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Other information about Biserka - Boyerka


From: yves moreau <>

Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 21:48:39 -0500

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According to my files: One of the sources of this dance to North American folk dancers was Elsie Ivancich Dunin who taught it at the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference in 1968. Elsie mentions in her notes that she learned it from Desa Djordjevic at a folk dance seminar in Yugoslavia in 1967 (Badije ?). Elsie mentions that this dance is described in the Jankovic Sisters' Narodne Igre Vol. 1 pp. 34-35. I checked and the dances are indeed mentioned in the book as Bojerka (no. 22) and Biserka (no. 23).

Bojerka is described as in 6/8 meter and Biserka in 3/8. Bojerka is said to originate from the district of Pomoravlje and Biserka from Jagodina. Both dances are said to be the same as another dance known as Devojacko Kolo. Elsie quotes Desa Djordjevic as saying that this dance (Biserka) was performed at elegant balls in Serbian towns at the turn of the century ("Ballroom Kolos").

I'm sure Dick Crum could shed more light on these. Several recordings of Biserka appear on old Jugoton records such as Jugoton LPM-5. The "medley" version of Bojerka-Biserka known to folk dancers is Folkraft 1567 played by the Aman Folk Orchestra recorded I believe in the late sixties or early seventies.

Yves Moreau

From: bob leibman <>

Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 21:14:25 -0600 (CST)

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There are two dances, "Biserka" and "Bojarka," not one. The music for these dances were issued together (with a break) on a single side of a 45 - one of John Filcich's Express records I believe. They are essentially the same - a basic 8 measure sequence similar to many other Serbian dances - ^Setnja, Sarjajevka, the Vlah Dancu, etc. What makes them different - and so pleasing - is the fact that they are both played in triple meter. (I can't recall, but I believe one is 3/4 and the other is 3/8 or 6/8 (but with a feeling of 3, not 2). In any case, I am fairly sure that they are both urban dances from around the turn of the century. The type of dance created by dance masters based on folk dance but performed at urban balls in a more genteel style. That's all that I can recall for now (and all of my books continue be packed away, out of reach.)

bob Leibman

> How coincidental. I was learning this dance last night and was told it was a Serbian dance of Russian origin (as can be seen in the word Bojar/Boyar in the title), or a Serbian dance with Russian influence, or something along those lines. I don't know how, when or where it was passed on by the Russians to the Serbs.

> As for the title itself, biser = pearl, so Biserka Bojarka probably means The Boyar Pearl. I'm sure someone else will have more detailed information.

> Novica

> not 2). In any case, I am fairly sure that they are both urban dances from around the turn of the century. The type of dance created by dance masters based on folk dance but performed at urban balls in a more genteel

In Ithaca in the spring of 1991, Dick Crum taught a dance called "Hora" to a slow Romanian tune in 3 or 6 (depending on how you care to count it). The footwork was same as Biserka and Bojarka (which were identical, at least in the village (Cambridge, MA) where I learned them). I recall him saying that such dances would have been created by dancing masters for the nobility to lead and do, which usually forced them to be simple, stately, and elegant.

Here's Dick Crum's response on Biserka/Bojerka. My $.02:

If I'm not mistaken, the Biserka melody is identical to a Romanian hora mare melody that's still in circulation.

6/8 melodies at this (hora mare) tempo are exceedingly rare in Serbian music, but Romanian melodies are not. This is especially true of Vojvodina, where there is a large Romanian minority and lots of musical interchange among all the ethnic groups there.

- It was common in the late 19th century to interpolate popular songs and dances into komadi s pevanjem (plays with singing), which were something like musical comedies. I've often wondered about connections between ballroom kolos and these musicals, as the style and setting seems similar and they were popular at the same time with similar clientele.

And now ... heeeeeere's Dick ... Cheers -- Mark

Re: Biserka/Bojerka (note spelling: NOT Bojarka). These are two different melodies, to which the same dance was done, in urban circles (ahem!) in Belgrade, Kragujevac, Nis, and possibly Novi Sad, ca. turn of century. Combining them was the work of Radio-Televizija Beograd, on a 78 white label entitled simply "Biserka" issued in the early 1950s (pre-1954). Rickey Holden of Folkraft Records then issued the same recording as Biserka/Bojerka after consulting with Desa Djordjevic in Belgrade and learning about the dance Bojerka having the same steps as Biserka. Both are described in the Jankovic sisters' "Narodne igre" Vol I, but I don't have the references handy here at the office, where I'm writing this. Also, I believe I recall both melodies being in Bosnjakovic's "Narodne igre za klavir", Belgrade ca. 1952, which I'm sure you must have. If not, lemmeno and I'll xerox them for you.

There is absolutely no "Russian influence" here in terms of origin, dance steps, melody, or title. There is only a coincidence in the fact that both the Russian and Romanian languages share reflexes of the Old Slavonic word "bojar" (Russian "bojarin", Romanian "boier"), which in both countries referred to a sort of "middle class aristocracy" second only to a prince. We know the word mainly from the opera Boris Godunov. In Romania there are many dances entitled "boieresc", "boiereasca", "boiereste", etc. and some of them (including the one ["Boiereasca"] I have been using as a warm-up dance for many years) have the same basic step pattern as Biserka/Bojerka. The Serb upper classes of the late 19th century loved Romanian imported music and musicians, as you well know. I have no doubt that the name "bojerka" was the Serbian translation of a Romanian melody named "boiereasca", just as the Serbian kolo "dunjeranke or dunje ranke" is the Serianized Romanian "Dunareanca" [meaning "Danube girl"], "kokonjeste" is the Serbian phonetics for the Romanian "coconeste" ["dance of a young nobleman"], etc., etc.

In terms of dance movements, the step pattern is known in Serbia under many names and done to many melodies: Sarajevka, Devojacko kolo, Setnja, Radikalka, Haj haj boze daj, etc. (all conventionally notated in 2/4 time; Biserka and bojerka are variously notated as 3/4 and 3/8), and is known in Romania as "hora mare", "hora de la Campulung", "hora moldoveneasca", "hora Unirii" (conventionally notated in 2/4, 4/4, 6/4 and 6/8 time). (It is also the prototype step pattern of Dobrudjan [Bulgarian] dances named "ruka" and Romanian [Dobrogea] dances named "hora de mana", both the Bulgarian and Romanian names meaning "hand").

I used to have a theory that this step pattern was archetypally common to the lower (southern) Danube river valley, disregarding ethnic boundaries, but have never followed up on that research.

Interestingly, in Russia the term "bojarin", feminine "bojarynja", had, by the time of the Revolution, been colloquialized to the terms "barin" and "barynja", by which lower-class Russians (servants, fiacre drivers, market women) addressed anyone of a superior class. And indeed, a tune entitled "barynja" became an extremely popular melody to accompany the improvised solo or couple dance of the "pljaska" or "perepljas" genre. There is absolutely no connection, however, between the Serbian "bojerka" and the Russian "barynja",

By the way, "Biserka" is a Serbian female first name, derived from the word "biser" meaning "pearl" or, sometimes figuratively, "jewel".

Hope the above stream of consciousness isn't too convoluted! Please feel free to pass it on to anyone interested. I've just been too lazy and otherwise occupied to get on the eefc list.

Primi puno bratskih pozdrava! Dick C.