Strength and grace, beauty and history - in all shapes and forms, Kyrgyz people love to dance.
At the end of this article is a video of a girl performing a solo version of a Kyrgyz dance. I sat down to talk with her the other day to ask about the history and symbolism of the movements in traditional Kyrgyz dances.
In general, Kyrgyz dances are performed in an ensemble, with the movements for each dance choreographed to depict a scene or story. The dances are very symbolic, highlighting values of strength, bravery, beauty, and flexibility. They are often descriptive, showing actions of daily life that are attributed to the nomadic culture and lifestyle: horse riding, fighting, moving from place to place, or producing felt.
Dances are also created in response to new musical compositions. One example is a piece that was composed for a poem by Chingiz Aitmatov, a Kyrgyz writer. The poem can be found in English translations under the name The Day Lasts More Than 100 Years. The musical piece is challenging for choreographers and dancers, as it portrays heavy emotions with irregular rhythms and dark tones. But it is a strong example of the Kyrgyz culture in its endurance and resilience despite hardship.
Kyrgyz dancers are first trained in the foundational basics of dance performance: strong posture techniques along with the classic positions for feet and arm placement. In learning these aspects, the dancers also develop strong discipline for learning and continuing the art. Traditional movements are not complex, but require strength, agility, grace, and endurance. The dancers must learn to be precise in their timing, to highlight the scenes of unity and teamwork.
The dances seen in Kyrgyzstan are in constant flux. A single dance has a lifetime of about 2 years, before it has been performed so much that everyone has seen it. Modern movements and costume adjustments are continuously added, gently allowing for the evolution of Kyrgyz culture to reflect in the motions, ideas, and styles of the dances.
In the video below, the dancer is showcasing a traditional bride’s outfit, all white, with a long veil coming from the cap. The ruffled flounce of the skirt, embroidered vest, and wide sleeves are typical in Kyrgyz dance outfits. Long strings of beads on the sides of the hat accentuate the girls features, and are typically reserved for brides.
Competitors from Turkey, Korea, Japan, and all-across Central Asia take part in the archery challenges. Among the rules, all bows must be traditional and made from natural elements.
A lesser known but captivating event is the competition of hunting dogs. Primarily, the dogs are judged on their agility, and the speed with which they cover a distance of 350m while chasing the dummy of a hare or fox.
Central to the nomad tradition is the dependence on horses for much of their livelihood. Horses are therefore a focal point during the games, with multiple racing events, performances, and polo-like games attracting large crowds.
DvD Dance | KG Бий | Aidai Asanbekova | Talas City
The dance in this video is called "Jailoodo", and was originally choreographed for an ensemble. It describes a scene of women coming together in the process of creating felt. Felt-making usually occurs during the summer, while families are in the mountains on Jailoo. The women gather and work together to wash, roll, beat, and paint the wool. The dance depicts these movements, including the final display of their beautiful handiwork. Video by David Malana.
Aidai was a member of an award-winning dance ensemble in Talas, and has traveled both locally and internationally to share her Kyrgyz heritage and culture through a passion for dance. Her favorite movements came from a dance that she created, and blend a little more modernity with traditionalism as the dancers depict the flexibility and beauty of a Kyrgyz woman.
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