Dance is once of the most ancient and popular kinds of folk art. It reflects people’s social and aesthetic ideals, the national character, history, customs and traditions. With dance, people create an image to which they aspire and which they assert in an emotional art form.
Folk dance is the basis of all choreography. It is no accident that our country today gives a lot of attention to folklore, as the current objective of modern society is to revive nation’s spiritual culture. Folk dance is a kind of an observable manifestation of the nation’s mind metaphorically reflected in the vivid originality of choreographic colours and in the uniqueness of its form and content.
Over the centuries the dancing culture of Khorezm evolved, refined itself and acquired its distinct perfect forms, bringing us aesthetic delight with its vivid expressivity, spontaneity, emotional freshness and openness and its temperament. Based on the existing clear forms of contemporary Khorezmian choreography one can track down the origination and development of Khorezmian dance.
Repertoire of contemporary masters of Khorezmian dance and Khorezmian maskharaboz still features dances and dancing pantomimes that originate from ancient rites, games, ritual imitative pantomimes and festival dances. It should be noted that the forms of contemporary Khorezmian dance preserved the peculiarities of ancient forms of dancing art, which is confirmed by archaeological and ethnographic materials and representational art. Therefore, identifying the structure and function of Khorezmian dances can help address the issue of genesis of dance as an art form.
Looking into the structure of a particular dance stratum helps to expose a system of images it contains and identify means with which a choreographic character is created.
Dance reflects the events and phenomena of reality, which in turn influence the structure of a piece; “…there is no ‘external’ in art, nothing that is not related to the ‘internal’, …therefore the spiritual element, the content and the internal directly depend on the essence of the ‘external’, material and formal through which it is expressed (1, p. 119). Thus, based on the structure of a choreographic piece, its composition, “vocabulary” and performance manner one can judge about perception, psychological type and the manner of metaphorical thinking of a nation. And through the imagery system of a choreographic piece one can also determine its function in people’s life.
Classification of Khorezmian choreography based on the structure/style method enabled identification of the following four types of Khorezmian dance:
- - subject/representational dances and dance pantomimes;
- - circus dances;
- - traditional/ritual dances;
- - classical dances.
The distinction was done following the principle of “peculiarity of artistic structure” (1, p. 409). This type-based distinction is justified and corresponds to one that traditionally existed among people. For instance, classical and traditional/ritual dances could correlate to the “serious” ones, while subject/representational dances, dance pantomimes and circus dances – to “funny” ones.
Differentiating Khorezmian folk dance in terms of its structure and choreographic logic, we move from simple to complex, from primitive to more developed forms…
One of the basic forms of Uzbek performance art is subject/representational dances and dance pantomimes imitating animals and birds, which were part of the repertoire of Khorezmian maskharaboz – performers of traditional theatre. The specificity of their artistic structure is syncretism – the combination of music, pantomime, dance, spoken word, singing and drama elements. Qualitative features and artistic devices of the genre are determined “from within” the art itself.
All dances and dance pantomimes of maskharaboz belong to the comic genre. It is a witty illustration to events, phenomena and characters communicated through comical means. Comic dances and dance pantomimes are further classified into jests, work-related and imitative (birds, animals).
Imitative dances and dance pantomimes performed until recently by Khorezmian maskharaboz could be attributed to a more ancient genre of dancing art, which is suggested by the fact the maskharaboz put on animal’s hides and used masks in the shape of animal’s muzzle, or simply scary masks made of goat’s fleece.
Among imitative dance pantomimes are “Kumpishik” (“Ground Squirrel”), “Echki uyin” (Goat’s Dance”), “Kaptar uyin” (“Pigeon’s Play”), “Pishak uyin” (Cat’s Dance”), “Huroz urishtirish” (“Roosters’ Fight”), “Kuchkor urishtirish” (“Rams’ Fight”), “Ghoz” (“Goose”), and “Makiyon” (“Quail”). Imitative dances include “Tustovuk uyin” (“Pheasants’ Dance”) and “Chagalok” (“Seagull”).
A popular dance called “Chagalok” represents a seagull hunting for fish. A headdress, chugurma, is thrown in the centre of a circle to represent a “fish”, and the dancer performs a seagull’s flight, jumping and whirling, spotting his prey and trying to seize it with his beak. There could be several failed attempts at catching the prey, and then the dancer made another one, inventing new options, keeping the audience in anticipation, wondering if he finally catches it… Suddenly, at the moment of culmination, he kneeled, bent backwards and caught the chugurma – “fish” with his teeth. Both the viewers and the performer were delighted of this agility and wit.
Perhaps the origin of imitative dances and dance pantomimes of Khorezmian maskharaboz is in the ancient cults of animals and birds, which, having become symbolic, were common among the people of Khorezm. In the art of dancing once can already notice its multiple functions. Pantomimes and dances had magical, educational and aesthetic functions. While illustrating movements and behaviour of animals and birds, imitative dances and dance pantomimes metaphorically, with humour and mock, exposed traits of human character such as cowardice, greed, cunning…
Among jest dances of maskharaboz are “Maskharaboz ufari”, “Ratalla”, “Zumlak”, “Bobojonim”, “Lazgi”, and comic dance pantomimes include “Polvon uyin” (“Wrestlers”) and “Purhon”.
