The "custom" label is given to the arcan by the fact that it has a rite of passage character: like the căluşari, it is to be danced only by boys old enough to marry (dressed in traditional Romanian costumes). Taking part in the dance in the dance is sometimes also called "a lua cu forţa" ("to forcefully summon" or "to grab"), or a arcăni ("to lasso") - it has an etymological parallel in the favored method of conscription in the defense forces of Early Modern Wallachia and Moldavia, a lua cu arcanul ("to lasso with the arkan"), whereby boys were selectively kiddnapped by the authorities. The reason for this apparent "violent" character of the dance is its initiating value, of entering into the next step of the social pyramid, by which boys become marriageable young men. It refers to the strategy adopted by the "established" men, led by an authority figure, forcibly (with a ritualistic force) taking the boys (at that time still considered children) to the hora, and dancing this particular variation of the hora.
The arcan ritual dance was a necessary condition for a young men to be allowed to participate later on in a căluşari ritual dance. All of these requirements and means of organising the groups of young men are related to the so-called Lex Antiqua Valachorum (the ancient Vlach law).
As the dance progresses, some repetitive recitations are to be shouted. These are meant to give choreographic directions and codify the dance description:
Once the boy had danced the Arcan, he is acknowledged by the whole community as belonging to the eligible group of men - this is conditioned by precision in performing the dance. Hence, there is yet another group of verses, cautioning the participants:
The dance was also brought to southwestern Ukraine by the Hutsuls, a Ukrainian ethnic subgroup. In Ukraine, the dance is called Arkan, but also Arcan. The Ukrainian Eurovision Song Contest 2004 winner Ruslana Lyzhichko, who is of Hutsul origin, successfully used traditional Hutsul sounds and moves on her "Wild Dances" album, which included a so-called arkan song.
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