The Art of Yallachi

Issue #3-4 • 1533

Kumush dancing, Mastura-khofiz accompayning her on the doira. Late 19th century photo

In Kokand khanate, actresses performing for women were known as yallachi. The art of yallachi is related to ancient notions and beliefs. The actresses performed either to mark happy events in women’s lives, or on the days of sorrow. Those who serviced weddings, calendar holidays and ritual ceremonies eventually became professional actresses and musicians. For instance, yallachi from Fergana, just like sozanda from Bukhara and khalfa from Khorezm, included music, singing, dancing and comedy-and-comic performance into their repertoire. Sometimes each actress performed solo, but more often it was musical and choreographic compositions. Ethnographer A. L. Troitskaya noted that in Umarkhan’s horde in Kokand the yallachi company was directed by a singer named Zakhro, the wife of a famous kizikchi Bedeshim. Member of the same company was Jakhon-otin Uvaysi who was to become a teacher and fellow of princess Nodirbegim, a renowned poetess. Jakhon was a gifted poetess, yalla performer, dancer and mukallid parodist.

During the rule of Khudoyarkhan the yallachi company was renewed and expanded by inclusion of experts in women’s rituals, otin, and concubines with artistic talents. Performing in the company were Kannoy, Kari Tukal, Dushan-kampir, Zabiniso et al. The company was directed by Iklim-dokho who taught singers and dancers the ways to perform for the nobility, gave lessons of etiquette and provided training in the method of integrating musical, dancing and acting means of expression into a single composition. Sometimes, following the command of the horde bek, the company performed in ichkari, the women’s section in the homes of high-ranking officials and influential persons. On such occasions the company was escorted by guards and travelled in closed carriages (1, pp. 71-89).

Ughil-khofiz, musician, singer and dancer from Kokand. Late 19th century photo

Eventually, the harem company “split into smaller groups which began to perform in urban centres among women of different social groups”. Someone named Notebai wrote in his article about Mastura-bibi, a middle-aged yallachi who organized a company of young girls and coached them to perform in public: “The company was organized on voluntary basis” (2). Khamza Khakimzade Niyazi in his drama “The Secrets of Paranja, or The Yallachi Case” presented historical events in the life of this notorious yallachi from Kokand, Mastura-khofiz that took place between 1882 and 1919. Apparently, Mastura not only organized yallachi performances, but also recruited and sold girls to clandestine dens; this earned her a nickname Satang that meant manlike and morally corrupt woman.

Mastura-satang was, however, as exception. Those who came out of the palace yallachi company generally performed with worthy and serious companies. For example, Aziza, a student of Kari Tukal from the palace company, as well as Kirmaston and Norkhon, worked conscientiously in women’s assembleys (bazm). According to M. Rakhmanov, yallachi such as Khuvaydo-otin, Oynisa-khofiz, Ellikboshi-khofiz, Isirga-otin, Ugil-khofiz, Kumushbacha and other yallachi, apart from the aforementioned, worked in different towns of Fergana Valley during colonial period (3, p. 204). Choreographer L. Avdeeva noted that among Kokand yallachi the one who really stood out was beautiful Nazirkhon who occasionally performed on a podium decorated with carpets and flowers; wealthy audience were seated around it: men sat 20 meters away from the podium, and women in paranja – closer to it. When Nazirkhon, clad in long black velvet camisole and wearing her hair loose, was singing and dancing, that was the song of a woman’s soul. Nobody could remain indifferent to her performance of “Tanovar”. One day a very rich merchant, in admiration for her charm and skill as a performer, bowed to her and presented a large bowl full of pearls and gold coins. She refused to accept the treasure and asked him to give her the tear that was falling down his face (4, pp. 251-254).

Mukarram Turgunbaeva

Unlike Nazirkhon, singer and dancer Chuntakvacha (“a pocket dancer”) created an image of a joyous, teasing and playful girl, by expressing the feelings of joy and happiness of her heroine. Another famous dancer was Adolkhon-otin from Margilan, who resembled Nazirkhon in both appearance and dancing style, yet she was different in a way that she performed in “a silk dress of light colours; on top she wore a long white shawl that was loosely tied in a knot at the back of her head”. The dance Adolkhon performed on a festive day in Margilan in 1916 produced a very strong impression upon Tamara Khanum, who was then a child enchanted by her performance, particularly of the “Tanovar”. A sand song than began in a chamber and was continued in a courtyard around a bonfire. Adolkhon “was whirling in her dance like a fairy. Her attire was shining like rainbow”. When the wedding cortege appeared, everybody started singing “Yor-yor” (5).

According to historical sources and recollections of witnesses, Fergana yallachi, when participating in women’s cultural/educational events and rituals, used primarily pieces from yalla, lapar, yor-yor, ulan (aytishuv) and other genres of women’s folk art; many yallachi were themselves creative individuals, composing song and improvising; in their dancing they often used movements from “Khonabazm” cycle, and sometimes from “Kata uyin” – the street dance. Sometimes women disguised themselves as men and humorously portrayed relationships of young and old lovers.

In general, yallachi dances were rich in movements, particularly of hands (wrists and fingers), whirling (aylanish, charkh) and facial mimic that reflected woman’s psychology down to every nuance.

