Eastern European Threads

Our Eastern European Threads series brings you information and tips about Balkan and other Eastern European textiles and costumes. In this issue, knitted lace edging on a chemise from Kjustendil, Bulgaria.


Looking at the Edge

By Wendy Kiss, Winter 2014-15

Lace edging on a chemise from Kjustendil, Bulgaria, part of a costume purchased in 2001 in Missouri from the granddaughter of the original owner.

One of the things I find fascinating about clothing in general and folk costumes in particular is the urge to decorate the edges, to complete them.

I bring to your attention the edge of a sleeve finished with lace—something that, if worn by me, would probably get dragged accidentally through food on my plate, paperwork on the desk or possibly snagged on a chair back. Yet this sleeve has lace. And not just a skimpy row of machine-made, sturdy, store-bought lace, but a lavish flaring sweep of handmade froth. The lace starts out at as a mere 24-inch circle at the sleeve cuff and increases to almost 36 inches. The patterning makes the lace have points, so the depth of the lace varies from 2 1/2 to 5 inches.

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume a woman made this lace—choosing to take the time to create something. This lace is knitted. For knitters, I’ll add that it was done in a 2-ply thread of either cotton or linen, in size 30, at a gauge of around 9–10 stitches per inch. What this means to non-knitters is the lace is fine and would have taken at least several days to complete. The older chemises I have seen are decorated with needle lace (created with a sewing needle) and, possibly because needle lace is a slower technique, these edges tend to be much narrower. I have such an example where the needle lace is only about 2 to 2 1/2 inches wide.


Another view of the same lace, showing more of the chemise.

I always joke that any type of decoration found on an everyday object is due to long winters, but of course, it could be that the individual who created the lace had fewer disposable items, fewer pieces of clothing—and that this chemise is from a time when wearing folk costume was a special versus an everyday occurrence. Or, it could just be if its creator wanted to make something special.

So, I think I’ll go off and make something special for myself.

Knitting Instructions for Kjustendil Chemise Lace
Knitting Instructions for Kyustendil Chemise Lace-1

CO multiple of 8 and join in round. Even rows 2 through 44 are knit. Do not work a row 48, i.e. stop with row 47.
1: yo, k8 around
3: yo, k9 around
5: yo, k10 around
7: yo, k11 around
9: yo, k12 around
11: yo, k, yo, k4, s2kp, k4 around
13: yo, k3, yo, k3, s2kp, k3 around
15: yo, k, yo, s2kp, yo, k, yo, k2, s2kp, k2, etc.
17: yo, k3, yo, k, yo, k3, yo, k, s2kp, k
19: yo, k, yo, s2kp, yo, k3, yo, s2kp, yo, k, yo, s2kp
21: yo, k3, yo, k, yo, ssk, k, k2tog, yo, k, yo, k3, yo, k, yo
23: yo, s2kp, yo, k3, yo, s2kp, yo, k3, yo, s2kp, yo, k3
25: k2, yo, s2kp, yo, k3, yo, s2kp, yo, k2, k2tog, yo, k, yo
27: k3, yo, ssk, k, k2tog, yo, k3, k2tog, yo, k3
29: k3, yo, s2kp, yo, k3, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo, k, yo
31: k3, yo, k, yo, k3, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo, k3
33: k2tog, yo, k3, yo, ssk, k2tog, yo, (k2tog,yo) 2x, yo, k, yo
35: k, yo, s2kp, yo, k, (k2tog, yo) 3x, k3
37: k3, (k2tog, yo) 4x, k, yo
39: k, (k2tog, yo) 4x, k3
41: s2kp, (yo, k2tog) 4x, yo, k, yo
43: yo, k, yo, (k2tog, yo) 4x, k3
45: yo, k, yo, (k2tog, yo) 5x, k, yo
47: k, (k2tog, yo) 5x, k3

Crochet finishing: ch 7, *(ch 6, sl st in first for picot)) 3x, ch 6, sc in k2tog*; repeat around. When encountering the 3 consecutive knit stitches, single crochet them TOGETHER; when reaching the k2tog, k1, k2tog each stitch should receive a single crochet and 3 picot section.

Download Knitting Instructions for Kyustendil Chemise Lace (PDF).


