Judging by media reports and firsthand accounts, Eastern Europe today is a place of constant change, frustration and tumult. Judging by the exuberant ensemble of Bulgarian dancers and musicians known as Pirin, who appeared Thursday night at Montgomery College's Performing Arts Center, things could not be simpler, sweeter or more harmonious.
Relentless innocence and cheer, however, are just what this writer has come to expect from the ever-increasing parade of Eastern European and Soviet folk troupes touring these parts. In the unblemished world of Pirin, men and women communicate by means of coy glances and wagging fingers; a betrothed couple do not touch, but dance with a handkerchief between them. Homogeneity is all, from the tilt of these affable creatures' heads to the gorgeous zigzag pattern on their hosiery and shirt sleeves. And though they affect a down-home appearance, it's clear that these performers have all been schooled and stylized to a fare-thee-well.
All the same, there's an undeniable allure to these predictable proceedings. It's hard to resist the symmetry of the dances, and all those feet -- clad in adorable elfin slippers and boots -- engaged in a flurry of rapid-fire kicks, beats, skips and grapevines. Torsos held stalwartly upright, smiles abounding, the dancers circle, curlicue, bisect the stage like perfectly drilled soldiers. Occasionally their arms will loft out to the sides, or curve in a sort of greeting, but the legs and feet are what predominate.
Artistic Director Kiril Stefanov is responsible for the majority of pieces played and sung on the program. Based on traditional folk tunes, they range from zesty suites for Bulgarian bagpipes, flute and assorted small stringed instruments to innovative medleys for the Celebrated Stefanov Bulgarian Women's Chorus. This gifted ensemble of a cappella singers made the strongest impression of the evening. The sound of their reedy voices raised plaintively in unison or ever-shifting harmonies, coupled with the sight of the singers swaying arm in arm, conjured a fiercer, more emotional side of the ancient culture.