Folklore and ethnographic encemble from Bukhara

Natural phenomena, labour processes, woman’s feelings and emotions, her dreams and aspirations were poetically embodied in different dance movements. There is a very great number of these movements, but only few names are known to us: kiygir bgyin (кийгир бґйин), ufar (уфар), ufari sakhta (уфари сахта), mayday ufari (майда уфари), yigrga (йґрга), zang (занг), charkh (чарх), aylanish (айланиш), gul gyin (гул ґйин), shokh (шох), duchoba (дучоба)… When, with the author’s assistance, the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan R. Karimova began to systematize and record the movements of Fergana dance, she gave names to all other movements, based on their meaning and content. Thus there appeared tong (dawn), osmom (sky), quyosh (the Sun), tulqin (wave), dovul (hurricane), yarim oy (crescent moon), gul (flower), guncha (flower bud), shokhcha (twig); yoy otish (archery), charkhpalak (water-mill), ilon izi (snake tracks), qaldirgoch (swallow); usma quyish (eyebrow painting), chevarlik (embroidering), rumol uyni (playing with a scarf), mayin sabo (breeze), kungil jilvasi (heart’s play), uyalish (shyness), oyjamol (charm), khipchabel (slender waist), labi guncha (bud-like lips), zulfi zanjir (hair curl), khayol (dream), oynakka qarash (looking in the mirror), qoshi kamon (arrow-like eyebrows) and many others. Of all dances, “Tanovar” dance was key in the art of yallachi. It had the same cult significance for Fergana yallachi as “Bukhorcha zang” cycle had for sozanda from Bukhara and “Lazgi” for khalfa from Khorezm. Some musicologists interpret “Tanovar” as a melody, a song, or a rhythm, thus fragmenting its integral essence, while “Tanovar” synthesizes all these elements and dancing movements, presenting a remarkable histrionic sight. “Tanovar” is a musical and choreographic composition and a whole cycle of dances. Just like “Bukhorcha zang” or “Lazgi”, “Tanovar” has ancient roots and a long history of development. During colonial period and particularly in soviet time “Tanovar” was no longer performed exclusively at closed women’s gatherings and became a performance for stage and street; based on tradition, solo and group versions of it were created and even “Tanovar” dance theatre was established. A crucial role in it belongs to traditional yallachi and their successors – professional dancers and choreographers of the new time, the creators of Uzbek folk and stage dance.

“Tanovar” as musical and choreographic cycle remains understudied, and its composition and variations have not yet been restored. Musicologists, when considering it in its artistic (as a composition of bastakor) and performance aspects, usually treat “Tanovar” as being closely related to the activity of particular individuals. In the works of choreography scholars (L. Avdeeva, R. Karimova, et al) “Tanovar” is presented as pure dance, without the analysis of its melodic and rhythmic basis. In fact, it is a complex and multifaceted creation of the nation and its talented representatives. A well-known musician and bastakor Salokhiddin Tukhtasinov claims that there are eleven varieties of “Tanovar” (5). Musicologist I. Ganieva published sixteen versions (lyrics and musical notation records) of “Tanovar” (6).

Tamara Khanum

“Tanovar” performed by a well-known dancer and ballet-master Mukarram Turgunbaeva is considered a choreographic poem. Created in 1943 in the heat of the World War II, this dance was seen basically by all nations of the world. Owing to the “Tanovar” ballet by Alexey Kozlovskiy, this traditional musical and choreographic cycle acquired new content and form and enriched the art of the outstanding ballerinas such as Bernara Karieva and Galiya Izmaylova. Choreographer and dancer Kunduz Mirkarimova staged seven version of “Tanovar” performed by the students of the Tashkent school of choreography (presently the Higher School of Traditional Dance and Choreography). The “Tanovar” theatre, under the leadership of Yulduz Ismatova, prepared a whole range of choreographic performances and theatrical programmes based on folk songs and dances and music of contemporary composers.

“Tanovar” is a rare artistic and aesthetic phenomenon closely connected to the past, present and future of domestic art; and comprehensive studies of this phenomenon is a relevant task for the scholars of art history. Academic research should regard “Tanovar” as a cycle, as folk art, and cover at the same time personal contribution of yallachi, singers (khofiz), dancers, choreographers, bastakors and composers. Specifying the cycle composition, it would be appropriate to dwell upon the argument of a hereditary bastakor musician H. Tukhtasinov who believes that it is based on a truly folk version called “Uvvoyi tanovar” (natural dance), Margilan version “Sumbula” and Fergana “Tanovar” with lyrics by Mukimi; all others are derivatives from them (7).

Throughout the 20th century the art of women – sozanda, khalfa and yallachi – was developing in two directions, both as traditional musical-choreographic art, and folk stage dance. As the folk stage dance developed and consolidated its dramaturgic and theatrical-entertaining basis, it became the one to dominate this particular art system. Women’s musical-choreographic art, having crowded out men’s dance and folk dancing, became all-national and provided basis for creating ballets and theatrical performances. Presently, women and men perform together, although their repertoire and performance style are different.

However, there is a risk that original men’s folk dance movements, positions and expressive means may disappear, not to mention men’s choreographic compositions. Attention in equal measure should be given to both women’s and men’s dances, namely folk and folk stage dances; everyone should care to preserve and develop the treasure that was created and brought to us by sozanda, khalfa and yallachi.

Literature
1. Троицкая А.Л. Из истории народного театра и цирка в Узбекистане// Советская этнография, 1948, №3, с.71 – 89.
2. Русский Туркестан, 1902, №168.
3. Рахманов Р. Узбекский театр с древнейших времен до 1917 года. Ташкент, 1981, с.204 .
4. См. Авдеева Л. Из истории узбекской национальной хореографии. Ташкент, 2001. С.251-254. В характеристике яллачи автор опирается на свидетельства знаменитого кизикчи и мастера танца Юсуфжана Исакарджана.
5. См. “Тошкент оішоми”, 1988, 24 сентябрь.
6. Сб. “Тановарлар”. Ташкент, 2003 /собран и подготовлен к изданию И.Ганиевой/.
7. См. “Тошкент окшоми”, 1988, 22 октября.

Mukhsin Kadirov

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