Tajik National Dances
Dancing girls in national costumes
Tajik national dances began to form in the early Middle Ages as flamboyant depictions of everyday tasks, significant life events and widely-held religious beliefs. Today in Tajikistan there are many different styles of dance which vary according to the region, occasion and the level of expertise of the performers.
Tajik dances are replete with hidden meaning that provide delightful glimpses into local customs, as every movement of the arms, legs, head, and torso is used to reflect various natural phenomena or everyday tasks. All of these calculated movements combine to transform the dance into a story with a plot which reveals the unique culture of Tajikistan.
Dance styles in Tajikistan vary according to the region and include Bukhara, Khujand, Kulob, Hissar, Karategin and Pamiri dances. Sometimes, the same dance will be performed with widely varying techniques in each region of the country. Due to these huge variations, dance schools in Karategin and Hissar have made an effort to preserve the original form of many regional dances.
Tajik dances may be categorized into circular and non-circular forms. In a circular Tajik dance, the participants form a ring to keep the rhythm and clap as one or two participants dance in the center, eventually being replaced by others from the circle. A non-circular dance is performed by one to three people, one of whom will step forward to present a lively performance.
Tajik dances also vary between male and female dances and those performed nearly exclusively by children, younger adults or the elderly. Tajik music usually accompanies the dances in the form of folk instruments such as the rubab, chang, dutar, karnay, sunray or doira, although ensembles with an accordion and a guitar also became commonplace in the 20th century. Regardless of the instrument, dances are often performed to the tune of inspiring ancient melodies, with phrases such as “Oho Yake” and “O Jakhe Jum Jahala” sung to maintain a rhythmic, cheerful mood.
History of Tajik Dance
For centuries, dances in Tajikistan have played a central role in preserving folk traditions and in brightening everyday life, helping to lift the audience’s mood through the imitation of animals or everyday tasks. So important was this role that professional dance troupes would be hired to perform at festivals and celebrations.
Just as research on the dance culture of the Tajiks began in the early 20th century, the art began to undergo major transformations. After joining the USSR in the 1920s, Tajikistan started to have regular contact with other cultures. As a result, Tajik folk dances were adapted to the laws of choreographic art and many dance ensembles were formed. Yet outside influences upon local culture also led to the loss of select traditional dances.
In the 1940s, the choreography of Tajik dances reached a new level when folk dances were incorporated into the first Tajik ballet, "Two Roses". Another important milestone for Tajik choreography was reached in 1965 when the Lola State Ensemble was organized. The name is a reference to the annual tulip festival called Sairee Lola Guli, which is always celebrated with colorful dances. Lola Ensemble consisted of young dancers from various choreography schools in Tajikistan, and in time these talented artists also created new forms of male, female, solo and group dances. Lola Ensemble was often invited to perform abroad, and they thus played a crucial role in popularizing Tajik dances on the international stage.
In 1978, a second dance ensemble called Zebo was established by Zebo Amin-Zade, a famous Tajik actress, dancer and choreographer known for creating new stage images. The all-female dance troupe helped to develop and enrich Tajik choreography, although they performed not only Tajik but also Iranian, Uzbek, Russian and Afghan traditional dances.
Types of Tajik Dance
A full list of Tajik national dances would be quite long and subdivided into male, female, folk, stage and ritual performances. Yet below is a description of some of the most popular dances which embody local culture:
The eagle dance is one of the oldest known dances in Tajik culture. True to its name, it is a reflection of local admiration for the mountain eagle. The dance is performed by both men and women, who imitate the flapping of eagles’ wings as they soar through the sky. Eagle dance has no restrictions or specified rules of performance and can often be seen as a spontaneous performance at parties and weddings.
In Chor-Zarb, which translates as "Four Rhythms", four girls perform solo dances to different rhythms before dancing together in the finale. Chor-Zarb includes an element of competition between the dancers as they each try to demonstrate the full extent of their skills.
Dance with a Musical Instrument
This is actually a group of dances which hold one key point in common: in each performance, the dancers act as though they are playing a certain musical instrument. Among them are raks bo doira (dance with a tambourine), raks bo dutor (dance with lute) and raks bo gidjak (dance with a gidzhak stringed instrument). Each dance can be performed by both men and women.
Girl with a Jug
Girl with a Jug is a beautiful dance in which a girl imitates a walk to a spring to fetch water. The first part of the dance is calm, as if the girl is walking towards the water, while the second part is filled with energy and joy, as the girl supposedly sees herself reflected in the spring. When the "jug" is full, the girl takes it and gently leaves.
Other unique Tajik dances include Dance with a Carpet, Dance of a Cook, Dance of a Weaver and dances depicting travel such as Dance with a Boat, Dance with a Horse and even the Camel Caravan Dance.
Much more could be said about Tajik national dances, but in order to truly immerse yourself in their beauty and contagious energy, we encourage you to visit Tajikistan to see it all with your own eyes!