Wendi Kiss

Wendi Kiss first encountered Eastern European music, dance and costume quite some time ago and has never looked back. A former AVAZ member and group costume director, and one of the early members of Zhena Women’s Choir, she is currently a member and costume director of Planina Songs of Eastern Europe, Storm Mountain Folk Dancers (retired, but still costume director) and the Loveland Choral Society.

Wendi is editor of Kef Times’ Eastern European Threads. If you have an idea for an interesting textile, costume, costume tradition, etc., to be featured in a future issue, please contact her.

It’s All About Timing

Julie Lancaster (photo by Rick Cummings)

Julie Lancaster (photo by Rick Cummings)

It’s late December and everybody I know is impossibly busy. So, in a way, it is a crazy time to publish our final issue of Kef Times for this year. The next issue doesn’t appear until April.

But in some other ways, the timing is perfect. The articles in this issue demonstrate the stability of the organization despite the uncertainty that accompanies the resignation of Executive Director Jay House Samios. The far-flung interests and expertise in our community are heartfelt and deeply rooted.

And a December issue is one more way to publicize the EEFC’s need for your year-end contribution. In the EEFC Fall 2014 Appeal Letter,  which many of us received in the mail, Amy Mills wrote:

As you may already know, tuition does not fully cover the cost of the summer workshops. It is only through the generosity of you—our community—that the EEFC continues to bring top-quality music and dance instructors together to teach us. As someone working in the non-profit world, I can tell you that it is deeply stressful to operate under tight financial circumstances. Yet, the EEFC team does this work because we believe profoundly in our mission to promote, celebrate, and educate the public about traditional and traditionally-based music, dance and cultures of the Balkans. I can think of no better gift than to ensure all of our EEFC staff has the necessary tools to make our annual reunions transcendent.

There’s no requirement that you be a member of the EEFC to read Kef Times. But if you value the content of this newsletter, the cornucopia of information offered by the EEFC listserv, the camaraderie this community provides, and the quality of our summer workshops—which continually yield valuable teaching, great connections and unforgettable, sparkling moments—I hope you will consider becoming a member. Or just making a small donation. Every bit helps. Donate here.

Another thing about the timing of this issue: it’s still the holiday season. If you get to the store and purchase 10-15 lbs. of pork butt right now, you might still have time to make Romanian sausage before New Year’s. (Or maybe before Old New Year, Jan. 14. ) Check out the recipe and story in the debut of our new “Balkan Bites” column, curated by Rachel MacFarlane.

And finally, at least some folks have a little relaxation time around the holidays. If you do, settle in with a mug of something delicious and start reading the articles that call to you.

In closing, I would like to publicly acknowledge Jay House Samios for championing Kef Times and helping us transition it from a once-per-year PDF publication to a three-times-per-year online publication. Thanks, Jay.

Julie Lancaster





Sharing with the Future: Workshop Scholarships

In 2014, two longtime campers stepped forward to honor the memories of folk-inspired family members with long-term scholarships for new campers.

Jerry Agin has committed $20,000 to sustain the Stefni Agin Memorial Scholarship, honoring his late wife. Roger Cooper has committed $10,000 to create the Lillie Cooper Memorial Scholarship, honoring his late mother. I spoke with Agin and Cooper family members recently about their decisions to make these contributions, as well as the legacy they hope to create. Common themes emerged in all these conversations: community, the impact of folk and Balkan music in particular on their lives, and the unique place the EEFC holds for them in family life.

Stefni Agin

Stefni Agin

“Yes, Dear”

Stefni Agin had long been passionate about various folk traditions, and together she and Jerry participated in many kinds of dancing, including Scottish country, Scandinavian and, of course, Balkan. In fact, they met in 1969 at a Kolo Festival in San Francisco, and attended camps at Sweet’s Mill in the in 1970s that were precursors to the EEFC Balkan Music & Dance Workshops. By the 1980s they were living on the East Coast, and Stefni attended the 1986 East Coast camp on her own. She returned home saying, “We have to go back next year,” and Jerry, somewhat jokingly, says he responded to her with a “Yes, dear.” Sure enough, they did, and it was that first camp in 1987 that changed things for Jerry. “It just blew my mind because I hadn’t thought about playing music for dance. It lit a fire under me.” For more than 20 years, together they were dedicated to the Balkan scene in the Pittsburgh area they called home, and beyond.

