What Is the Horo Dance?
The horo, also known as hora and oro is a folk dance in which participants form a circle or a straight line while holding hands. They perform special step patterns — hops, leaps, crossing of the feet, going forward , going backward — which are repeated according to the musical accompaniment.
The dance is found only in the Balkan Peninsula in the far southeastern part of Europe. Its uneven rhythms are heard only in the folk music strands of Bulgaria, Greece, and what used to be Yugoslavia; but it is an inevitable part of every feast in these ancient lands.
Horo, communal dance of Bulgaria is performed for enjoyment at festive gatherings; it has many varieties, the moods of which range from solemn to exuberant. Women’s steps are often simple and subdued, men’s steps complicated. Frequently, the music, especially for women’s dances, is sung. Musical metres such as 7/16 and 11/16 are common. The horo, like the related Yugoslav kolo and Romanian hora, is one of a complex of European chain dances performed since ancient times.
Many Bulgarian dances are line dances, with the dancers holding hands in a straight or curved line, facing in toward the center of the dance space. Originally men and women danced in separate lines, or in a gender-segregated line in which the last woman and first man held opposite ends of a handkerchief, to avoid gender contact, but today men and women often dance in mixed lines. Several different handholds are used in the different dances:
- Holding hands down at waist level, the arms of adjacent dancers in the shape of a “V”, right hand facing forward, left hand facing back
- Holding hands at shoulder level, with the arms of adjacent dancers in the shape of a “W”, right hand palm up, left hand palm down
- “Teacup hold”, in which each dancer places his left hand on his stomach making a “handle” with his left arm, and loops his right hand loosely through the arm of the right-hand dancer
- Shoulder hold, with the arms held out straight horizontally to the sides, the hands resting on the near shoulders of the adjacent dancers. This was originally a men’s hold, used only in the men’s line.
- Belt hold (na lesa), with each dancer holding the front of the belt or sash of the two adjacent dancers, left arm over right
Bulgarian dances are distinctive for their subtle rhythms and intricate footwork. In some dances the dancers repeat the same pattern of steps throughout the dance, while others are “called” dances with several different steps in which the leader calls out changes in the steps at his discretion. Still others have a basic step which individual dancers may embellish at specific points with variations like stamps and foot slaps. In dances in which the line moves to the right or left, the dancer at the head of the line is the “leader”. It is his responsibility to lead the line so it doesn’t collide with other lines, and in “called” dances to call the variations. New dancers joining a dancing line join at the end; it is bad manners to join at the head of the line, in front of the leader.