Lelje’s circle dance (An excerpt from the book “’Ljelje’ from Gorjani”)

A ritual play then takes place in the host’s house; while all the girls sing, the kings obey commands sung in the songs. The queens stand still.  If the kings are sitting, the ritual play starts with the following song:

“Rise to your feet, king, rise to your feet, king, ljeljo!”

The kings rise from their seats and the following verse is then sung (if the kings weren’t sitting, this verse is sung first):

“Go for a walk, king, go for a walk, king, ljeljo!”

The kings split into two groups that move in opposite directions and walk around the queens. When the two groups meet behind the queens, they flick their sabres, repeating the action when they meet in front of the queens. The song “Go for a walk, king…” is too short to allow them to complete all of these actions during the song, so they continue during the next song:

“Come together, kings, come together, kings, ljeljo!”

While this song is sung, the kings complete their walk around the queens, and then form a “kolo” (a circular dance formation). After that, they sing:

“Go and dance, king, go and dance king, ljeljo!”

A bagpipe player or a tamburitza player then plays the kolo music. A similar ritual used to be performed by the old-time “ljelje”. Since the renewal of the custom another ritual play, different from the one described above, has been introduced, and it is this play that is most often performed nowadays, while the one described has become very rare. The new play also starts with the song “Rise to your feet, king…”, after which the kings rise up. Next comes the song “Go for a walk…”, when the kings split into groups and move in opposite directions, forming two small half-circles. After that, the song “Come together, kings…” is sung and the kings go towards each other, forming two lines, one next to the other, as if they were walking down the street. Then comes the verse that the old-time “ljelje”, i.e. those who took part in the processions up to 1966, did not know: “Flick your sabre, king, flick your sabre, king, ljeljo!”. The kings face each other and flick their sabres in the rhythm of the song. They then sing “Come together, king…”, and the two groups of kings walk around each other and form the kolo. After that they sing “Go and dance, king…”, and the bagpipe player plays the kolo music.

Although the kolo is played differently by different players, it is actually a type of traditional Šokačko kolo. While dancing kolo, the girls keep holding sabres in their right hands, while holding the right elbow of the dancer next to them with their left hands. The ljelje’s  kolo is danced in the same way as the Šokačko kolo. The dancers interrupt the bagpipe player with a song, which is sung in decasyllabic verse. While the player plays, the girls in the kolo sometimes lower their swords simultaneously while dancing, pointing with them towards the centre of the kolo, then raising them again. The girls also strike with their sabres: while one dancer strikes with her sabre, the next dancer moves hers to the left and to the right, so that it can be struck by the dancers standing next to her.

The girls in kolo sing a song in decasyllabic verses about “ljelje”, the host, the mothers-in-law and the people of Gorjani[1]:

It’s nice to see how ljelje

Create so much joy.

 

Girls who are like heads of grain joined the ljelje

Girls who are like weeds trot after them.

 

Girls who are like grain became queens,

Girls who are like rye walk silently behind them.

 

Hey, the master of this house,

May your family live long.

 

Hey, the master of this house,

May your wife live long.

 

Hey, master, we praise you

For everything that you have given us.

 

A mother raised a handsome boy,

A son to her and a sweetheart to me.

 

One doesn’t love what’s beautiful or rich,

But what’s sweet and charming.

 

Dear mother-in-law, get your son ready,

I’ll get myself ready, we’ll be as neat as two babies.

 

They ask me: “Where are you from, sister?”

Oh my, dear, I’m from Gorjani.

 

Gorjani is a charming village,

Boys are like silver, and girls are like gold.

After a few songs, the player stops playing. The girls then sing:

“Open the kolo kings, open the kolo, kings, ljeljo!”

The kolo opens and the kings stand in a line, resuming their initial positions. They then sing:

“Bow, king, bow, king, ljeljo!”

They bow to the hosts while still singing, and the hosts in turn offer them food and drink, and give them presents. The gifts, which are collected by beggars carrying baskets, usually consist of money, but sometimes also wine, a home-made sausage or something similar.

From the book “’Ljelje’ from Gojani” by Ivan Lović, Gorjani, 2012

 

[1]  This is a free translation of the original song, in which each verse is a decasyllable, and each couplet rhymes.

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