Hora, also known as horo and oro, is a type of circle dance originating in the Balkans but also found in other countries.
The name (spelled differently in different countries) is cognate to the Greek: 'dance' which is cognate with the ancient Greek art form of Chorea. The original meaning of the Greek word may have been 'circle'. Also the word is present in Slavic languages and "hora" and "oro" are found in many Slavic languages and have the meaning of round (dance) and the verb 'oriti' means to speak, sound, sing which previously meant to celebrate.
The Greek is cognate with Bulgarian 'horo', Romanian 'hora', Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian/Montenegrin/Slovenian 'kolo', Macedonian/Montenegrin 'oro', the Turkish form 'hora', 'valle' in Albania, and in Hebrew ???? (Hora). Name of the Khorumi dance from Black Sea coast of Georgia also might be connected to Greek, as well as the name of the Horon dance in neighbouring Turkish regions.
Hora in Romania and Moldova
Hora is a traditional Romanian folk dance where the dancers hold each other's hands and the circle spins, usually counterclockwise, as each participant follows a sequence of three steps forward and one step back. The dance is usually accompanied by musical instruments such as the cymbalum, accordion, violin, viola, double bass, saxophone, trumpet or the pan pipes.
The Hora is popular during wedding celebrations and festivals, and is an essential part of the social entertainment in rural areas. One of the most famous hore is the Hora Unirii (Hora of the Union), which became a Romanian patriotic song as a result of being the hymn when Wallachia and Moldavia united to form the Principality of Romania in 1859. During the 2006/2007 New Year's Eve celebration, when Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union, people were dancing Hora Bucuriei (Hora of Joy) over the boulevards of Bucharest as a tribute to the EU anthem, Ode to Joy (Oda bucuriei). Some of the biggest hora circles can be found on early 20th century movies filmed by the Manakis brothers in Pindus, Greece and performed by local Aromanians.
Horo in Bulgaria
The traditional Bulgarian dance horo comes in many shapes. It is not necessary to be in a circle, a curving line of people is also acceptable. The steps used in a horo dance are extremely diverse and not just two or three steps forward and one step back. The horo may vary between three to seven or eight steps forward and one to five or six steps back depending on the specific type.
There are more than five types of horo that are usually danced at every wedding. They differ by the rhythm of the music and the steps taken. There are no two horo dances with similar steps. There are probably over one hundred types of horo dances in the Bulgarian folklore.
In the past, the horo dance had a social role in Bulgarian society. It was mainly for fun, as a contest of skills, or for the show, leading to the development of the variety of horo dances. There are hora for people with little skill that can be learned in five to ten minutes, but there are also very sophisticated dances that cannot be learned unless one is fluent in many of the simpler dances.
Oro in Macedonia
The Republic of Macedonia uses the Cyrillic spelling of "oro" (Cyrillic: Opo). The origins of Macedonian oro vary from its use in socializing and celebrating, to historical dancing before going into battle. Teshkoto, translated "The difficult one", is one of those, danced by men only, and the music of which reflects the sorrow and mood of war. The oro is danced in a circle, with men and women holding one another by hand. They are used to celebrate occasions such as weddings, christenings, name-days, national and religious holidays, graduations, birthdays.
Oro in Montenegro
A similar dance, the Oro (Cyrillic: Opo), is popular in Montenegro. It starts with participants dancing in circles to a gusle, and ends with dancers standing on other dancers' shoulders and a toast from the head of the household. People consider it to be an "eagle-dance" (in Montenegrin vernaculars usual pronunciation for Montenegrin orao "eagle" is oro), since the two dancers within the circle jump while flapping their arms upward and shouting.
Oro is considered the dance of the brave ones and danced mostly by men.
The Oro is also popular among the Romani people of Eastern Europe, and the dancing is practically the same as the one of the neighbouring ethnicities. Gypsy oros, and Romani music in general, are very well appreciated among non-gypsies in the Balkans.
The Hora in Klezmer Music
The Hora in klezmer music is the same as the traditional Romanian Hora dance. It has a slow, limping gait in 3/8 time and often leads into a faster and more upbeat freylekh or bulgar.
The Hora, which is somewhat different from that of some of the Eastern European countries, is widespread in the Jewish diaspora and played a foundational role in modern Israeli folk dancing. Originally from Zikhron Yaakov, it became the symbol of the reconstruction of the country by the socialistic-agricultural Zionist movement.
Although considered traditional, the Hora Agadati, which may be the first Jewish adaptation of this dance, was only performed for the first time in 1924.
It is usually performed to Israeli folk songs, and sometimes to Jewish songs, typically to the music of Hava Nagila.
To start the dance, everybody forms a circle, holding hands, and steps forward toward the right with the left foot, then follows with the right foot. The left foot is then brought back, followed by the right foot. This is done while holding hands and circling together in a fast and cheerful motion to the right. Large groups allow for the creation of several concentric circles.
In the early days, Hora was popular mainly in kibbutzim and small communities. In its pioneer version, the hora was done at a whirling, breakneck pace. Each dancer's arms were around the shoulders of those flanking him, with the circle spinning so fast that dancers were sometimes lifted off the ground. The dancing often continued for hours.
Later the hora became a must in group dances throughout Israel, and at weddings and other celebrations by Jews in Israel, the United States and Canada. The dance appeared in North America in the early 20th century, well before modern Israeli independence, brought directly from Eastern Europe by Jewish immigrants.
At bar and bat mitzvahs, it is customary to raise the honoree, and sometimes his or her family members, on a chair during the horah. This is also done at many Jewish weddings, following the Israeli tradition.
The song Horah, sung by Avi Toledano, who represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 1982, is based on this dance.