THE DANCES OF BOSNIAN-CROATS OF PECS REGION
The Bosnian Croats arrived in several waves in county Baranya at the end of the 1600s and the beginning of the 1700s. Being Catholic, they were led here by Franciscan monks. They found a new home in the settlements of the region, which were established during the Middle Ages, but which became uninhabited due to the wars with the Turks. (Here is the list of villages in Hungarian: Áta, Kökény, Németi, Pécsudvard, Pogány, Szalánta, Szemely, Szőkéd, Szőke, and in Croatian: Ata, Kukinj, Nijemet, Udvar, Pogan, Salanta, Semelj, Sukit, Suka.) The Bosnians brought developed animal husbandry and vegetable farming knowledge with themselves, which is shown by their nickname kupusari, i.e. cabbage men, given by the people of the neighboring Sokac villages. They have been selling vegetables as well as pickled cabbage in the biggest covered marketplace of Pécs ever since. Elderly ladies still wear their folk costumes, so they can easily be recognized and typified by their skirts and scarves. A summary at the end of the book describes their history and shows how they kept their language, their Catholic religion, and folk customs up to the present.
We could rely on the works of great predecessors while studying the dances and the dance culture. The methods for the study had been laid down by researchers both of Hungarian dances (predominantly in the prominent works of Martin György) and dances of our southern neighbors (led by the Janković sisters and Dr. Ivan Ivančan). The fact that we could do our research on a living tradition made our job easier (though this tradition is not complete any more in most areas). However, what posed difficulties was that it is a multilayered material consisting of numerous dances, which have been systematically collected only lately (from the 1970s). In this booklet, we set down to describe the dances and the dance culture as well as to establish the interferences between the ethnic minorities that had an impact on today’s manifold dances.
I did not wish to write these pages for a specified audience or with a specific purpose. The only thing that drove me was the gratitude I owe to a small ethnic group, which has always welcomed me as their son, and from whom I learned the natural goodness of man and the respect for the valuable traditions of the past. Therefore, the urge to write came from within, just like when the inner self gets people to form a circle and start dancing and singing as the tamburicas and the accordion begin playing inside or in the courtyard of the local pub.
Girls, come and join me in the dance…
DANCE CULTURE AND DANCE EVENTS
From the turn of the 20th century until the 1950s, the most important event for the young for dance was the Sunday afternoon dance. It started at 3 pm or 4 pm except for the season of Advent and Lent. Depending on the season, the dance was held either in one of the rooms of the pub or in its courtyard. Younger men gathered with the older ones in the bar. While the elders were playing cards or chatting, the youth were singing or got local musicians to play music for them. Bagpipes were used predominantly until the 1920s; after that period, tamburica bands ruled the scene, sometimes led by a violin, but recently by the accordion. If none of these were available, a harmonica could also accompany the singing. Girls, elderly ladies, and other relatives were not allowed into the bar; they had to stay in another room of the pub. Before the dance, and in the intervals, the first songs were slow ones (U livadi pod jasenom...), and people stepped slowly at the rhythm. After that, a quicker song followed (Hajdemo se u škovrt okretat’..., Hajd’te druge da se okrećemo...), at the rhythm of which they stepped along a circle or spun while holding each other’s hands or crossing the arms. While the youth and the musicians were withdrawing from the bar, they were singing the popular Bećarac. The first dance was always the Kolo. Usually, three boys began dancing it, holding each other on the shoulder, but the girls joined in nearly immediately. Kolo was danced in a closed circle, the boys holding each other’s hands, standing in front or behind the girls, while the girls put their hands on the shoulders of the boys. The circle moved to the left, first with simple, then with more complicated steps (heel klicks, cross-steps); sometimes, a boy dragged the circle in making a derrick-do.