Stefni co-formed and sang with the women’s vocal group Balkan Babes for many years, at home, and at camp, even in her last year of camp, singing while under treatment for cancer. She favored Macedonian songs, and was also an avid costume collector. Many pieces of her collection have circulated back into the EEFC community, as Stefni decided to donate pieces to the EEFC auction, and to the Balkan Bazaar store run by Suze Stentz and Richie Leonard. In 2008, just about a month before Stefni’s death, Jerry drove these treasured items to camp, and due to the long trip spent one night on site. While he was there, campers spontaneously decorated a bed sheet with messages of love and encouragement for Stefni. Jerry drove it home, where he hung it so Stefni could see it from her bed.

Jerry describes Stefni as kind and outgoing, saying that she made friends easily. It’s his belief that Stefni would like knowing that the “music she loved is being perpetuated, particularly by bringing young people into it.” Jerry said that Stefni’s ongoing volunteerism with new immigrants in the Pittsburgh area kept her connected to the future, and optimistic about the next generation. She was interested in seeing that the traditions the EEFC and campers have kept be shared. That’s the future, and she knew that we should not keep them just for the “oldsters” but share it with the next generation.

Jerry Agin began sponsoring the Stefni Agin Memorial Scholarship in 2009, the first year after Stefni’s death. Since then Agin scholars have attended the East Coast workshops every year except 2012.

A Family Affair

Roger Cooper started folk dancing as a child on Long Island, N.Y., with his mother, Lillie, and later met his wife Judy Olson while folk dancing at Columbia University. Roger and Judy are now longtime campers at the East Coast workshop, and have brought their children Ellen and Michael Cooper to camp since 2005. Lillie was a longtime international folk dancer, who danced with Huntington Folk Dancers in Huntington, Long Island. She died in 2013.

Ellen shared with me that her favorite aspect of being a longtime camper is being in the community and around people where “you are playing music all day.” It’s a “fantasy world,” one that has been a part of Ellen’s life since she was nine. Ellen, who started the violin at age three, said that her grandmother Lillie was always supportive of Ellen studying music. “I think she would be honored to know that her money was being put toward this,” she added.

Coming to camp for as many years as she has, Ellen has had the chance to pick up and experiment with a great many instruments along the way, including accordion, tambura and doumbek. In high school, Ellen played in the chamber and pit orchestras, which included playing accordion for a production of Fiddler on the Roof. Currently enrolled as a freshman at New York University, Ellen is playing janggu, a Korean folk drum.

The Lillie Cooper Memorial Scholarship will be offered for the first time in 2015, and as Lillie herself was a dancer, it will cover full tuition for a dancer to attend the East Coast workshop.

And You?

If you’re drawn to the idea of sharing the treasure of Balkan camp through scholarships, there are a number of ways you can do it.

The Stefni Agin and Lillie Cooper scholarships described above are in addition to the EEFC’s own scholarship, the Dick Crum / Kef Scholarship. Through generous donations from our community, a number of full- and halftime scholarships are awarded most years to each camp. They go to a range of people—both new and returning campers; singers, dancers and instrumentalists of various levels. Some of the funds collected at the 2014 camp auctions were raised specifically for the scholarship fund. In fact, whenever you make a donation to the EEFC apart from your annual membership, you have the option of earmarking your contribution for scholarships.

Another current scholarship is funded by profits from Balkan Night Northwest. That scholarship has sent one camper to the Mendocino workshop for each of the past three years. (Their 2015 event will be held Sat., Feb. 21; check it out!)

It is also possible to set up a short-term scholarship of one or two years. In the past, such short-term scholarships have honored Allan Cline, Mickey Long, Sally McClintock and Kathy Mitchell—former campers who had recently died. And a short-term scholarship doesn’t need to be in honor of someone who has passed; this year Leah and Nez Erez sponsored a scholarship that enabled one camper to attend the Mendocino workshop.

If you are considering establishing a short-term scholarship, or an ongoing one such as Jerry Agin and Roger Cooper have done, please contact Amy Mills c/o board@eefc.org.

One more thought: through the years, various performing and recreational groups throughout the country have set up their own scholarship programs whereby they send a deserving member to an EEFC workshop each year, or occasionally. Such scholarships, of course, are not administered by the EEFC, but setting up such a scholarship in your group is another way to support deserving campers.

