Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Type / Intangible Heritage

The Calus ritual dance

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The Calus ritual dance

About the site

Corridor: Danube Road, Western Trans-Balkan Road
Country: Romania, The Olt region of Southern Romania
Type: Intangible Heritage
World Heritage: Intangible Heritage Masterpieces
Intangible HeritageIntangible Heritage Masterpieces

The Calus ritual dance is maintained in the Olt region of Southern Romania, but it can also be found among the northern Vlachs of Bulgaria and Serbia. The ritual probably goes back to pre-Christian purification and fertility rites using the symbol of the horse, which was worshipped as an embodiment of the sun. The ritual’s name derives from the Calus, the wooden mouthpiece of the horse’s bridle. The oldest documentation of music used in this dance dates from the 17th century.
Performed by all-male Calusari dancers to the accompaniment of two violins and an accordion generally played by Rom musicians, the Calus ritual features a series of games, skits, songs and dances. It is mainly performed on Whitsunday or Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. Young men used to be initiated into the ritual by a vataf (master) who had inherited the knowledge of descantece (magic charms) and the dance steps from his predecessor.
Groups of Calusari dancers, sporting colourful hats, embroidered shirts and trousers adorned with small jingling bells, perform complex dances, which combine stamping, clicking of the heels, leaping and swinging of the legs. According to the tradition, groups of dancing and chanting Calusari, who were thought to be endowed with magical healing powers, went from house to house, promising good health and prosperity to villagers. Calusari still meet to celebrate their dancing and musical prowess at Whitsunday, starting with a parade in Slatina and then two days of performances in Caracal, two municipalities of the Olt region.



Calusul, immaterial patrimony of mankind

Calusarii (kind of Rumanian folk dance) is an archaic ritual practiced in summer. Through its magical acts and practices performed by a group of 5 up to 13 men, it confers protection, healing, and fertility. As part of the UNESCO immaterial heritage, this custom is attested as an emblem and a distinctive note of the Romanian people in the area comprised between the Carpathians, the Danube River and the Black Sea.

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