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       Please out of respect for traditional dance of Central Asian peoples, we ask that these facts about Central Asian dance be for information only and not to be misrepresented by night club or show-off dancing but only to be further studied to be possibly eventually performed by very serious folk and ethnic dancers in a respectful egoless manner. No part of this copyrighted material which is drawn from publications by Eastern Arts may be used in any way without written permission from Eastern Arts, Thank you.


       In this section we take a more or less comparative view of dance in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and East Turkistan in western China. These are locations forming part of the area known as Central Asia. This part of the world has been directly effected and influenced by the greatest world conquerors including; Persians, Moslem Arabs, Mongols, Turks and Russians. So we see here a crossroads, a link with Europeans and Asians. But the invasions of these areas have not prevented original inhabitants from rising above and maintaining their own personalities. Thus, we find in each area some similarities and some differences. We can easily detect the influence of Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Arab and Persian cultures combined in the music and dance of these areas, plus the added traditions indigenous to the native people.
       Central Asian dance could be divided into the following basic categories: Uzbek, Tajik, Sin Jiang or Uyghur, Turkoman and Kirghiz. Uzbek is divided into: Fergana, Bokhara and Khorazm. The cities of Kashgar and Yarkand in Sin Jiang or Chinese Turkestan represent the farthest east sector of the former Persian empire. These cities on the opposite side of the Fergana valley from Samarkand and Bokhara. Thus, the dance forms which have been preserved among the Tajik and Uyghur ethnic minorities of Sin Jiang likely reflect aspects of ancient Persian forms. The proximity of this area to Kashmir also intimates influence from India as well.
       Formerly, public dancing in Central Asia, as in other areas of the Islamic world, was not considered a respectable activity for women. However, dancing at parties attended by family members, and then only after being coaxed, was acceptable. But for a woman to dance before male audiences was absolutely forbidden. In spite of this interdiction, the Mogul rulers were fond of being entertained by highly skilled musicians, dancers and poets. It was the Mogul rulers who built the fabled cities of Samarkand and Bokhara and more. Dancers in the courts of the khans may not have been highly regarded by the local Islamic clergy, but a skilled artist attached to the entourage of a potentate would have been awarded considerable respect at court. Whatever the ancient art of dance may have been in Central Asia, it is logical that the general vocabulary of hand, arm, foot movements and facial expressions has not changed radically over the centuries.


       As for Uzbek dance types, the Fergana style, for instance, contains a vast vocabulary of delicate and fluid arm movements, smoothly flowing from one position to the next. The poetic movements represent activities of daily life such as combing the hair, sewing, gathering silk thread, picking cotton, picking fruit, washing clothes, drawing water, serving tea, and more. For Uzbek dance, the performer may wear a long gown and decorative crown, to the back of which is fastened a scarf gathered and slightly fanned at the top. Hair is usually done in long braids below waist length. Recently, character shoes have replaced colorful slippers or bare feet. The traditional elegant and sumptuous robes, the adornment of silver jewelry and precious stones has given way to lighter costuming using countless sequins. Formerly, the code of modesty observed by women resulted in loose-fitting garments which have now been tightened up to more clearly show the form. For the Khwarazm dance of north-west Uzbekistan, the costume is a light silk dress with full skirt and narrow sleeves ruffled at the wrist. Silk trousers are worn and a robe decorated with appliqués, brocade and sequins set off by a brocade belt often decorated with metal filigree and an ornate buckle with pendants. The cap is pillbox shape adorned with pendants which hang in front of the forehead to which is added a feather or plume sticking up on one side. Tiny bells are attached to wrist bands and jewelry consists of the elegant traditional large necklace and earrings. The typical long black braids are a must with yellow, red and black threads sometimes braided in along with jeweled ornaments.
       Tajikistan was known for it's virtuoso dancers and dance schools from past centuries. Amazingly fast hand and arm movements characterize solo women’s dance. The dancer may even travel across the floor on her knees. There are two types of Tajik women's dance, that which portrays daily activities and that, which expresses love, separation and inner emotions. Men's dances could be categorized as war dance, performed with a sword or dagger, and comic dance in which props such as a scarf, large platter, pitcher, knives or spoons are used. During the spring in Tajikistan the tulip plays a significant role, as in Afghanistan where festivals and outdoor picnics called mela are associated with the tulip or lola, especially common among the north Afghan Ozbaki ethnic minority. Dance accompanied the planting of tulips with the singing and dance centered around a tree adorned with tulips. The concept of the spring celebration and the red flower has been handed down from pre-Islamic cults of ancient Persia. The theme goes back to the Middle Persian passion play Ayadgar i Zareran (Memorial of Zarer), and in the cult also of Siyavash. The Parthian tale of Zarer was sung by the gosan (minstrels) long before it found it's way into written records. As for Siyavash, the well-known story is found in Ferdosi's Shah-Nameh and in historical writings. According to Narshakhi in History of Bokhara, the Siyavash tradition had been passed down to his time, the tenth century. Every year Zoroastrians went to Diz Ru'in near Bokhara where Siyavash came to Khwarazmia some 92 years after the city was built which they claimed was 980 years prior to Alexander the Great. Siyavash legends are not without basis in archaeology. The ruins of the Sogdian city of Panjikent in Transoxiana near Samarkand have revealed wall paintings depicting both mortal and heavenly mourners including Mithra and Anahita or Nana at the funeral bier of a young prince who has been identified as Siyavash. The Persian drama, Ta'zieh depicts the martyrdom of Hossein in early Shia Islamic history and is reminiscent of former Persian supernatural martyr heroes. It would be interesting to note that the decorative motif of Martyr’s Square in post revolutionary Tehran is the tulip, the symbol of martyrdom and resurrection from ancient times to the present. That is why spring festivals, as the ancient celebrations of resurrection, would center around the tulip.