Read more about the program on the scholarship page at the EEFC website. And if you’re in the market for a scholarship yourself, applications for all the scholarships the EEFC administers will be made available in early 2015. Stay tuned for more details, and sign up for the EEFC’s email list to be notified. (To subscribe to the EEFC email list, sign up at the EEFC website homepage or send a message to office@eefc.org.)

2014 Workshop Photos


Iroquois Springs

The Klezmonauts: The Klezmonauts Destroy Tsunami

4PAN1TThis is a live release from Eugene, Oregon’s one and only klezmer band. It’s already been called Indo-Afro-Peruvian-klezmer fusion. Sometimes contemplative, other times a shout to get up and dance, The Klezmonauts’ music holds no allegiance to any single approach; instead, they freely toss their individual influences into the mix. Fretless electric bass and percussion hold together intricate melodies that weave dreamy scenes that conjure up life in the old shtetls of Europe with a modern fusion of world instrumentation.

Catchy original and traditional klezmer with world, jazz musical influences; clarinet, violin, mandolin, electric bass, cajon, doumbek, sitar and sarod. Members include Chip Cohen, Mike Curtis, Michael Rubinstein, Jeremy Wegner and Ken Sokolov.

Available at CDBaby.

EEFC Program Committee: Who We Are and How We Work

Greek Ensemble and Frame Drum Class join forces at Ramblewood 2008. (Margaret Loomis)

Beth Bahia Cohen’s Greek Ensemble and Polly Tapia Ferber’s Frame Drum Class join forces at Ramblewood 2008. (Margaret Loomis)

You’ve told us at many times and in many ways what a magical experience camp is for you. Behind that magic lie hours and hours of diligent and selfless labor, both to run the workshops themselves and to create the program of activities that we offer to our participants. The EEFC Program Committee is in charge of the latter, assembling the teaching staff and devising daily class and evening programs. Here’s a little bit more about us and what we do.

Who are we?

Except for myself, one of several paid part-time employees of EEFC, we are a volunteer group of individuals drawn from your community all across the continent and across interests: dance, instrumental and vocal. The chair of the committee is always a member of the EEFC Board of Directors. Some of us have been contributing to this committee for many years; others are much newer. Over the years the group has ranged in number from 6 to 10 members. This year we are at 6 members, a number that we are finding to be optimal for efficient communication. Committee terms last for 1 year, from September to September. Each member is asked to join the committee at the discretion of the committee chair. The way the committee has operated over the years has varied, but we have currently settled on regular weekly conference calls interspersed with email. Sometimes we find occasion to use smaller subgroups to initiate actions. We work under a set of guidelines that you can read here. Using these guidelines and a consensus model, the committee endeavors to make programming decisions that are fair, balanced and unprejudiced. Individual members recuse themselves from discussions if a conflict of interest arises.

When do we create each year’s program?

We start work for the next summer at the workshops and continue into the fall, when we read compilations of your camper evaluation comments. We identify trends and interests, review perceptions of teacher performance, and pull out suggestions for future staff and programming or advice for tweaking what we already do. When the fiscal year books are closed in October we also take a look at how we did budget-wise the previous year, and I’m happy to say that more often than not we’re quite close to the mark. After we gather this information we move forward on the next summer’s planning, making rough lists of staff for each workshop, which we call slates.

How do we come up with these slates?

As you can see in the Guidelines, we take many factors into consideration, not just whether a person can teach a class or not:

  • We are blessed with a set of teachers who’ve worked for us for many years. These people are our bedrock and backbone, people we know we can count on for consistent good performance year after year.
  • Interspersed with the “regulars” are other familiar faces who for different reasons are only rarely available.
  • And then there are the newcomers whom we have snagged from any number of sources—most often through the recommendation of a trusted advisor or someone with whom a committee member has direct experience.

Though we who have been there all know about the wonderfulness of camp, it can be a real challenge at times to convince a prospect to commit! Most of the time new teachers are able to fit right in their first year and any minor problems inevitably smooth out the next time around. Some prospects can’t make it work for any number of reasons—problems of money or time or family commitments, for example, so we may need to wait a few years and in the meantime continue cultivating good relationships.

What do we look for in a staff member besides exemplary music and dance skills and overall teaching abilities?

