Balkan folk dances are danced in a line or circle, with dancers linked by a hand or shoulder hold. This means that you do not need a partner! There is a repeated sequence of steps, some very simple, others quite intricate. The speed can vary from slow to brisk, but you do not need to be exceptionally fit or agile. In our group, men and women enjoy each other’s dances, whilst trying to retain the correct style!
Balkan folk dances are based on the dance rhythms which are found more or less exclusively in the countries surrounding the Balkan mountain ranges which traverse south-eastern Europe. These rhythmic patterns date back to pre-Roman times, but have been modified and developed as a result of the movement of peoples and cultures, which cross political boundaries. Itinerant Gypsy musicians, whose importance must not be underestimated, aided and abetted this process of musical cross-fertilization. They continue to do so, though their own musical culture has been influenced by exposure to so-called "civilised" West European and American musical cultures.
The development of musical instruments has also played a huge part in varying the sounds of Balkan dance music throughout the centuries. The biggest change came with the creation of tempered tuning by instrument makers and composers in the 17th century, which was adopted by folk musicians of the ubiquitous piano accordion throughout Europe, and now supplemented by the electronic synthesizer!
The Balkan region is where east meets west, and this applies particularly to the musical rhythms. Since they are used for social dancing rather than virtuoso solo performance, the dance rhythms need to be comparatively regular in tempo. In this respect they differ from the much more complicated systems of Asia and the Orient, which use elaborate tonal and poly-rhythmic structures.
This means that Balkan rhythms can be easily understood by Western Europeans!