Folk dances are expression of the traditions and the culture of a place; music, moves, songs, musical instruments and costumes show the identity and the values of a society and have a social gathering function. In Romania, there is a wide variety of traditional dances with specific characteristics depending on the geographical area. The Romanian dances could be classified according to rhythm (Hora 2/4, Sârba 6/8 e Aksak n/8), patterns (i.e. chain dances, men’s group dances, column/set couple dances,…) or choreographic forms (i.e. Brâul, Fecioresc, Ardeleana,…).
In 2015, Fecioresc were inscribed in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. They are a typical Transylvanian folk dance characterized by the presence of a group of boys and men from 5 to 70 years old (Romanian, Hungarian or Roma) dancing in group (walking in an anticlockwise circle, doing rotations with the lower leg or clicking their boot heels) or a solo (performing one by one different figures in front of the musicians). The Fecioresc (for Romanian communities) or Legényes (for Hungarian communities) have elements in common with their respectives Hungarian dances as the leg slaps in time to the music, inherited from Verbunk dances from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The characteristic music of Romanian traditional dances of the Transylvania region was collected, with the help of the musician Zoltán Kodaly, and arranged by the composer Béla Bartók to create the Romanian Folk Dances. The Román népi táncok (in Hungarian) or dansuri românesti (in Romanian) is a suite of six short piano pieces composed in 1915 and then orchestrated for small ensemble in 1917 in a suite of seven dances. The name was originally “Romanian folk dances from Hungary”, but Bartók decided to change it after the annexation of Transylvania to Romania from 1918 to 1920 with the ratification of the Treaty of Trianon. Every dance has a particular area of origin; through music, the composer tries to express the spirit of the community and of the peasant festivals and celebrations.
Like many other Transylvanian towns, Cristuru Secuiesc preserves the traditional folk dances with the Pipacsok. This dance group was born in 1987 with local high school students and became an autonomous association in 1992.
The founder, László Csaba, is a big fan of folk music and dances. Besides being the artistic director and choreographer of the dance group, he had an important role in the preservation of folk dances in the region.
Working with the historian György Martin, László collected dances from Sóvidék, Nagybún, Balázstelke and many other Transylvanian and Hungarian villages. The two experts filmed dancers in the rural communities and collected and studied old 16 mm films. In 2006 the association received a prize for the conservation of the Szekely culture.
Over the years, the Pipacsok have performed in Romania, Europe, China and in the United States, presenting their programs at festivals. For example, one of the most popular programs is called “Soldiers” and focuses on the events of the First World War.
Every year in July they organize the Székelyföldi Dance Camp in Felsősófalva, to spread the culture of the Transylvanian folk dances. During the rest of the year the group trains in the village of Rugonfalva.
Authors: Francesca Silvestri and Cristina Vasile