Many of them we also know “work well with others,” and have established musical alliances we can take advantage of, or have the skill and talent to work with pickup bands. Besides offering their teaching skills, we look to our staff to create exhilarating evening dance parties. Other staff members have something extra to offer like a particular area of academic expertise. When seeking experts for a particular style of music or dance, we look first for people currently living in North America, to avoid hefty airfares and visa snafus, though on occasion we’ve been able to hire teachers who live in Europe because of collaborations with other presenters and tours.

How does the hiring process work?

We begin calling prospective staff in the late fall. The contact process continues into the spring, and on occasion even up till the first day of the workshop. During this process the list of prospects goes through many transmogrifications as we make adjustments—I guarantee that at no time in the history of the Workshops has the first iteration of the slate been the last one!

When teachers are hired, as their primary point person I send them basic contracts and work with them to create or update personal web pages for our site. I also provide them with rosters of fellow teachers so that they can begin collaborations. Singing teachers may team up with ensemble instructors on some shared repertoire, for example, or several staff members may come together and plan evening dance music repertoire. Here is where some of that magic takes place. These alliances, combinations and recombinations of talented individuals make incredible things—things that we couldn’t plan in our wildest dreams—happen. We are merely collecting the high-quality ingredients.

How do you determine the daily schedule?

We begin work on the Workshops’ daily schedules a month or two before camp. A subset of the committee prepares a draft of classes, culture talks, group sings and evening dance parties, which is then submitted to the entire committee for comment and revision. And more revision. By the way, how often have we heard from you that the very three classes you wanted to take were all in the same class slot? Sometimes it must seem that we’re deliberately trying to thwart your learning opportunities, but in reality it is useful to remember that we’re dealing with a huge puzzle. We endeavor to accommodate everyone’s needs, considering distribution of class levels, inter-class collaborations and even teachers’ particular biorhythms. Evening parties present other challenges: who is ready to play on the first night? Who needs a little more time to get a set together? What sets should be placed on the same night so that the majority of dancers will be satisfied? During the scheduling process we will often call individual staff members to ask their advice; when a draft schedule is ready it is sent to all teaching staff for their approval. The “finalized” schedule can be tweaked up to the very minute of its printing—and the “tweakage” may on occasion continue through the first day of camp.

What else?

The committee’s work does not end with the workshop schedule. We also devise lists of class locations before or at camp (another puzzle), and on site are on call for the rare problem that might arise with the staff and program. Committee members take part in every activity other campers do; at the same time they also observe the flow of the week, noting what works and what doesn’t. After camp there is very little time to congratulate ourselves on another good Workshop before the process starts all over again.

Parting thoughts

We always want to hear from you, our community. Your workshop evaluations are the best way to provide us your feedback, opinions, and desires for future staff and programming, but you can always drop us a line any time with suggestions (or even compliments). For the future we are working towards formally incorporating non-committee members into the programming process. If you have an in-depth knowledge of any specific genre, region, or category of music or dance, please let us know—we would love to draw on your expertise. In addition, we are exploring multi-year planning, our goal being to provide even more breadth and variety to your camp experience.

I am deeply grateful to my Program Committee colleagues, past and present, for the many volunteer hours they have devoted to the cause. They are truly unsung heroes. The Balkan Music & Dance Workshop would be impossible to pull off without the time and care that goes into its programming.

Rachel MacFarlane

EEFC Workshop Manager

For the 2015 Program Committee: Demetri Tashie (chair), Belle Birchfield, Erin Kurtz, Lise Liepman and Brenna MacCrimmon

New and Notable

New recordings and books by folks in the EEFC community. Names in bold type indicate EEFC Workshop campers, staff, teachers, and other EEFC supporters.

Janam: The Space Between

By Kef Times Staff, Winter 2014-15

janamCDJANAM blends Balkan and American roots and original music, creating rapturous acoustic textures, whirling rhythms and stunning vocal harmonies. Janam features Juliana Graffagna, voice, accordion; Dan Auvil, percussion, kaval, voice; Tom Farris, laouto, guitar; Gari Hegedus, oud, saz, mandocello, violin; and Lila Sklar, violin, voice. http://www.janamband.com

"We recorded 1o of our favorites," says Juliana Graffagna. "A mix of colorful original tunes by Gari and me, and beautiful songs from Crete, Romania and the Appalachians. Our friends and fab musicians Dan Cantrell, Eric Perney and Myles Boisen make stunning appearances on the album and the discs are beautifully designed by Dan Auvil.

