Vlășcencuța and its relatives

The Romanian Vlășcencuța is one of the dances of our IFD community, that was danced only for a limited period of time and not everywhere, although the dance – its choreography – is charming and no more difficult than other popular dances. We believe that the Vlășcencuța, unlike many other choreographic creations, does not deserve such disregard, and have done a little research. (1)

Different dances

Is it even possible to speak of surprise when an experience is repeated? Be that as it may, we were surprised  to once again find a whole range of different versions in our search for evidence. The following dance descriptions  were found:

1. Vlășcencuța de la Băneasa – Popescu-Județ, Gheorghe 1961

2. Vlășcencuța de la Gostinu – Popescu-Județ, Gheorghe 1961

3. Vlășcencuța de la Pietroșani – Popescu-Județ, Gheorghe 1961

4. Vlășcencuța de la Slobozia – Popescu-Județ, Gheorghe 1961

5. Vlășcencuța – Bloland, Sunni 1977

6. Vlașencuța de la Slobozia – Loneux, Jacques 1989

7. Vlascencuta (Note in the text: from Slobozia) – Hilferink, Nicolaas 1990 (source: Vasilescu)

8. Vlașcencuța de la Petrosan – Hilferink, Nicolaas 2004 (source: Vasilescu)

9. Vlascencuta de la Gostinu – Vasilescu, Theodor 2011

10. Vlascencuța de la Pietroșani – Loneux, Bärbel 2013 (source: Marin Barbu)

11. Vlăscencuța de la Pietroșani – Macrea, Silvia 2013

No. 1 to 4 are dance descriptions from the book of Popescu-Județ, Gheorghe & Găman, Gh.: Jocuri Populare din regiunea București, București 1961, p. 229 ff. The numbers 5 to 11 were created in the Western folklore dance scene – or for it. The name suffixes with „de la …“ indicate the origin of the version described – „de la Pietroșani“: from Pietroșani. One would assume that these precise designations for the different Vlășcencuța variants are unambiguous. However, this is by no means the case. One Vlășcencuța de la Slobozia is not the same as the other; the four Vlășcencuțe de la Pietroșani also differ.

More precisely: they differ in their step sequences. The style – ”Hora” handhold, down- and upswing of the hands, triple steps, often two steps or one per bar – is largely common to them and, together with the 2-2-3 rhythm, characterises them as „Vlășcencuțe“.

We do not attach any decisive importance to the time signature „3/8“ in Popescu-Județ. We have already noticed several times that traditional 7/16 time signature turn into 3/8 or 3/4 under modern (and academic) influences.

Different music

The diversity observed for the step sequences can also be found in the music recordings used by the dance teachers (see numbers above):

5. Bloland, Sunni: „Vlășcencuța“, LP „Roemeense Volksdansen Deel 3“, Nevofoon 12153

Sample: „Vlășcencuța“, Nevofoon 12153

6. Loneux, Jacques: „Geamparalele“ – LP „Jocuri Populare Românești, Muzica Reprezentativă a Armatei“, Electrecord – STM-EPE 01487 (1979)

Sample: „Geamparalele“, Muzica Reprezentativă a Armatei

9. Vasilescu, Theodor: „Geamparalele“, LP „Toni Iordache – Un Virtuose Du Cymbalum – Trésors Folkloriques Roumains“, Electrecord STM-EPE 01364 (1977). Later releases of this recording have the title „Geamparalele lui Haidim“.

Sample: „Geamparalele lui Haidim“, Toni Iordache

10. Loneux, Bärbel: „Geamparalele lui Haidim“ like No. 9.

11. Macrea, Silvia: No indication, not to be determined, but again a completely different recording.

Sample: „Vlăscencuța de la Pietroșani“ , Silvia Macrea 2013

The dance descriptions of the two Vlașcencuțe by N. Hilferink (No. 7 and 8) do not contain any music information. A video of a Hilferink workshop from 1990 at least proves the use of recording No. 6, such as J. Loneux. (2)

In addition, the LP Nevofoon 12153 is compiled from the dance program of Theodor Vasilescu and Marius Korpel and thus Vasilescu may also have worked with this recording. There is also a Vasilescu recording of ”V. de la Slobozia“ with the music like No. 6 by J. Loneux.


