Verbunk Folk Dance

Written by Jakub Hlavacek

Category: Czech Tradition

Verbunk is a folk dance from the Moravian Slovakia (Slovacko) region. It is exclusively a male dance and is very jumpy in nature. Despite having certain guidelines, the majority of it is improvised by the dancer. It is mostly performed in groups, thus we can see many dancing styles, as every participant brings his own regional culture into the mix.

It originated sometime after 1781 when newly conscripted Moravian soldiers (German word Werbung = to recruit) used a similar dance to show that they are able to perform various physically demanding military duties and (probably the main reason) to impress girls. Later, it was adopted by other men and became very popular. Nowadays, men from Slovacko enthusiastically dance verbuňk at every opportunity. Be it posvícení (feast), fašank (Mardi Gras), traditional weddings or just a common village gathering.

Since it is highly personalized, it could also be used to show allegiance to a certain village or community.

The dance is sadly common only in Slovácko, which uses many names for it. So if you hear a local person say “čardáš”, “cifrování” or “grepčení” don’t be afraid, he most likely just wants to showcase his dancing skills.

The dance itself is divided into three parts. Předzpěv (foresing), during which the dancers stand in a tight semicircle, slow and fast parts, both of which have a very personal flavor to them. Out of these three, the předzpěv is the most popular part.

According to current research, we can divide verbuňk into six types. All of which originate from a different city of Straznice, Kyjov, Hustopece, Velka nad Velickou, Uherske Hradiste and Breclav. This is a testament to how popular the dance is. It was able to develop in six different forms on such a small area, as is Slovacko. It did so by using various hand and leg movements, jumps, and leaps.

Since each performance is improvised, the dance is highly emotional and allows for more spontaneity. Competitiveness dominates each instance of the dance. During the time of its conception, psychology was a substantial part as well, but it has been downplayed in recent years, in favor of competitiveness

To perform a good Verbunk dance, you must learn several important skills. First of all, you need to be able to sing. Not just any kind of singing though. You must sing in the local dialect. Furthermore, you need to memorize lyrics and melodies of the songs used in this dance (that is if you want to be good). Next, you must be able to pull off many difficult varied dance moves Between which you need to change effortlessly and should be executed with a high level of professionalism. And to top it all off, you also must be aware of your surroundings and be able to gradually increase the speed of the dance. So as you can see, Verbunk is not as simple, as it may have seemed.

In 2005, it was added to UNESCO cultural heritage list in the “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity“ category.