Available at CDBaby.

The Klezmonauts: The Klezmonauts Destroy Tsunami

By Kef Times Staff, Winter 2014-15

4PAN1TThis is a live release from Eugene, Oregon's one and only klezmer band. It's already been called Indo-Afro-Peruvian-klezmer fusion. Sometimes contemplative, other times a shout to get up and dance, The Klezmonauts' music holds no allegiance to any single approach; instead, they freely toss their individual influences into the mix. Fretless electric bass and percussion hold together intricate melodies that weave dreamy scenes that conjure up life in the old shtetls of Europe with a modern fusion of world instrumentation.

Catchy original and traditional klezmer with world, jazz musical influences; clarinet, violin, mandolin, electric bass, cajon, doumbek, sitar and sarod. Members include Chip Cohen, Mike Curtis, Michael Rubinstein, Jeremy Wegner and Ken Sokolov.

Available at CDBaby.

Tipsy Oxcart

By Kef Times Staff, Winter 2014-15

Tipsy OxcartTipsy Oxcart plays electric, sweaty, bumpin' Balkan music, channeling the spirit of 36-hour weddings to keep the crowds dancing until the sun comes up. Serving up originals and fresh, upbeat arrangements of urban dance tunes, the band deviously infuses the sounds of Southeastern Europe with elements of jazz, funk, and more. Dig naughty violin solos, atomic accordion grooves, freak-me-out clarinet, and the baddest rhythm section this side of the Mediterranean.

Connell Thompson (reeds), Maya Shanker (violin), Dani Danor (drums), Ayal Tsubery (bass), Jeremy S. Bloom (accordion). The album also features guest percussionist Nezih Antakli.

“Our story may be interesting to the community since we represent the next generation of Balkan music-makers here in the states (the band is mostly in our mid-twenties),” says accordionist Jeremy S. Bloom. “We see ourselves as doing something a bit different by approaching so-called 'authenticity' differently than many of the other bands out there. We try to appeal to both folk dancers and our peers who have zero exposure to this kind of music. For that we constantly immerse ourselves in Balkan musical tradition, but also have a willingness to remain true to our own musical identities. Sometimes it pisses people off, but we really take pride in this aspect of the group. We observe an environment filled with either bands trying very hard to 'authentically' reproduce Balkan styles, or on the other side, bands which market their music as Balkan/’Gypsy’ with no true understanding of the musical traditions they're referring to. We like the place we've found outside of that spectrum.”

Check their website for updates.

Janam: The Space Between

janamCDJANAM blends Balkan and American roots and original music, creating rapturous acoustic textures, whirling rhythms and stunning vocal harmonies. Janam features Juliana Graffagna, voice, accordion; Dan Auvil, percussion, kaval, voice; Tom Farris, laouto, guitar; Gari Hegedus, oud, saz, mandocello, violin; and Lila Sklar, violin, voice. http://www.janamband.com

“We recorded 1o of our favorites,” says Juliana Graffagna. “A mix of colorful original tunes by Gari and me, and beautiful songs from Crete, Romania and the Appalachians. Our friends and fab musicians Dan Cantrell, Eric Perney and Myles Boisen make stunning appearances on the album and the discs are beautifully designed by Dan Auvil.

Available at CDBaby.

Godečki Čačak

A shot from one of the YouTube links provided by Larry Weiner on Dec. 13 https://www.youtube.co

A shot from one of the YouTube links provided by Larry Weiner on Dec. 13 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS9ziH7oZGY).

It all started with a question from Judy Stafford on December 9 about a dance that has long been popular among international folk dancers:

I always thought Godečki Čačak was a Serbian dance, but found out recently that it is named for a town in Bulgaria, near the Serbian border. It appears that Dick Crum introduced the dance to the IFD community. Is it a dance that is/was actually done in Bulgaria and/or Serbia? If it’s a border dance, then is the “standard” IFD music for the dance (as in the below YouTube link) Serbian, Bulgarian, or does it also cross the border? I can’t find any credits for the standard recording—is it Serbian or Bulgarian?

Judy’s question sparked a lively, weeklong discussion spanning almost 40 posts and yielding historical and folkloric insights from some of the EEFC’s best-known dance teachers and scholars. Comments address the musical structure, the dance steps, regional variations in the number of measures, changes in the dance among emigrants to the U.S., and more.