       The far eastern part of Central Asia, the Sin Jiang province of western China, we find dance forms similar to Uzbek and Tajik. Since ancient times in China, ethnic minorities such as the Uyghur, Mongol and Miao have been respected for their skills in the art of dance and music. Uyghurs today refer to this area as East Turkistan. As far back as the 21st century B.C., tribal dances from border regions were witnessed at the court of the emperor. "The Music from Distant Regions" became a common facet of the palace artistic activities through the centuries. In the Record of the Western China Regions of the Great Tang, the kingdom of Kustana, now Khotan, was an area where people were fond of music and dance. The Uyghurs of Sin Jiang perform the 12 traditional makam handed down over the centuries. These are song and dance compositions that include some 340 pieces which encompass musical improvisations, both sung and recited vocal, pieces, folk narrative suites and dances. The makamat (plural for makam) and their melodic sequences were compiled over the years and have been attributed to various authors. Yuzihar Makam is attributed to Abu Naser Farabi, Iraq Makam and Gobi Makam to Molana Yili, two sections of the Ajem Makam to Abdur-Rahman Jami (d. 1481), and the Nawai Makam to Yilikheir Nawayi. The makam music and dance system is at least 500 years old, and according to Uyghur sources, the 12 makamat are more than 1,300 years old. The Tulan Makam or Daolang Makam, tulan meaning "crowd" in ancient Uyghur, is popular in the southern area of Sin Jiang province. This piece is characterized by a free-rhythm vocal solo followed by a slow rhythmic unison song accompanying a dance in pairs characterizes this piece. Following is a faster couple dance in which dancers spin as they move forward followed by a vivacious circle dance by all participants. The fifth section is faster with dancers circling around wildly whirling, twirling into a spin in the spirit of the Afghan atan.
       Other than the makam dances are the Sama dance and the frame drum dance. Uyghur women's dance of Sin Jiang is characterized by its graceful poses, it's vocabulary of delicate hand movements and it's girlish charm and mime. One typical Uyghur women's dance is called "Picking Grapes". The costume is often a flared dress over straight pants with embroidered cuffs which reach to below the tops of gold slippers or character shoes. A black embroidered or brocaded vest and an intricately worked crown worn over six long braids is also common.
       In the Ten books of Music that were edited during the Zhenguan era (637-642 A.D.), two of the books were Bokhara Music and Samarkand Music. Samarkand music was associated with the dervish dance characterized by whirling as described in the Tang poem by Bai Juyi (772-840 A.D.), called "The Whirling Hu Girl". Hu refers to the Uyghur people. According to the poem the dancer "raised both arms at the sound of the strings and drums, gyrating in a frenzied dance like flurrying snow. TirelesslWall paintings of the Magao Caves in DunHuang depict music and dance in Cavern no. 220, which houses the scene called "The Physician from the East Changes the Whole Earth", painted in 642 A.D. Four women dancers on small round mats, each in a different posture, are encompassed by long flying streamer scarves which flow from above their heads to where the shawls curl up near the feet. The flying streamer motif is common in Persian miniature painting as well as Chinese painting and Chinese and Korean traditional dance. Music and folkdance of the Uyghurs has maintained a spirited traditional style and can be witnessed in beautiful sweeping arm movements and graceful twirls, lovely staccato hand accents and head movements. The footwork is primarily small, with feet close together. There are some interpretive gestures which are employed and include picking of grapes or flowers, washing hair in a stream, listening to the sound of a bird, carrying baskets of grapes or flowers, walking through a forest and carefully skipping over a stream and many many others.


       Uzbek, Tajik and Sin Jiang dance is usually accompanied by a fast 6/8 beat played on a large frame drum called doira, 4/4 meter is also used at times. One fast 4/4 pattern common in Sin Jiang appears to be the ancestor of the cifte telli pattern found in Turkish and Arab music as a background for improvised free-rhythm instrumental solos almost ignoring the beat. In Cnetral Asian dance, a male doira player often follows the dancer about on the stage as the two interact. Music used for the Khorazm style of Uzbek dance is usually played on tar, kamancha and doira. Other instruments used in Central Asian musical ensembles are the chang, which is a smaller replica of the Chinese version of the Persian santur; the tambur, which is a long-necked lute similar to the Afghan dutar of Herat but without sympathetic strings; and the rebab which has a skin-covered soundbox that is not long and deep like the Afghan rebab, but has a round soundbox and no sympathetic strings. Former traditional old Uzbek music was termed shash maqam, or 6 modal systems, which consisted of slow almost free-rhythm melodies performed in instrumental unison similar to the old Ottoman Turkish tradition The Uyghurs, as the Persians, have 12 modes which they call oniki makam. In Tajikistan, as in Afghanistan, the chaikhana or teahouse, is the gathering place for instrumentalists who congregate for informal "jam sessions."

                       UZBEK DANCE                                                                    TAJIK DANCE

                                           TAJIK TEAPOT DANCE                                       UYGHUR DANCE

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