Funny yells, sarcastic remarks, impromptu short poems were shouted in the meantime. The leader of the Kolo signaled with shouting when he wanted a change (Hajdte u kolo!; Kolo sviraj!; Drmaj se!; Ðeco, na jednu stranu!). The music became faster and faster. The most difficult motifs came at the end. The whole dance could easily last 20-25 minutes, depending on the dancers’ needs or the musicians’ skills.
According to the wishes of the dancers, either couple or triple-people dances followed the Kolo. There was never a set order of the dances. The change was for the sake of variety (here is an example: Kolo, Tanac, Ranče, Jabuke, Na dvi strane kolo, Kolo). The dance went on until sunset in 1-2-hour sections with ½-1-hour intervals. The participants then went home to have dinner, after which they returned and continued the party until midnight.
The youth could also dance while chatting in front of the houses in the evenings during the warm summer months. The mud stove in front of the old school in Kökény was the favorite meeting place for young and old. The old were sitting and discussing economic topics, while the talk of the young was centered around the theme of finding a partner and dating. A good singer would start singing. The old also joined in. When there was a harmonica or tamburica around, a dance would start quite soon. The local piper, Kloćo, was occasionally invited, who would play for some cents until 10 pm (which was the obligatory time to return home).
Dancing events for the elder ones were weddings, wine-picking, and pig slaughter at the time of the carnival. Their most favored dances were Kolo, Tanac, Todore, and Dunje ranke. At a wedding, around midnight, when the younger ones were not that active, the elders called the piper and danced the old dance called Lele, dunje ranke, to sviraj meni! as a show. The piper, being at most places the only musician in the village, was of high respect. At the weddings at Áta and Szőkéd a pillow was placed on the dowry chest of the bride, and the piper was sat there to play for two whole days.
There was always a chance for a dance besides singing old ballads in the season for corn husking or at the spinning mill (prelo).
In the 1920s children, who naturally were not allowed in the pub, gathered at the house of Lukács Márján after supper. Every child paid ten filir to the musician playing the tamburica; this children’s dance lasted until 9 pm. In the 1930s, children also danced to harmonica music played by their fellow, Bosnyák Mária (Puppina).
St. Stephen’s Day dance at the Sarlós Inn, in Pécs, by the road to Mohács, was a well-known one, where the inhabitants of Hungarian, Swabian, Bosnian and Sokac villages (though separately) went on a razzle. In the courtyard of the inn, Kolo was danced in a huge circle. The event served as a place for looking for mates, and the young ones often met their future partner there. A similar event in Pécs was the Peter-Paul’s day saint’s day at the Schmidt Inn by the road to Siklós. There was a special mass in the cathedral on that day, and the party went on until dawn at the inn, which was a gateway in the south of the town.
Dancing skills were of great importance for men in those days. Even if a lad came from a poor background, he could marry a wealthier girl if he could sing and dance well (especially if the girl was not peculiarly pretty).
Dances were generally held at every church holiday as well as other special occasions, such as engagements, weddings, christenings, or when joining the army.
Today people dance only at weddings and church saint’s days, at the carnival, Easter, or vintage balls. Spontaneous dances (like at evening chats) are not heard of any more. At some places, a so-called Day of the Old is held in winter, when the elderly have a party enjoying themselves. On the small stage of our villages, a folk-dance ensemble is a rare guest; for this reason, the party after the show is always a feast.
Although this study does not focus on bands and musicians, we would like to note some who, at dances and weddings, played beautiful pieces so assiduously. There are numerous legends about their knowledge, their naughty deeds and other doings.
Here is a list of them: Pávkovics István (Patak or Stipo), fiddler, born in Mohács, but of Pécsudvard, and his band; Kovács Antal (Tončika) from Mohács, tamburica player, and his band; The Berger family band from Alsószentmárton; several tamburica bands from Mohács and Versend; Zsupán Antal (Tunka) from Szemely.
