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.
UZBEK & TAJIK DANCE
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.
UYGHUR DANCE & MUSIC
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.
MUSIC AND INSTRUMENTS
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."
TAJIK TEAPOT DANCE