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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Croatian Dance



The kolo (circle dance) is one of the basic forms of Croatian folk dance. The kolo is regarded as the oldest form of dance, and can be seen as an expression of community, especially in village life. Throughout a large part of Croatia right up until World War II, the kolo was the center of village social life. The kolo was a dance became a tool for social gathering, and was the main place at which young women and men could get to know each other.

With many dances, the singing of jocular verses during the performance serves as a way to express feelings or tell a story. By singing, movement, and gestures one can express what is proscribed in ordinary speech. Many young men and women use this as an excuse for courting and teasing one another. Occasions where people have performed a kolo outdoors on special occasions include harvests, weddings, and religious celebrations to honor a special saint. More recently, the dances are performed at weddings, concerts, festivals, or ethnic celebrations.

The kolo (round dance) is a vital part of Croatian folklore and cultural life. In the past, many kolos and songs portrayed the Ottoman wars. They were created at a time when the danger from the Turks was part of day-to-day existence in Slavonia. Until the 1950s, the kolo was the center of village social life in Croatia. Both as a dance and a social event, the kolo was where young men and women met and expressed mutual attraction; where blood brotherhoods and sisterhoods were sealed. It was also an event in which village social life was criticized and mocked through the songs sung in a kolo.

The most famous dance in northwest and central Croatia is the drmeš, danced in pairs or small circles of dancers to the music of a string ensemble known as guci. The dermeš accompanied by the gajde (bagpipe) which by the 20th century had been virtually replaced by the tambura (a stringed instrument something like a mandolin).