The pipers: Klárics Márján (Ðeda Mida) from Birján; Ardai József (Jozo) from Drávakeresztúr; Bárácz György (Đuro) from the island of Mohács; Kloćo Ðurak and Marcika from Kökény; Andrija from Szőkéd; Kajade and Pavko Štandovar from Pogány; Dik Tomika from Borjád; Marko Ðedin from Pécsudvard.
THE GROUPING OF THE DANCES
The dances may be grouped according to several aspects: based on features of form, based on historical emergence (in chronological order), based on originality or imported features.
Based on form features, we differentiate the following:
- Circle dances (Kolo, Drmavica, Okretanje,...)
- Couple dances (Tanac, Ranče, Pačići)
- Three-person dances (Todore, Jabuke)
The circle dances are danced both by men and women. The couple dances are done by man-woman or woman-woman. Finally, the three-person ones are danced by one man with two women.
Based on chronology, the grouping is as follows:
- The old layer (the dances before the first world war)
- The dances emerging between the two world wars
- The dances which came to be known after the second world war
We could reconstruct the dances back to the beginning of the 20th century – the interviewed persons (and through them, their parents) could recall memories about this time. The dances at the turn of the 20th century comprise the old layer culturally. They are as follows: Kolo, Tanac, Todore, Drmavica, Dunje ranke, Ranče.
Then, the period between the two world wars is characterized by ‘organic take over’; dances solely became part of the culture through being changed by a specific tradition, consequently following that style and taste. These ‘taken over’ dances are recognized today as ‘own/original’ ones; their stylistic features are equal to the ones of the old group’s. (Kukunješće, Rotkve, Srpsko kolo, Trojanac, Pačići).
After the second world war, the framework of the peasant lifestyle began to fall apart; consequently, after a short flourishing period, the folklore also was on the decline. So, dances which appeared in that era are the inorganic shoots of the culture; their original features are deformed, but the tradition is not able to adapt them; recently, due to the dance ensembles and dance houses for folklore dances certain popular dances replace the old ones or distort the old-style entirely. Dances which fall into this category are the following: Bugarsko, Hajd na levo, Momačko, Čačak, Šestorka, together with some Macedonian dances.
Deciding whether dance is ‘taken over’ or not is a most problematic one in the case of the Bosnians, as this ethnic group has met or even lived together with several south-Slavic or other ethnic communities. The Turkish rule saw several waves of migration, which hugely affected even the Croatians living in the motherland of Bosnia (the supposition cannot be dismissed, that the Bosnian ethnic group had spent some time in today’s Slavonia before moving on to settle in Baranya county). The folklore traditions of the neighboring Sokac settlements also have made an impact on the Bosnians (relationships through kinship, markets, church’ saint’s days). Furthermore, it is probable, that the extended movements of the music bands of Baranya and other Serbs have influenced them (exchanged dance tunes and steps) as much as the Hungarians and Germans, who were living in the same area. The interaction is markedly noticeable by the great number of dances, dance names, and melodies also found with other ethnic groups. We must note here how difficult it is to research in this field as we encounter different dances by the same dance name with different ethnic groups, or they dance the same dance to a different piece of music or only the music is the same, but the name of the dance and its steps are different.
THE ASPECTS FOR THE DESCRIPTION OF THE DANCES
We have used the following aspects when describing the dances (based on Martin György, Dr. Ivan Ivančan, and the Janković sisters):
- Name of the dance
- The function of the dance (its position in the dance order; group or show dance)
- When it was performed
- Dancers (men/women, young/old)
- The way of holding each other
- The formation, direction of moving
- Structure of the dance (parts, obligatory-free parts)
- Steps, variations (motifs)
- Melody (music, songs, instruments)
- History (emergence, overtaking, interactions)
- Points of interest (famous dancers, dances)
In the order of the dances, we usually proceed from the old to the new ones. We are going to handle this question flexibly, as there are new variants of old dance, and because sometimes the ordering is not possible at all.
The first one is the name, which is used most often; we gave the Sokac denomination in parentheses.