When researching the origins of the music recordings used for the various versions of the Vlășcencuța, it is already noticeable that the music is usually called „Geamparalele“. The one exception on the Nevofoon record is easily explained by the fact that this is a production for dance purposes and the tracks were therefore conveniently named after the dances, even if the music is commonly known among musicians by a different name. So – is the Vlășcencuța simply a special form of the Geamparalele?

Bärbel Loneux writes in the dance description of her Vlășcencuța de la Pietroșani from 2013 p. 39:

„Dance from SOUTH MUNTENIA (TELEORMAN), from the village of PIETROȘANI, near the Danube and the Bulgarian border. VLASCENCUȚA belongs to a very old type of dance called „GEAMPARA“ as do the dances „ZLATA“ and „PANDELAȘUL“. Characteristic for all these dances is the 7/16 time signature with the rhythmic structure: 2/16 (short) 2/16 (short) 3/16 (long). This rhythm is constant through the entire melody and movement. Rhythmic similarities with the Bulgarian RÂCHENICA (measure and accents are the same) are obvious, which can be explained by the geographical situation.“

B. Loneux mentions Marin Barbu (without origin, without year) as the source for her version of Vlășcencuța.

In her fundamental book (3), Anca Giurchescu devotes an extensive chapter to the dance repertoire of the regions. Among the categories she lists only one with odd bars for South Muntenia – „Aksak Rhythm Chain“ – and labels only the following as types: „Rustem, subtype Rustem in a line, Geampara, Schioapa„.

Gheorghe Popescu writes (4): „The V. is danced in countless variants and subvariants, all of which are based on the steps of the Geampara.“

From this and from the music findings it is clear that Vlășcencuța is to be understood as a subgroup of the large group of the Geamparale. In view of the numerous different versions of the dance, Vlășcencuța is a group of dances, i.e. a dance type – even if renowned authors often write in the singular „Vlășcencuța is …“, „Geampara has …“. (5)

The special thing about Vlășcencuța (or better, in the plural: Vlășcencuțe), in contrast to the Geamparalele, is a rhythmic peculiarity. The 7/16 measure is not danced with three pulsations per bar (2-2-3) throughout, but very often, or predominantly, with two (4-3), with the first two quavers being contracted to a quarter. This gives the Vlășcencuța a slightly calmer character than the very lively Geampara (or Geamparalele).


We have already seen that most dance names already contain an indication of origin: „Vlașencuța de la Slobozia“, „V. de la Pietroșani“, „V. de la Gostinu“. This should serve the purpose of distinguishing the different V. variants from each other. Gostinu is a municipality in the district of Giurgiu, Muntenia. (6) Pietroșani is also located in Muntenia, in the district of Argeș. (7) N. Hilferink’s „Petrosan“ probably refers to the aforementioned Pietroșani.

The case „Slobozia“, on the other hand, poses greater difficulties, as Wikipedia (8) lists 39 villages and cities named Slobozia in Romania, 11 of which are in Muntenia, as well as 15 in the Republic of Moldova. This should not surprise us if we consider the meaning of the name: „Slobozia“ are villages of settlers (locals or foreigners) in Romania and Moldova who were exempt from paying taxes or social benefits for a certain period of time (9). In other words, „Slobozia“ means „Freetown“ – a common name. After all, about a third of Romania’s Slobozia places are in Muntenia. With this, we find the indication of origin „Muntenia“, which some authors provide, is confirmed by the place names.

However, if the indications of origin – see above – do not represent a clear assignment of the individual dance to a geographically defined place, this means that they have little significance. Moreover, the author and Radboud Koop independently compared and analyzed the individual figures of the mentioned dances; furthermore, the dance teachers, who taught the different versions of the Vlășcencuța in the RIFD, were examined with regard to their sources. Overall, the results can be traced back to Vasilescu as the first source; from various sources we know that he usually arranged if not completely composed the dances of his repertoire. Bloland, Loneux, Hilferink and Macrea are only secondary sources. (The above-mentioned four versions of G. Popescu-Județ are not themselves directly entered into the RIFD but at best via Th. Vasilescu.) All this indicates that the Vlășcencuțe No. 5 to 11 are choreographic works of Theodor Vasilescu.

