Folk dances form an important part of Bulgaria's national culture. The wealth of rhythms and melodies and the great variety of figures, steps, and rapidity of movements demonstrated in the chain dances or HOROS, embody the creative genius handed down from generation to generation.Until recently, the HORO was danced every Sunday and holidays, · all over Bulgaria,byyoung and old. Even today, folk dancing is still a
beloved entertainment among Bulgarians on wedding days, at country fairs, regional
festivals, and big national festivities. Many dances are connected with various rituals and customs. Presently, in every region of Bulgaria, there are local HOROS and versions widely known typesdances which reflect the local taste and character of the people. The names of some dances and tunes refer to the town or village they come from: RADOMIRSKO, KULSKO, etc.
The Bulgarian folk dances have an incredible diversity – in the music and rhythm, as well as in the combinations of movements. In some dances you hold hand by hand, others on the belt. One could dance alone, as well as in pairs.
These dances are extremely beautiful and full of grace. It is as if the dancers “would fly” and this feeling is reinforced by the typical swing of their arms. The costumes, with their vivid colors and embroidery, bring happiness and joy to the spectator.
Bulgarian folk dances are line dances, with hands joined either in low "V" hold or crossed in front. Footwork varies from fast intricate steps (Shopluka Region) to slow cat-like movements (the Pirin region).
There are 5 main folk regions in Bulgaria: Dobrudja, Trakia, Pirin, Rhodope, Shopluk.
One of the most interesting ways of identifying the regional style differences is to look at the way that the basic Pravo Horo is danced in each Region. In Trakia it is danced in a smooth flowing style. In the Shopluka Region it is jerky with small hop steps and lifted knees. The Dobrudjansko Pravo is called “Opa” and is danced in a solid style with knees always bent. The Severnyashko Pravo horo, called Dunavsko, is more springy, and the arms swing in time with the feet.
Pravo Rhodopsko horo is a simple dance with a solemn feeling, and small steps.
Bulgarian folk dances range from a simple village dance with one basic pattern that repeats to highly complex choreographies. Most of the dances in Bulgaria fall in between these two extremes. We usually dance a fixed number of variations in an agreed order which have been "put together". Most Bulgarians are able to join dances, such as" pravo horo" or improvised " rachenitsa" . Everyone in our country knows at least the basics of these dances. We perform them together at social gatherings such as weddings.
The 2/4 beat is quite common in Bulgarian folk music although the most characteristic rhythms are the ones which are the foundation of many unequal beats such as: 5/16 – Paidushko; 7/16 Rachenitza; 9/16 Daichovoto; 11/16 Gankino or Kopanitza, 13/16 Elenino, and other different unequal beat combinations.
Among the most popular Bulgarian musical instruments used in folk music today are the gaida (bagpipe); the kaval (long wood pipe), the duduk (a block pipe); the gadulka (rebec), the tambura (a kind of mandolin), and for percussion, the tapan(big drum with beating sticks) and the TARABUKA (small hand drum). In the past century, however, instruments like the VIOLIN, CLARINET, TRUMPET, and ACCORDION appeared in Bulgaria and have been widely used by talented musicians since.
The Rachenitza is also a very popular and widespread folk dance which can be performed solo, in couples, or in a line (Horo). It is considered by many as the liveliest of all Bulgarian dances because it in the dancers can show their skills. Every region has its own style of Rachenitza .Among the most exciting are the Shopska rachenitza in Western Bulgaria where the steps are small and sharp, and the Dobrudjanska rachenitza (also called
rachenik), in which the usually men) are arranged in a line and go through various tricky acrobatic motions.
Each region of Bulgaria has its own distinct sound. Bulgarian folk music has achieved worldwide acclaim and is even transmitted in space. There are over 70,000 folk songs in Bulgaria and dances. Folk music in Bulgaria is very popular with many folklore ensembles, folk dance groups and folk orchestras playing across the country.
The vocals in Bulgarian folk music are called "open-throated" although this isn’t strictly true as singers constrict their throats to force out the sound so that the voice can go over long distances.
Originally folk music was used to celebrate holidays and feast days like St. Lazarus Day, Christmas, New Year, Enyov den, Easter etc. Each region of the country has its own distinctive folk style and its own set of traditional folk songs. In the Strandzha mountain, villagers celebrate Nestinarstvo and the feast of Sts Konstantin and Elena. In the Dobruzha region in North-East Bulgaria the music is slower, while in the Shopluka region around Sofia the music and dances are extremely fast. On the Thracian Plains the music is more laboured and heart rending; in the Rhodope Mountains the deep-voiced bagpipe is the lead accompaniment.
Traditional Bulgarian folk music is more popular than that of any other Balkan state largely thanks to Philip Koutev, who led the state supported orchestra known as the State Ensemble for Folk Songs and Dances and founded the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir. The choir achieved international fame with the release of series of recordings with the title: " The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices”.
Perhaps the greatest accolade was the recording of a Bulgarian folk song called “Izlel e Delio Haidutin”, a traditional Rhodopean folk song performed by Valya Balkanska. After its recording, the song was included on the Voyager Golden Record, which was sent into outer space by NASA aboard the US Space Probe Voyager I. It was chosen among many other songs as part of a collection of our civilization finest cultural pieces .