Song and Dance at Lake Ohrid

Vlade Janevski - the Folk Dance Teacher

Vlade Janevski is a former dancer of the professional folk dance ensemble "Tanec" from Skopje. For many years he has been teaching traditional folk dances and has lectured about national costume at the Conservatory of Skopje. In Vlade we have found a competent folk dancing teacher and ethnologist from the region. The theme for the course is the folk dances from Ofcepolsko region of Macedonia.

Rodna Velickovska - the Folk Song Teacher

Rodna Velickovska is an excellent ethno-musicologist. She works at the Folk Lore Institute in Skopje and collected more than 15.000 songs! She regularly cooperates with Vlade Janevski in seminars and other projects.

The Folk Dancing Holiday in Ohrid, Macedonia

Eight of us arrived from England to temperatures around 40 C, which happily cooled as we neared Lake Ohrid where the seminar organised by Paja and Madelon Milic and Ibrahim Rizevski took place. The Park Hotel is situated lakeside, a beautiful setting, with views over the lake to Albania. Here we joined a group of more than 20 other dancers from around Europe.

The dances taught by Vladimir Janevski were from the Ofcepolsko region of Macedonia : Krstacko Masko Oro, Zenska Potrculka, Arnautka, Vrteleska, Dzonkata, Sopkata, Tresenica, Cacak (a unique version to this area), Pajdusko, Sitnoto, and Oj ti Maro Dilindaro.

The style for this region has marked characteristics; "they dance like bears". Our singing teacher, Rodna Velickovsko was smilingly offered as an example. Vladimir said when watching her he sees how perfectly she dances the Ofcepolsko style, but maybe she is too much like a bear! The body is relaxed, leaning slightly forward; an unusual feature of most dances is dragging the feet on the ground. I had just bought new opinci and worried that sliding them on a marble floor would wear them out before the end of the course; usually the dances would be on sand or grass.

Then we had THE EXCURSIONS, (this article could nearly have been entitled "Shipwrecked in Albania").The first by boat across Lake Ohrid. I complained to John that we were pitching and tossing; and was assured that we were rolling and yawing! (apparently pitching is when the boat nosedives and then points upwards). Ibrahim was looking distinctly queasy by the time we reached Sveti Naum. The captain refused to further risk wrecking the boat (near the Albanian coastline) so we were set to find a new means of transport. Although Lake Ohrid is a resort it is still unspoilt so things like taxis are not always available away from town.

Once ashore we visited another beautiful church - and there saw a white peacock - an amazing sight. There followed a white knuckle ride round hairpin bends in an extremely overloaded local bus. The rest of the day went smoothly and we sampled the delicious Ohrid trout and were all taxied home.

Our second excursion was to the next lake 'Prespa'. Hairpin bends again, but these were tree lined so we couldn't see down very often (perhaps I am alone with my hairpin-bend phobia). We did stop for a view, which was worth it all; and even watched a hang gliding instructor flapping his arms to encourage his fledgling off the sheer face of the mountain. We also visited a costume museum which included costumes over 400 years old.

Our last excursion, in a convoy of taxis, was to the Roman amphitheatre to watch a performance by Tanec - the national folkdance group. It was spellbinding with some very exciting male dancers. I could imagine how in times past warriors showed their strength and agility. Tanec danced on their toes, this is because they feel the village dances are not graceful enough for the stage.

Because we were 'so good' some dances from other regions were added to the programme: Patrunino, Donkino, Sitna Lisa, Bukite, Skudrinka, and Bufcansko. There are some differences to those in our repertoire because Vladimir, a stickler for authenticity, ruled out stylistic and performance variations.

We were also joined for a couple of days by Rada Visinska who was the lead dancer when Tanec started around forty years ago. Another visiting celebrity was Radojica Kusmanovic, artistic director of the Serbian (formerly Yugoslavian) national folkdance group - Kolo. He, Ibrahim and Vladimir gave a virtuoso performance of "Teskova" at our final party; first on the drum and then in turns, it was absolutely enthralling.

On almost the last day, some of us decided to visit the next town Struga. To our delight we found that they were holding their annual traditional costume parade. (Note because Ohrid and Struga had a feud going on, each town would not advertise each others events). Individuals and groups came from all over Macedonia dressed in their traditional costumes and paraded the streets, stopping to dance here and there. John was frantically trying to photograph everyone as he realised he could get copyright-free costume pictures for this website.

There were many other sights, sounds and experiences to make our trip worthwhile but I think the local, home-made rakija clinched it for John. I shall try and sing the drinking song Rodna taught us when he appears in need of some and admire the local costume (made in 1938/9)which I bought from a waiter in the hotel.

Folk Song and Dance at Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Copyright John Douglas