Our listserv is wonderful, but it can be cumbersome to search and retrieve all the related individual posts. Laura Blumenthal volunteered to assemble the entire (as of press time) thread into a 26-page document that is available here as a PDF download: Godecki_Cacak_thread_EEFC_listserv_12.2014.

Koprivštica 2015

Gajda players and dancers, Koprivštica Festival, 2005. (Mike Harkin)

Gajda players and dancers, Koprivštica Festival, 2005. (Mike Harkin)

Koprivštica (official name: Национален събор на народно творчество—National Festival of Folklore) is a Bulgarian national folklore festival that is held every few years, typically, once every five years, in the historic town of Koprivštica. It draws visitors from all over the world, including many from North America. In July, Joan Hantman posed this question on the EEFC listserv:

Does anyone know the dates of the Koprivshtitsa festival for next year? I’m trying to plan ahead.

Responses to Joan’s question—and to a similar one posted in mid-October by Whitney Neufeld-Kaiser—included speculations and eventual confirmation about the dates, along with various resources that could be helpful to someone trying to plan a trip for next summer. Here are some highlights.

Koprivštica Festival Dates: Aug 7-9, 2015

Workshops and Tours

Larry Weiner announced this on July 31 and posted a more detailed announcement on Oct. 22:

2015 Bulgarian Folk Music & Dance Seminar in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
July 31-August 6, 2015 (immediately before Koprivshtitsa festival; the seminar ends the day before the festival begins; a chartered bus from Plovdiv to Koprivshtitsa will be available for seminar attendees on August 6th).
This seminar, now in its 11th year, offers a special experience for non-Bulgarians (and Bulgarians interested in connecting with their “roots” music and dance) who want a more in-depth opportunity to learn traditional instruments, singing styles, and dance than is normally possible for groups or individuals traveling to Bulgaria. This rich and unique program couples the teaching expertise of instructors at the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv (http://www.artacademyplovdiv.com/) with the traditional music and dance wisdom of tradition bearers from around Bulgaria. The dance program features different groups of dancers and musicians throughout the week, teaching dances from their own villages. A Bulgarian language class will also be offered, as well as optional evening social activities.
Special 15% discount for EEFC members!

Paula Davis mentioned this on June 16 and Joseph Benatov posted the link on Oct. 16:

Jim Gold’s Tour
Sofia, Plovdiv, Bansko, Veliko Turnovo, Koprivshtitsa Folk Festival
August 3-16, 2015
Depart from JFK airport in New York City

Link posted by Rick Speer on Nov. 2: 

Nina Kavardjikova Tour
Sofia, Koprivshtitsa, Shiroka Luka, Sofia
August 1-14, 2015
Flyer for Nina K’s Koprivshtitsa tour is online at this link [PDF format]

Mentioned by Dave Golber (Oct. 16, 2014):

Goran Alački is planning his seminar in Macedonia to end at a convenient time so people can get over to Koprivshtitsa afterwards.
Goran Alački’s Macedonian Pearl Seminar—10th Anniversary!
July 25-August 3, 2015
Berovo, Macedonia


Wally Washington posted this on Oct. 22:

It’s been more than 20 years since I have been, though I doubt that this has changed, but for the folks looking for tips on the Koprivshtitsa festival there is one point that should be made explicit. There is not much in the way of hotel space in Koprivshtitsa, or even very close by. That is one reason for the popularity of tours; the tour will have the housing aspect taken care of.

Can you get to the festival on your own? Sure, people do it every fest. Can you get a room in town? Sure, at least maybe. One year I got a room for Saturday night on Saturday morning. But you’d better be pretty flexible if you attempt that—I had a backup place to stay an hour away with the tour I was on. I don’t know that I would encourage someone to try to go on their own.

And as in all things, the different tours will have different styles and appeal to different people. One year when I was more on top of things I almost posted to this list an only slightly snarky listing of my impressions of the different tours. So it may be wise to pay attention to which tour you are signing up for. Though I suppose they will all get you to the festival each morning. (Though I do have a memory of some tours not getting there in time for Friday of the fest.)

And Barbara Babin posted on Oct. 23 that she had a contact for some rooms for rent during the festival, but on Oct. 29 posted that that they were now all taken.

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