Apart from jest and imitative dances, the comic genre also includes work-related dances. They expose human character and man’s professional qualities, and the names of the dances are self-explanatory: “Bilama” (“Shepherds”), “Balikchi uyin” (“Fisherman”)… Dance pantomimes such as “Chugurma tikish” (“Making chugurma”), “Sartarosh” (“Barber”), “Chippiradalli” (“Baker”), “Oshpaz” (“Cook”), and “Etikduz” (Shoemaker”) are performed by artists with intrinsic Khorezmian humour and remarkable keenness of observation. Every performer can improvise as he goes.
Circus dances of festive genre performed by maskharaboz include “Mashala” (dance with torches), “Ut uyin” (dance with fire), “Dorboz” (tie-rope dance), “Simdor” (dance on the wire), “Khuqqa uyin” (dance on stilts), “Pichok uyin” (dance with knives), and comic jest dances, namely “Magaldak”, “Togora uyin” (dance with platter), and “Kosa uyin” (dance with a bowl).
“Khuqqa uyin” is a rather complicated dance that requires great skill. Standing on two-meter high stilts the performer makes rhythmical movements, kicking his legs in different directions, while accompanying himself on the kayraks at the same time.
Traditional/ritual dances of festive and lyrical genres were performed during different festivals and entertaining events dedicated to a good hunting, harvesting, victorious battle, wedding or birth of a child.
Traditional/ritual dances are the most typical folklore specimens as they were created on the basis of established traditional dance structures. Ritual dances often lost their magical significance and became dances marking an everyday occurrence. Yet unlike ritual ones, “everyday” dances placed a special emphasis on improvisation and continuous artistic renewal. Meanwhile, the subject, eurhythmics and structure of a dance could remain the same. Still, the same movements could be filled with a different emotional content. Often people introduced new improvisational movements. The subject of an “everyday” dance could be either a traditional one, or created for a particular occasion.
Among festive traditional and “everyday” dances are “Lazgi”, “Norim-norim”, “Bartaul”, “Yuz bir”; and lyrical traditional and “everyday” dances include “Orazibon”, “Ushlini uforisi”, “Segani uforisi”, “Galalailim”, “Ei mehribonim”, and “Lazgi”.
“Lazgi” is the most representative of Khorezmian dancing art. It is not just a dance, but an entire system; it is always a festival, a festival for the soul. “Lazgi” can be festive, lyrical and comic. These types are distinct in the way of expressing emotions, feelings, perceptions and world-outlook of the performer. The dance opens with a slow singing introduction. A female dancer comes out, moving in a measured pace, and performs movements with her arms and hands adorned with zang. Suddenly she freezes in a static pose, capturing attention of the audience. Then, with a new musical phrase, the pose begins to “crumble”, and at the end of a figure a Khorezmian key starts to sound (a certain combination of movements), and the dancer freezes in another pose. With every new sound of a musical phrase the tempo is getting faster, every time ending with the “key”. The number of invariant movements in the dance is amazing; it seems that the performer, in front of the viewers, invents her own choreographic image. “Lazgi” leaves nobody indifferent. The dance is captivating in its vivacity, expressivity and life-asserting energy, causing elation of the viewers.
Gradually, professional dancing starts to evolve; the developed subject disappeared, and the content now becomes emotions and experiences expressed in a more generalized rather than illustrative movements. This is characteristic of the classical type of Khorezmian dance. In the East, including Uzbekistan, the term “classical dance” is used if it denotes dance companies which, by synthesizing dance and pantomime, can express the action content. Thus, to Khorezmian classical dance one can attribute “Makom-ufori” and “Ufori”, rhythmical parts of shashmakom. All of them belong to the lyrical genre. The dancers are professional artists able to perform a large number of well-practiced movements. They are capable of expressing a rich palette of human emotions and sentiments; their skill is in using harmonious body movements to communicate person’s inner world, that is, to create a dance character (2, p. 223).
Khorezmian dancing art is characterized: first, by the conservation of ancient forms of dancing art; second, by genre diversity; third, by the sustainability of folk dance traditions; and fourth, by a large number of the dancing art masters.
Dancing art in Khorezm stood the test of time; its forms, containing all the diversity of life, continue to live, evolve and be an inexhaustible source of cultural and aesthetic enrichment for people. The transition from amateur to professional art is particularly close in Khorezm (3, p. 16), where the latter features the heritage of folk art precious for its true content of images and themes. As life changes, dance changes too, and its viability depends on the extent to which it reflects psycho-eurhythmic intonation of its time.
Khorezmian dance is loved and danced in different regions of Uzbekistan. It is performed at large-scale national festivities and during family events. It is part of a compulsory curriculum of all art and culture schools in the country.
Dancing is a living art. It exists in the process of its reproduction. In other words, dance lives only when it is performed. Therefore, in choreography, the concept of conservation means development and popularization.
1. Каган М. С. Морфология искусства. Л., 1972.
2. Авдеева Л. А. Из истории узбекской национальной хореографии. Ташкент, 2001.
3. Каримова Р. З. Хорезмский танец. Ташкент, 1975.