Horo, Kolo, Hora, Oro, Choros (english)

Old and new dances – old and new dance words

In Southeastern Europe, different, but similar names that mean ’dance’ are encountered. In part, these are due to the differences between the languages, but not only; so ’dance’ is called in Macedonian oro (e.g. Belasičko oro), in Bulgarian horo (Pravo horo), in Serbo-Croatian kolo (Milanovo kolo), in Romanian hora (Hora mare), in Greek horós (Palios horós – or choros, see below) (1)More precisely, these are the terms for the chain dances (or row or circle dances); solo and couple dances are called differently, see below.

These words are usually part of the dance name, in Serbia and Croatia (kolo) always, in Macedonia and Bulgaria ’horo’ or ’oro’ can also be omitted (Pravo severnjaško horo or simply Pravo severnjaško, Krivo žensko instead of Krivo žensko oro). In Greece, ’horós’ is usually not part of the dance names; however, there are exceptions such as the above-mentioned Palios horós. There the word occurs primarily as a general generic term with the meaning ’dance’ (e.g. diplós horós = double dance).

The claim is widespread that ’horo’, ’oro’, ’hora’ and similar words were derived from the Greek ’chorós’ (χορόσ). The references count of hundreds. However, there are weighty arguments and indications against this, e.g. with Michael Hepp in his book ”Von der Steinzeit zur Neuzeit – ein Überblick über die Tanzgeschichte Westeurasiens” (From the Stone Age to the Modern Age – an overview of the dance history of Western Eurasia) (2). On the basis of the available facts, he explains ”that the words of the ’chor’ word family are related hereditary words that go back to a common origin.” (3) It is remarkable here that the words with the root ’chor’ and the meaning ’chain dance’ have not only found their way into the languages of the areas in which the Eurasian chain dances have gradually spread since Antiquity, but since the Neolithic. With the dances came the word – from about 10,000 years BC., long before the emergence of the Greek language.
The Serbo-Croatian word kolo with the original meaning ’circle, wheel’, on the other hand, is considerably younger and has prevailed over the older oro only from the 19th century in the southwest of the Slavic language area. According to Steve Kotansky and Vladimir Tanasijević, these were initially ’ballroom dances’, i.e. symmetrical, multi-part chain dance forms of the urban bourgeois population, which differ clearly from the more archaic oros (4).
Tanc (bg.)/dans (rum.) from the late antique/medieval vulgar Latin or from the Rhine-Franconian, and ballos (gr.) or valle (alb.) (5) and ples (skr.) from a prehistoric (Neolithic) root, originally refer to more individual show dance forms (6). In these cases, too, with new dances come new dance terms.

(1) or ’chorós’, gr. χορόσ – depending on the translation (transliteration) of the Greek ’χ’ into the Latin alphabet either with ’ch’ or ’h’. The same applies to the Cyrillic ’х’ (bg . хоро); here the spelling ’horo’ has prevailed.

(2) Internet publication 2022: http://www.michelhepp.de/folkloretanz2/beitraege/Von%20der%20Steinzeit%20zur%20Neuzeit%2003.pdf, p. 31.

(3) „… dass es sich bei den Wörtern der ‚chor‘-Wortfamilie um verwandte Erbwörter handelt, die auf einen gemeinsamen Ursprung zurückgehen.” Ibid. p. 34, highlighting by us.

(4) Michael Hepp:  Genese und Genealogie westeurasischer Kettentänze – gekürzte Version der Dissertation Münster 2015 (shortened version of the doctoral thesis), internet publication: http://www.michelhepp.de/folkloretanz2/beitraege/Genese%20undGenealogie%20der%20Kettentänze%20Westeurasiens%20Kurzfassung.pdf p. 96f

(5) Compare to it: it. ballo, frz. bal, sp. baile

(6) Ibid. ch. 4.8, p. 100ff