Čoček [Macedonia, Kosovo, South Serbia] dance history & background
Cocek is a musical genre and dance that emerged during the early 19th century. Popularized by Ottoman military bands, it is a variation of an old 3-measure dance-form related to the Hasapiko or Kasapsko oro. Today it is found in many parts of the Balkans and dance under a variety of names. The spelling "cocek" is actually derived from Serbian. Macedonians use chochek. In Bulgaria, it is written as kyuchek or kyutchek.
Cocek like the Rom people was scattered across the Balkans, mostly throughout Bulgaria, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia and Romania. It was handed down the generations, preserved mostly by Rom minorities and was largely practiced at village weddings and banquets.
Folk dancers in North America first encountered Cocek as “Razgranjala Jorgovana”, “Bre Devojče and “Oj Coko, Coko”, Serbian town dances from Prizren and Priština in Kosovo. These dances were named after the songs that accompanied them.
The Serbian researchers, Danica and Ljubica Janković described these and many other variations when they published their eight dance volumes in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Čoček is especially popular among the Moslem Rom and Albanian populations of Kosovo, South Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia. When Tanec first came to America in 1956, they performed Cocek as a Moslem woman’s dance, “Ќupurlika” from Titov Veles.
In Serbia, “čoček” refers mainly to dances in 9/16, “Karsilama” style, made famous by the opera “Koštana” by Petar Konjović in 1931. Koštana was a Gypsy woman from Vranje famous for dancing the “Čoček”. In fact, the opera named after her finishes in a rousing 9/16 “Čoček”.
In Greece, the term is not used but a similar style of music is found in the dances, “Tsifteteli” and “Karsilama”, still popular today in Northern Greece especially during Apokreas (Mardi Gras or Carnival).
Rom musicians living in areas of the former Yugoslavia have broadened the term to include variations in 4/4, 7/8, as well as 9/16. Many but not all of the 4/4 tunes are suitable for the dance.