- Kolo; Kolo na jednu stranu; Veliko kolo (Kupusarsko kolo)
- Dunje ranke
- Tanac; Po dvoje (Snašo)
- Todore; Po jedanput drmavica; Tedu,tededu
- Drmavica; Marice kolo; Po triput drmavica; Kratka drmavica; Kabanica; Po petput drmavica, Dugačka drmavica (Sitne bole);
- Na dvi strane kolo; Po dvaput drmavica (Šklecalica, Trusa)
- Tandrčak; Tandrca
- Jabuke (Jabučice, Jagodice)
- Kukunješće (Trička)
- Rotkve; Hopa cupa
- Srpsko kolo; Devojče, Radojče; Grli me, ljubi me; Vranjanka
The dances below are not known widely; their origin is not proven, consequently they are at the periphery of the dance culture.
Dere: known only in Pécsudvard; with songs from the area around Zagreb and Slavonia, the dance is similar to those.
Repa: mainly the dance of children; it is identical to the one danced and sung in Croatia.
Hajd na lijevo: close to the Slavonian form.
Doktore: it is akin to the one in Slavonia.
Farbačica: danced in a way commonly accepted by Croats and Serbs in Hungary, starting with the song beginning Kad se cigan zaželi medeni kolača...
Bugarsko: also known as Zaječarka, derives from Serbia, spread by the folk movement after 1945.
Srpkinja: danced quite similarly to the original choreography, without a song.
Two more dances were also mentioned by our sources: Milane (probably a version of a Serb town dance) and Rokoko (known in Bačka and Slavonia).
We are not going to list the dances (being the frequent dances of parties) spread by the dance upheaval in the 70s, nor the ones from Hungarian and German cultures (waltz, polka, csárdás).
Some sources vaguely remembered dances with instruments, using sticks, but it may be assumed, that they were taken over by the Bosnian shepherds from Hungarians.
BETWEEN THE TWO WORLD WARS
Baranya (together with other southern territories) was under Serb invasion between 1918 and 1921. There were musicians among the soldiers, from whom the village youth quickly learned the simpler, highly spirited dances when the soldiers visited parties in the Bosnian villages around Pécs (we know of similar stories eg. in Deszk: the invaders were welcomed by the local Serb band). Naturally, for these dances becoming widespread needed some time. The first tamburica bands appeared during this period, spreading new melodies and dances, gradually displacing the pipers, who rarely left their village. A new line of fashion started in Mohács in the 30s changing the Bosnian and Sokac folk wear. This townlike settlement (Patak came also from here) played a role dictating dance and musical trends, too.
THE CONCISE DESCRIPTION OF THE BOSNIAN DANCES AND THEIR RECENT STANDING
The dance tradition of those Bosnians who settled down in Baranya county is a complex one. It kept the old dances and dancing style as much as it was able to assimilate the new influences. Nonetheless, it is affected by the simplifying and standardizing trends of recent times, becoming a truly multi-faceted dance tradition.
Alongside the old style of the closed-circle dance, the moving to the left, and the old way of hold, the new style of Serb dances appeared after the first world war with dances starting to the right, in an open circle, using much simpler handhold. The mixture of the two styles resulted in the ambiguous starting direction, the open circle, the various, mixed or transitional holds. The old Bosnian dancing style - characterized by the upbeat tiny trembles, the full-sole, quick, small traveling steps, sharp jolts, the foot’s connectedness to the floor, the erect posture from the knee upwards, and moderate improvisations - is supplemented by the village and town dancing styles of the invading soldiers, who came from many areas. Typical features of the latter one are the slight downbeat trembles, spirited steps moving fairly much, cross-steps danced on half-sole, the feet leaving the floor, moderately bent posture from the knee, the elbow-bent raised arms, or lowered arms, improvisation allowed only for the leader of the Kolo. The two styles lived side-by-side for a while but equally deformed each other proportionally to the decline of the dances and dancing skills. This deformation dominantly happened after the second world war.
There was a shift from the old-style dances using set, technically more demanding, simple motions and space forms towards the freer, technically easier, more difficult motion and space formations.
Dances from Lakócsa are described by Borbély Jolán as follows:
“At the expense of traditional local dances, the youth occasionally dance those newer Kolos that first appeared via Serb soldiers in the area between the rivers Duna and Tisza and Baranya county after the first world war. Their fashion was strengthened through the village dance movement in the 50s. The simple, running, hopping steps, together with the traveling, buoyant Kolos require less dancing skills than the tiny-stepped, old trembling Kolos. They suit better for the stage for a show. They move along a big space, not merely along the arc of a circle; they have no strict direction. These dances were imported to Lakócsa by teachers from other areas, or instructors, or touring southern Slavic ensembles. Therefore, they replace the traditional Kolos in the young’s dance treasury.”
This account is also valid for Baranya Bosnians with some modifications. Successfully delaying the disappearance of the old dances and dancing as such, was due to teachers, folk dancers, village prefects, musicians, and other village people sticking to their traditions in some settlements.
The decline may not merely be explained by the spread of the Serb dances. Our region is a meeting point of the Balkan and Central-Europe. Consequently, its holders and settlers changed from time to time, beginning a new phase for the dances on each occasion. Swabians, Bunjevac, Serbs, Bosnians, Sokac, Székely, Croats, Hungarians, Slovakians, Rusins, and Romanians have lived in the Southern Region, and this multi-ethnicity is symbolized in Baranya as well. Besides the coming-and-going of different nationalities, civic development also shaped the dance material with its dances. The Bosnians used to live in the so-called Budai part of Pécs and were related to the neighboring village people, who came to the market to the town. The Bosnian vegetable farmer from Áta traded with Swabians from Vókány, Újpetre, and Hungarians from Kistótfalu. I don’t mention here the church saint’s days, markets, weddings. There were lots of influences.
The upkeep of every minority depends on its mother tongue, its school, and its religion, which honors tradition with its moral rules. All these were immensely attacked in the past by the governing Hungarians, prevailing ideologies, selfish and silly bureaucracy. Folk customs could not flourish where one was beaten up for speaking Croatian.
At present, dances are on the decline. There are only a few members of a generation who danced in natural surroundings in the villages. Even today’s 40/50-year-olds learned the dances in their spare time in the cultural center, and some of the few young in the Serbo-Croatian (later Croatian) primary and secondary school. Town dance events (dance-house) mean a lot for the children in relearning the traditional dances, though they cannot make up for the village community.
Okretanje and Dunje ranke disappeared in the 50s. Romanska and Todore followed suit in the 60s. Drmavica and Tandrčak are rarely danced today. Only Kolo remained together with couple dances, Jabuke, and the dances of Serb origin. Singing during a dance also vanished.
As new components, different Serb and Macedonian dances appeared, which are learned in the school or dance-houses. These have attractive, colorful, often exotic musical world (uneven rhythms), lending dancing opportunities from the simple to the virtuoso, and became popular with not only the youth or non-minority people. However, there is no connection between the Kolo at a village ball (being everyone’s dance) and the eastern Serbian Šestorka performed by the ‘initiated’ (usually they are members of ensembles) or the Macedonian Crnogorka (where the band is the only common feature). Sadly, the natural inheritance of dance skills has been disrupted, dancing skills becoming worthless.
From another aspect, though, keeping the tradition has not died. Some years ago, Grisnik Ivo played the harmonica at Kundár Milica’s engagement party in Kökény; at the wedding of Bosnyák Tibor in Kökény elderly ladies, dressed as men, in rugs and masks, danced the bride dance; at a pig slaughter in Pécsudvard, at the Bozsanovics’ masqued men appeared (carnival beggars); Udvarácz Márkó from Áta fired into the air with his rifle when the band played his favorite music; gypsies from Versend attend the church saint’s days in Pogány and Szemely, and make the Bosnian people dance to music performed on a broken guitar or violin. These are remnants of a colorful and flourishing culture of a bygone age, which, due to the circumstances, are sinking rapidly into oblivion.
We can picture the history of Bosnians from the hand-written work of Áta’s last teacher, Matusek László, and from data in the archives.
“1696. Áta, Baranya county. This settlement is 1,5 miles from Pécs. Arable land and poor land, 41 acres. It has sites. The village belonged to the emperor’s private assets, owned by Lord Csanády, to whom people paid 5 Forint 50 Dénár tax annually. Tithe was paid to the Turkish Lord Haszin Aga, and later to His Excellency. “
“1709. 6 Racz farmers used to live here with animals for 3 ploughs. But fled from the Kurucz, to Slavonia crossing the river Dráva. Now, they are living there. They left new vineyards here, nobody takes care of them in this war, so they have gone wild.”
“1734. Krizsics Antal, witness, 62, from the bishop’s village, Németi. He knows thoroughly the fields and signs between Bisse and Áta as he was born in Áta and lived there with his parents for 20 years. He lived there during the Turkish period until the reoccupation, grazing pigs and other animals - I beg your pardon for these words.”
“1746. The newly settled inhabitants of Attya: Marko Rigonics, Blazsin Kovacsics, Gyuro Belerics, Czamar Margo, Ivan Verbanacz, Ivo Standovar, Ibrahim Tandics, Sztanko Sterbenacz, Ivan Standovar, Vidna Szecsar Ivánné. All of them are from Bosnia, very good subjects.”
“1943. 10 families moved to our village from Szabolcs and Hajdú counties (OMCSA settlers). They have several kids, having always been poor. They earned their living as hired hands.”
“1945. The end of the war brought new life to our village. Some Germans’ fields were allocated by the Szalánta notary upon higher order. The dread of the war is easing. The Party was formed in September 1945. Most of the members were not serious members. They tried to act unlawfully, though the party secretary warned them not to. The only reason for them to join the party was the possibility for applications (for land, houses, machinery) and they took this opportunity as they had numerous kids. Áta did not have application possibility. Some German families were acquitted of having to do with the Volksbund.”
“1949. We hear the new word ‘kulák’ more and more. (The term was used by communists for farmers who owned more than 28 acres of land, therefore the Party persecuted them for this and confiscated their property.) We do not understand its real meaning. The following were on the kulák list: Horváth Márk Cili, Standovár Mihály Ulesa, Horváth János Lovro, Tamcsu József, Hodosi András… The period under president of the council, Mr. Horváth was characterized by tax collections, surrenders, attic cleanings. Tax collector, Mr. Kovács, was the specter of the area. He had no mercy. He picked the men on the streets, followed them home, and squeezed the last penny out of them. He put a pig for the bid for 50 Forints, a cow for 200 Ft”.
“1952. The new year started nicely: a post office branch opened in the village.”
“1956. Some influence of the counterrevolution was felt.”
“1957. Electricity was brought to the village, though 1/3 of the population were not happy about it, stressing: if the old could do without it, we also can.”
“23 September, 1960. The initiation ceremony of the cultural center. The children and two youth groups staged a Hungarian and southern-Slavic program. This is the first time for us to meet the renowned tamburica band of Kovács Antal, who entertained the audience until dawn. The highlight of the program was the choir of the Bosnian women, then the Slavic folk dance.”
“1961. The Collective Farm was formed. It was a long process to persuade the farming Bosnians.”
“1964. Our Collective Farm was united with the one in Egerág. There are more and more signs of negligence and passivity. The salary of the members decreased from 32 Ft to 22 Ft after the union.”
“1965.The independent village council was abolished in January, Áta was joined to Egerág.”
“1974. The upper primary school was relocated to Egerág with the regionalization.”
“1976. The junior elementary section was terminated with teacher Gábriel Katalin’s retirement.”