One of the documents (Bloland/Stockton 1977, p. 19) states: „Dance from Vlașcea“. The fact that the Romanian Wikipedia does not recognise anything with this name leads us to our last question:

What does the name „Vlășcencuța“ actually mean?

The Dance Name

Let’s start with the end – or rather with the ending. The Romanian diminutive ending „-uța“ denotes girls (cf. mîndruța = sweetheart) or pretty, small objects (căruța = small waggon). If the view in a US-American dance description (No. 5) is correct that the name means „Dance from Vlașca“, this would therefore be a „cute little dance from V.“ We think this is absurd.

Then we look at the first part of the name, „Vlășcenc-„. It refers to the Romanian adjective vlășcean, which is used to refer to the inhabitants of Vlașca. „Vlașca“ is the name of several towns, villages, and a district in Muntenia. We can therefore understand the dance name as „girl from Vlașca“.

Two perspectives lead to an understanding of this concept of place: the etymological and the geographical one.

„Vlașca“ can be understood as a romanised form of the Serbian name Vlaška / Влашка (or the Bulgarian Vlaška / Bлашка) for the former region of Wallachia, which roughly consists of nowadays Oltenia and Muntenia. It derives from „Vlahs“ (srb. or bg. vlaški / влашки), an exonym, i.e. the name given to the Romanians by non-Romanians (10). The towns and the district called Vlașca are almost all located in Muntenia near the Bulgarian border. During the Middle Ages, the Bulgarian Empire extended several times across the Danube to the north; Muntenia had some Bulgarian population. So, the toponym „Vlașca“ goes back to a Slavic word used to designate Romanians.

We could now go one step further and translate „Vlășcencuța“ with „girl from Wallachia“ – or simply: from Romania. We do not want to withhold this deeper layer of meaning from the reader. However, a correspondingly definitive translation of the dance name would be a bit „too far-fetched“ for us.

Thanks to Jutta Weber-Karn, Radboud Koop and Laura Brinzan for their support and variegated help.

(1) There are different spellings of the name; our checks have shown that „Vlășcencuța“ is correct. Dexonline writes „vlăscean sm vz [= vezi, en.: „see“] vlășcean“, i.e. „vlășcean“ (with „-ășc-„) is preferred; the same should apply to „Vlăscencuța“; „Vlașencuța“ (without -c-) is obviously wrong; the spelling „Vlascencuta/Vlascencuța“ simply ignores the diacritical signs.

(2) See Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeM8qc7aH_w

(3) Giurchescu, Anca, Sunni Bloland: Romanian Traditional Dance, a contextual and structural approach (Bucharest 1992), p. 276

(4) loc.cit. p. 229; „Jocul … se execută in sute și sute de variante și subvariante, toate bazate pe pașii de geampara.“

(5) As does the website „Eliznik“ of the cultural anthropologists Liz Mellish und Nick Green: https://eliznik.org.uk/traditions-in-romania/traditional-dance/chain-dances/danubian-asymmetric-rhythm-dances/geampara-dance/

(6) „comună în județul Giurgiu, Muntenia“; https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gostinu,_Giurgiu

(7) https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comuna_Pietroșani,_Argeș – Not to be confused with Petroșani, county Hunedoara, Transilvania

(8) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slobozia_(disambiguation)

(9) „Sat de coloniști (băștinași sau străini) care aveau pe o perioadă oarecare scutire de bir sau de prestații.“ (https://dexonline.ro/definitie/slobozia)

(10) „Vlaș/ca, -că, -co, -cu v. Vlah, v(a)lah/v(a)lahi: Nume dat în Evul Mediu de către alte popoare, românilor din stânga și din dreapta Dunării. Etimologie: limba slavă (veche) vlahŭ.“ (In the Middle Ages, a name given by other peoples to the Romanians to the left and right of the Danube.)  (source: https://dexonline.ro/definitie/vlah. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallachia