What is Bulgarian Horo Dancing?

By Darina

Feb 05

Bulgarian horo dancing is a line dance with asymmetrical rhythm and complex repetitive step patterns. It is an integral part of the Bulgarian culture. We have danced horo for hundreds of years, it has been a part of our feasts, celebrations and even our mundane everyday moments. But in recent years, for the majority of people, the horo has become an older dance, reserved for weddings and national holidays.

Well, not for everyone.

To tell you more about this ancient Bulgarian fold dance, I’ve invited someone who actually dances horo regularly.

Nadia Hristova is a successful IT professional, wife and a mom. You would think juggling those things will keep her busy enough, but she still finds time for her hobby – dancing horo. But hey, isn’t that a great way to keep oneself fit, have fun and meet interesting people with similar interests?

All members of the dancing troupe Nadia is part of have different interests and are coming from different backgrounds. Yet, they are all united in their passion for Bulgarian dances, music and culture. They often attend national and international festivals where they show the old Bulgarian dances in all their intricate glory. And this, it seems, is not an interest that wanes, but grows in time.

Interview with Nadia Hristova, horo dancer from Ensemble Folklorika Bulgaria

How did you get into dancing horo? How long ago was it?

Nadia Hristova: In 2002 I decided to leave Bulgaria and went to study in Germany. I was in Germany for 4 years. I missed Bulgaria and its traditions, which I have kept in me since I was a little child. I missed my family and friends. I felt nostalgic and so I decided to come back.

After I came back, I realised I needed to start some sport in order to keep myself fit. I had to lose some weight and my first job, which I started after I came back, was in an office. I was sitting on a chair the whole day. So, I desperately looked for some activities. I was looking for something that would make me laugh, give me the chance to communicate and get to know people, would not bore me, and is something energetic. Then I thought what better than the traditional horo as I was keen on it since I was a little girl. My best friend from school also joined me. She found a troop named “Folklorika”. So, we decided to see how it is and join the troop. That was 8 years ago. We are still going on those lessons and learning more and more complex dances.

This is really the sport that will never bore you. Every time you visit a horo lesson you will learn something new.

Can you tell us more about the different horo styles you can dance?

For 8 years I have learnt a lot of styles of horo. Actually, the different types of those dances are related to each region in Bulgaria. For each region there are specific moves, traditions and clothing. There are so many that you will never say “That’s it. I’ve learned everything!”.

How did the horo became such an integral part of Bulgarian tradition?

Man and woman in traditional clothing worn for Bulgarian horo dance.

Man and woman in traditional clothing worn for Bulgarian horo dance.

Actually, I am not really sure. Centuries back people were gathering together on each and every holiday, dancing horo. What I read lately is that the horo looks like our Solar System and the direction of the horo is the same as the planets turning around the Sun.

What was the most memorable dance and show in which you have participated? What made it special?

That was my first festival I have participated in. It was the first year when I started learning such dances. I wanted so much to participate that I was visiting the lessons every day to learn the horo, as the organiser said that only well trained dancers will participate. And I was so motivated to show that even with not much background I can participate.

The horo is from the Sofia region and is called Graovsko horo.

How easy is it to synchronise with the other dancers?

Not very easy. You feel every move of the other person even if you do not see them and their mistakes can lead to yours. But with time you learn how to ignore this.

Did you ever mess up the steps while on stage?

Oh yes, many times 🙂

Have you danced in traditional clothing, and if so, how comfortable is it really?

Well, with a real nosiya (traditional clothes), which is woven, it is very hard especially in summer.

Anything else you want to add?

You should start dancing and you will not only love it, you will adore it.

We thank thank you, Nadia, for the interview!

Interested in Bulgarian Horo Dancing?

Let us know in the comments if you have experience with the horo. Would you like to try it one day? Bulgarians (and other Horo dancers) will be glad to show you the moves. Meanwhile you can have a look at the videos of Nadia’s dancing troupe.

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