While there are many styles of Balkan Romani (“Gypsy”) women’s dance, perhaps the most popular, uniquely Romani dance is the kyuchek. Of Turkish origin, kyuchek can be danced either as a communal line dance with synchronized steps or as a solo improvisation. Line dances tend to have more contained repetitive movements, whereas the solo styles have a much more expressive, spontaneous, and individual style. Solo kychek dance features sensuous hip and shoulder movement, intricate footwork, and storytelling through a variety of symbolic hand gestures and facial expressions. Solo kyuchek was traditionally performed privately within the home, by groups of women. Today, this style can be seen at public life-cycle and holiday celebrations where the soloist inspires the line by dancing inside the circle, where she expresses her feminine grace, tenderness, and power.
Stefka Kamburova is a talented, enthusiastic, and charismatic bearer of Romani dance traditions. Born in the Turkish Romani mahala (neighborhood) of Gotse Delchev, Bulgaria, Stefka grew up surrounded by the live music and communal dancing embedded in all holiday and life-cycle celebrations in Romani life. Well-versed in the social, technical, and artistic elements of the kyuchek and other dances, Stefka is a valued member of her community, singled out for her talent in this female folk art.
As a current master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program, Stefka will work with her daughter and apprentice Erolina Kamburova, to increase her repertoire, improvisational skills, and knowledge of the historical and social context of the kyuchek tradition.
The following video shows Stefka dancing the kyuchek.