Mândrele: an interesting type of dance

Looking through our collections for Mândrele we discovered a surprising number of dances named ”Mindrele”, ”Mîndrele” or ”Mândrele” (1). Nevertheless they hardly appear in dance programmes in this country. Informations about these dances are very scarce, even the normally very productive US-American sources provide almost nothing on it. This cannot only be due to our limited horizon, for on one of the relevant LP covers it says, „Mindrele is a less-known Hora from Dolj (Oltenia).” (2) So we try to assemble what we can get.  

Eight dances

We know eight different Mîndrele or Mândrele from teaching or from dance descriptions. They differ not only in their steps, but also in tempo and rhythm. All but one are in 6/8 time, mostly in the rhythm ⎮ 1+1+1+2+1 ⎮ or short-short-short-long-short
(♪ ♪ ♪ ♩ ♪), all of those originate from Oltenia. 

1. Bärbel Loneux presented a rather slow Mîndrele de la Băilești and published its music on the CD ”Hai veniți la Joc 6”. The recording is in ⎮ 2+1+2+1 ⎮ (long-short-long-short), its tempo is only 168 bpm (= quavers), the steps moving in 2+1+3 (long-short-longer). Its choreographic repertoire consists mainly of two-steps, crossing steps and ”small keys”. (Dance notes (1))

Music sample: Mîndrele de la Băilești on ”Hai veniti la Joc 6” (Loneux)

2. The Mîndrele most common in RIFD circles is  somewhat faster (quavers = ± 200 bpm), its rhythm is 1+1+1+2+1. Sources and descriptions of the steps all lead from the dance teachers Sunni Bloland, Marius Korpel und Bärbel Loneux to its origin – Theodor Vasilescu. A dance description by T. V. himself shows exactly the same steps – with a minimal deviation in the very last two measures. The diversity of its choreographical material, including discordance between steps and music, clearly shows Vasilescu’s style. (Dance notes (2))  

Some sources place this dance’s origin in Obârșia, county Dolj, Oltenia, a small village in the community of Dănciulești. 

Music sample: Mîndrele on ”Hai la Joc!” – Noroc Records Vol. 1 (Bloland)

3. Leonte Socaciu’s Mîndrele din Gorj is considerably faster with 262 and 324 bpm in his two recordings. We hear an upbeat in the 6/8 meter: 1 ⎮ 1+1+1+2 (short-short-short-short-long) (3). Here, rhythm and tempo hint at the proximity to the even faster Rustemul. The steps however move in the rhythm 2+1+2+1, often with an upbeat: 1 ⎮ 2+1+2; these consist of slow marching steps, ”small keys”, ”plaits” and ”chassé” steps. In contrast to no. 2, here we have a concordance of musical and choreographic phrases. (Dance notes (3))

Music sample: Mindrele din Gorj on an MC copy without further informations (Socaciu)

4. Mihai and Alexandru David’s Mîndrele, published on their LP ”Gypsy Camp IV”, has the same rhythmic pattern as no. 2 and nearly the same tempo (316 bpm). Maria Reisch’s dance notes for this version (first part = 8 bars, second part = 4 bars) do not match the LP recording (prelude: 4 bars, part A: 4 bars, B: 8 bars, A: 4 bars, B: 8 bars, C: 6 bars, C: 6 bars). (Dance notes (4))

Music sample: Mindrele on LP ”Gypsy Camp IV” (Mihai & Alexandru David)

5. In 1991, Constantin Cazangiu taught another Mîndrele from Caracal, county Olt, Oltenia. His music on MC has a rather fast tempo (334 bpm), close to a rustemul (360 bpm). The rhythmic pattern, too, resembles a rustemul: 1 ⎮ 1+1+1+2 and 1 ⎮ 2+1+2  (or ♪ | ♪ ♪ ♪ ♩ and ♪ | ♩ ♪ ♩).

The choreographic repertoire of this Mândrele – small and big ”keys”, diagonal stamping and chassé steps, all of them in the rhythm 2+1+2+1 – is the same as that of the rustemele we know. Thus this Mândrele with its main aspects of tempo, rhythm and steps claims full membership of its rustem family. (Dance notes (5))

Music sample: Mîndrele on an MC copy (Cazangiu/Ivanescu 1994) without further informations

6. Mircea Ivănescu taught a very similar Mîndrele in 1992. It used the same recording as no. 5 and contained essentially the same choreographic material. (Dance notes (6))

7. Thanks to Daniel Sandu we know a calmer Mândrele with the rhythm 1+1+1+3 (♪ ♪ ♪ ♩.). In the corresponding recording (on Electrecord CD ”Romanian Folk Dances I” ELCD 120) we hear a 1+1+1+2+1, significantly slower (208 bpm) than the preceding nos. 3 to 6. Although the dance starts with swift crossing steps, the movements of feet and hands in the rest of the dance are moderate. The steps are the same as those of the above mentioned dances. (Dance notes (7))

Music sample: Mândrele on CD ”Romanian Folk Dances 1”, Electrecord ELCD120 (Loneux/Sandu)

8. Finally, Mihai David brought us a Mîndrele that differs considerably from the other ones. It is in a 5/8 meter with the rhythm 1+1+1+2 (♪ ♪ ♪ ♩) in a rather fast tempo (about 250 bpm). The fast steps on the quavers, the crossing steps, stamping steps and running backward steps are all of a different kind and give a special character to this dance. M. David’s indication of origin is also remarkable: Dobroudja, on the other end of the country in the east corner, opposite to Oltenia in the west. (Dance notes (8))

Music sample: Mindrele on LP ”Gypsy Camp II” (Mihai & Alexandru David)

Anca Giurchescu (4) notes that the comparatively rare Romanian ternary rhythms such as those of the rustem type and therefore those of the mândrele developed from an original 5/8 measure. So, our Mîndrele in 5/8 would be an older, original form. 

(Survey table of the 8 Mândrele)

The proud beauties

”Mândrele” is a feminine plural noun derived from the adjective ”mândru/mândra” with the definite article suffix ”-le” and could be translated as ”the beauties”. You can read this often on dance notes, sometimes as ”pretty girls” and alike. But – be careful! Words don’t necessarily translate as simply, especially from Romanian to English. 

dexonline.ro gives many different positive meanings of ”mândru/-a”: proud, dignfied, self-confident, imposing, magnificent; beautiful, elegant; venerated, beloved; wise, experienced, knowing, bright, clever, competent. The negative meanings are: conceited, self-important, puffed-up, arrogant. An old Romanian dictionary (Sava Barcianu-Popovici 1886) offers only these negative meanings of ”mândru”. So the proud beauty of the Mândrele proves ambiguous. Let’s not neglect this detail – folk traditions in reality are not an idyllic world. 

During a 1987 workshop in the German town of Freiburg/Br. Leonte Socaciu explained that mândrele are a social class, daughters of bojars with richly ornamented and heavy costumes; as a result, their dancing style was slow, moderate, very upright and proud, thereby separating themselves sharply from the ”normal” rest of the village girls. This view might have been biased by the communist ideology of the time – the essence of it can still be true.  

We see this kind of allusion to certain categories of persons also in the names of dances like Coconița, Coconeasă, Kukunješte, all of them referring to the romanian word cocoană (lady). Coconița (diminutive of cocoană, ”young lady”) was a honorary title for upper class ladies. 

Some dance descriptions from the USA mention that Mândrele is a ”dance for older women” and has ”probably ceremonial functions”. This might be an attempt to explain the moderate tempo and the corresponding style of some mândrele varieties. But if the ladies are mentioned in the name of a dance, this should not lead to the conclusion that it is a dance ”for women”. The Romanian dance dictionary ”Dicționarul jocurilor populare romănești” by G. T. Niculescu-Varone mentions an Oltenian mândrele as a dance for young people, boys and girls: ”joc de flăcăi și fete”. (5)

(1) The Romanian spelling reform of 1993 changed ”î” to ”â” in most of the cases. Before, the dance was spelled Mîndrele. The new spelling Mândrele prevails gradually, while the pronunciation remains unchanged. Read more in our article ”Sîrba oder Sârba?“. We take on the spelling of the cited documents, resp. „Mîndrele“ or ”Mindrele”. 

(2) By courtesy of Ron Houston, 23.02.2021

(3) Upbeat is a note belonging to a musical motif before the beginning of a bar. If the bar is e.g. ⎮ 1+1+1+2+1 ⎮ or ⎮♪ ♪ ♪ ♩ ♪⎮, with an upbeat it comes to ♪⎮♪ ♪ ♪ ♩ ♪⎮. The melody sounds like ♪⎮♪ ♪ ♪ ♩. 

(4) Giurchescu, Anca, Sunni Bloland: Romanian Traditional Dance, a contextual and structural approach (Bukarest 1992), S. 109 f

(5) Thanks to Radboud Koop for this important hint.