The folk dance is a kind of global tradition that aims to capture the flavour of a country and, when performed for foreigners, to convey the charm and beauty they can expect if they visit.
The following is an imaginary voiceover to explain what’s being represented in nothing more than rhythmic body movement.
The music starts up – a breezy instrumental played on flutes, whistles etc. with perhaps a mandolin, balalaika or four-string native equivalent to a guitar. And there’s a bit of bongo-type drumming.
Then the lovely young maiden in a traditional outfit stitched together from tablecloths tells us what it’s all about.
“I am but a humble goatherd, and yet I symbolize young women everywhere. I am hopping and swaying in this way to set the scene, and when I swing and twirl my skirt you may be surprised at how circular the hem becomes. That’s because it is weighted with small balls, so I wouldn’t come too close if I were you. You will see enough fleeting glimpses of leg anyway – and that is intentional in a natural, innocent way.
No, I haven’t got my toothbrush stuck sideways in my mouth; they just like you to smile all the time. Except this bit – watch me frown theatrically here. I’m bending and looking behind me first one way and then the other because that’s what I do. I’m a goatherd and goats scamper around all over the place, so you’ve got to keep an eye on them.
If this looks to you like a celebratory dance, you’re right, because tomorrow I am to be married, so I am radiating joyousness. My husband-to-be is a wonderful man and he will be the first to enjoy the fruits of my femininity. Many men have tried but none succeeded – well, when I say many, I’ve only ever met three men apart from my father and brothers, but all three of them tried it on. You would too if you were stuck out in these hills looking after animals seven days a week.
But I rebuffed them all because I wanted to remain pure for my husband.
So, tomorrow there will be singing and dancing and – yes, I worry about this hip-thrusting section too, but the woman who taught me the dance likes a drink, if you know what I mean, and she can be a bit erratic.
But now I’m going all dignified with my back straight and my nose in the air to show that I will be a bride, then a married woman, and I will be virtuous and make my family proud.
And now I’m doing the crouching and looking behind business again because, remember, I am but a humble goatherd.
Then we’re into the joyful swinging again because my wedding will be a time of great happiness, and I’ll do another couple of twirls for the dirty sods who are only interested in looking up my skirt. How I would love to take out your eyes with the flying balls in my hem! Don’t tempt me, loser. You had a chance but you blew it and now it’s too late, for I am betrothed to another.
I bend and look behind again – where’s that frigging goat?
Then up on my toes with the big smile again as the music reaches a climax and so, metaphorically, do I.
As Helen Reddy once said, I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman – even if I am but a humble goatherd.