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Croatian dance traditionally refers to a series of folk-dances, the most common being the kolo.
Croatian dance varies by region, and can be found throughout the various regions of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The traditional kolo is a circle dance, where dancers follow each other around the circle, is relatively simple in form and widespread throughout other Slavic countries. Due to emigration, Croatian folk dance groups are prevalent throughout the diaspora, most notably the United States, Canada, Australia, and Germany.
Music is a very important part of Croatian folk dance, with of the most common instruments used are the tamburica, lijerica, jedinka, šargija, gusle, bagpipe, and accordion. Today, kolo is danced at weddings, baptisms, holidays such as Easter, and ethnic festivals.
The circle dance is one of the basic forms of Croatian folk dance. It is regarded as the oldest form of dance, and can be seen as an expression of community, especially in village life. Throughout a large part of Croatia right up until World War II, the kolo had been the centre of village social life. The kolo as a dance became a tool for social gathering, and was often the main place at which young women and men could get to know each other. With many dances, the singing of jocular verses during the performance served as a way to express feelings or tell a story. By singing, movement, and gestures one could express what was proscribed in ordinary speech. Many young men and women used this as an excuse for courting and teasing one another. Occasions where people may have performed a kolo outdoors on special occasions include harvests, weddings, and religious celebrations to honor a special saint. More recently, the dances are performed at weddings, concerts, festivals or ethnic celebrations.
Other european dances became popular in certain parts of the country such as the polka in the north and the furlana in Istria, due to German/Austrian and Italian influences respectively.
Main article: Kolo (dance)
Often considered to be the richest and liveliest of all Croatian dancing, the dancing from Slavonia is composed of difficult steps and lively music.
Like most northern Croatian dances, Posavina kolo is lively with plenty of singing. The Drmeš dance is one of the most popular types of kolo in Croatia, and can be seen throughout the regions.
Dances from Podravina are close to the Slavonian dances in style, which is lively with plenty of singing, which is typical for north Croatian folk dances.
Hrvatsko Zagorje, or Croatian hinterland, is the north-central part of the country, which the capital Zagreb is a part of. Dances are lively and merry.
A variation of the traditional polka:
The Međimurje region is the northern-est tip of Croatia, and shares much of the merry and lively dance qualities as other nearby regions.
Dances from Istria have strong influence from Venetian culture.
Kolo from Lika can have music and instruments, or it can be silent with no instrumental accompaniment or even singing. With the silent dances, the only sounds being made are when the feet make contact with the floor and the rhythmic clinking sound of the women's coin necklaces, and sometimes, the dancers' voices as they sing. Though not often danced these days, these silent dances are well remembered by the older Ličani and are perpetuated by folk dance performing groups.
Due to its geography and history of foreign occupation, Dalmatia has a variety of dances influenced by its history. One example is the popular dance Linđo from Dubrovnik and southern Dalmatia, which has a distinct Mediterranean influence. On the other hand, the Nijemo Kolo from the Dalmatian hinterland shows influences of the Ottoman era on the region.
Dances from Herzegovina are often a cross between Dalmatian Zagora traditions, and Ottoman influences, though much less than Bosnia proper.
Dances from Vojvodina are most similar to the Slavonian dances in their liveliness and activity. The Bunjevci Croats from the Bačka region are renowned for their beautifully embroidered female dresses, made from real silk from France, and the rattling sound made by the dancers' boots as they dance. In the Banat region, the men have their own competitive dance.
Croatian kolo from Hungary is mainly concentrated in the southern region near Baranja, while in Romania, it is in the Banat region. Due to Hungarian influence, the Csárdás remains one of the most popular dances among all ethnic groups.
On the island of Korčula in the Adriatic, the popular sword dance, the Moreška is still prevalent and performed at festivals and special events.
In the nineteenth century, a new form of ballroom dancing emerged in Croatia. Elements of European ballroom spread throughout the region, and dances such as the polka soon became widespread all throughout the Croatian regions. Croatian ballroom dancing, or salonsko kolo, emerged in the nineteenth century as a result of the above influences. Due to the Croatian national revival and re-awakening of Croatian culture and national identity, an effort was made to incorporate traditional music and dances into the urban dance revival. Thus, the intellectual idealists saw kolo as a quintessential Slavic dance, and chose to adopt it for the urban context it It was at this time that the hrvatsko kolo emerged as a choreographed dance.
Due to the strong Venetian/Italian influence in Istria and parts of Dalmatia, the furlana has become a part of the culture of the people, most especially in Vodnjan. A specific strain on the furlana song is called the "Polesana", and is thought to originate from Istria; either from the Italian word for "a woman from Pula", or from the Croatian word "polesa", meaning "rural".
Since the Burgenland Croats from Austria have been under the influence of German/Austrian and Hungarian cultures, they formed their own dance traditions, influenced by the liveliness of the polka and the csárdás. An example is the 'Filež dance' from Nikitsch, which is light-hearted and cheerful, with dancers often bringing in props to the dance, like a broom or a bottle.
Main article: Croatian national costume
Many Croatian dances have the participants wearing a national costume. National costumes, or folk dresses, vary from region to region in style, design, color, material, shape and form. Thus, each region's national dress expresses an identity related to the geographic area it comes from, much like the kolo dance.