Course in Balkan Dancing
By Lou Pechi
Did you know that in the seventies, at the heyday of folk dancing, the University of California San Diego had a course in Balkan dancing?
Yes, I am proud to say, my wife and I are alumni of UCSD's Balkan Dancing 101, having repeatedly taken the class almost four or five times in a row.
Tuesday nights were special. Arrangements for baby sitters for our young kids were set and we rushed to class and struggle for two solid hours with the odd Bulgarian beats and syncopated Macedonian steps.
Many of today's "oldies but goodies" were "newies and difficulties" for us. We tripped over our feet in "Ajde Lepa Maro" and the simple "Lesnoto" felt like climbing up the Macedonian mountains. We taped the music on the bulky tape recorders and diligently did our homework by practicing the steps at home.
We looked up to and admired the skills of our young folk dance "hot-shot" dance teachers, hoping some day to be able to dance like them.
As time went on, the "hot-shots" either faded away or continued to hone their skills in the Ethnomusicology departments of various colleges and field studies in foreign countries. We, on the other hand, moved on and joined various folk dance groups throughout California.
While some of the steps we learned in BD101 faded, our love for folk dancing remained. It enriched our lives, not just by the understanding of various cultures, but most of all with the many wonderful friends we made over the years. Every so often, at the festivals, or at special events, we get a chance to renew our friendships and even connect with some of the old "hot-shots" we admired.
And now, after many years wandering and dancing up and down the length of California, we are back in San Diego, closing the circle where we started. We connected again with some old friends from our class and some of the old "hot-shots," who are by now much older and are making the new generation of dancers struggle through the dances.
So what did we get from BD101?
We found an important thread that will always be a part of our lives. No matter where we are living, the language of dance is the same. "Ajde Lepa Maro" and "Lesnoto" are the thread that binds us, whether we are in California or anywhere in the world. We can immediately join the dancers and become part of the group.
Yes, we came full circle, but will always cherish the people we connected with since Balkan Dancing 101.
As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (15)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.