan material.

The P.I.S.S. Band cut is their version of RTB LP-029 "TANEC" Side B, Band 4, issued in this country as Festival Records FR-4013-A Vodarki (Madeconian Dance Medley)" (time 2:50) [45 rpm; notes Original Recording is from RTB and credits TANEC in the titling]. According to one of my syllabi, Vodarki is also on Atanas Kolarovski's AK012, Side A, Band 6. The P.I.S.S. cut has a longer third (Ratevka) section than the Festival Records recording. I do not have access to the RTB or Atanas Kolarovski AK012 recordings for comparison.

Some background information on the choreography, a musical score, song lyrics (not sung on the Festival Records recording nor on the derivative Bay 201), and some photos are in Đorđi Dimčevski's book "Vie se Oro Makedonsko" [Skopje 1983] on pages 137-139. The intrepid talent consortium Ostali Muzikaši (including our own indefatigable Rachel MacFarlane) translated this rich reference, which states:

"Vodarka is a choreographic experiment and musical stylization from Eastern Macedonia. Vodarki, however, are actually present in every village, so we cannot precisely determine the locality. The well in every village, both then and now, was a place where the girls could be seen, could say a few words and could sometimes have news, "So Stojana fell in love with Petre, Dimče and Jana will become engaged, or how Todorka ran far away, leaving a son and her first true love, etc."

In August, 1998, I saw two performances of this choreography by the amateur ensemble from Kičvo, first at the Ilindenski Denovi festival in Bitola and later performing by themselves at Kruševo. The girls entered carrying "stomni" (water jugs) in the first episode, but put them down to do the following livelier dances. The middle section was rather more interesting than the marking-time pattern of our recreational version. The concluding Ratevka, of course, is challenging enough in tempo for anyone and was done straight. Their execution of Ratevka was as we do it in recreational international folk dance practice, except for a neat trick they had of somehow using the final measure of the pattern to already begin moving in line-of-direction, rather than remaining on the spot.

     Vodarki Dance


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