Kopanitsa (called in some regions Gankino) is the name for a family of lively folk dances from western Bulgaria written in 11/8 meter.
Some dancers count the steps in terms of "quick" and "slow" beats, the pattern being quick-quick-slow-quick-quick (counted as 2-2-3-2-2).
The name comes from the verb kopam, which means "to dig" or "to hoe", so the name is sometimes translated as "little digging dance".
Kopanitsas and gankinos are line dances done with dancers in a curved line facing in, either holding hands with arms down or (in kopanitsas) holding the belts of the neighboring dancers. Many of them are "called" dances, with several patterns of steps. Dancers repeat one pattern until the leader on the right end of the line calls another pattern.
The term kopanitsa seems to be especially used in the Shopluk region of western Bulgaria, which includes the towns of Sofia, Pernik, Radomir and Kyustendil. Some common names are Shopska kopanitsa, Graovska kopanitsa, and Divotinka kopanitsa (from the village of Divotino). There is even a village named Kopanitsa not far from the town of Pernik.
The term kopanitsa is also found in western Thrace and the Sredna Gora regions east of Sofia (Ihtiman, Panagyurishte, Pazardzhik) and even as far east as Plovdiv.
The term gankino (Ganka's dance) seems to be used mostly in northern Bulgaria (particularly in the western and central parts) and also refers to dances in 11/8.
In western Thrace, dances in 11/8 meter are often called Krivo (or Krivata), a term which means "crooked" or "uneven".
Dances in 11/8 similar to kopanitsa or gankino can also be found in Macedonia (Sedenka, Pletenica, Skopsko, etc.) and Serbia (Kopacka) using other names. It is not the same as the Serbian Kopacka, which is actually a kopanitsa.
Basic Gankino Step
As an example of the form, the basic gankino is the most widespread of the dances in the group, and is done by international folk dance groups as "kopanitsa".
The step is three measures, consisting of two grapevine steps to the right and one to the left:
Measure 1: 1. (quick) Step right on right foot, 2. (quick) Step behind right on left foot, 3. (slow) Step right on right foot, 4. (quick) Step left in front of right on left foot, 5. (quick) Pause;
Measure 2: 1. (quick) Step right on right foot, 2. (quick) Step behind right on left foot, 3. (slow) Step right on right foot, 4. (quick) Close left foot next to right, 5. (quick) pause;
Measure 3: 1. (quick) Step left on left foot, 2. (quick) Step behind left on right foot, 3. (slow) Step right on right foot, 4. (quick) Close right foot next to left, 5. (quick) pause;
Individual dancers are free to improvise variations to the basic step, mostly during the fourth and fifth beats of measures 2 and 3; for example replacing the pause with a foot slap (plesni) or a jump apart and then jump together (hlopchi).
The musicians often speed up the music during the dance as a challenge to the dancers.
Moreau, Yves. "Kopanica Dance History and Background". Balkan folk dance database. Folk with Dunav website. Retrieved 2009-03-18.[dead link]
Unciano, Richard (1991). "Gankino, Kopanitsa & more in 11/16". Folk Dance Scene (USA: Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.) (July/August): 12.