History of the Uzbek dance: the beauty in movement

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Dance is a poem, where each movement is a word. Mata Hari

The traditions of the Uzbek dance art began to arise already in the ancient times as a part of ceremonial and ritual actions, which were devoted to the holidays, the harvest gathering and the religious customs. Yet in the Middle Ages dance was an inseparable part of the oriental culture. Till present days it has been representing the beauty of the Uzbek nation.

The first dancing motives
The abovementioned is proven by the archeological findings that have come to us from the ancient times, the artifacts, the wall paintings of castles and the pieces of the unique miniature art of the Middle Ages (the 2nd-6th centuries’ depictions of dancing women and men in the wall paintings of Toprak kala (Kara-Kalpak); the 5th century rock painting “A dancing woman” in the Chelak village near Samarkand; the 7th century religious ritual dance engraved in the rock in Yakkabog (the Kashkadarya district); the miniature of Mahmud Muzahhib «The dancers» and the series of miniatures of Kamoliddin Bekhzod, a painter of the 15th-16th centuries’ Bukhara school, the dancers names in the literary works of Alisher Navoi (the 15th century) and so on).

The development of the dancing art
In the beginning of the 20th century the Uzbek dance began to form a mass art.
In 1923, there was created a concert band of the young performers, in 1926 there appeared the First State Mobile ethnographic team, which consisted of famous musicians and the young dancer Tamara Khanum.
In 1936, there was created the first song and dance company (the choreographers, Usta Alim Kamilov, L. Petrosova, E. Baranovskiy, Mukarrama Turgunbayeva), in 1956 «Бахор»ensemble was established (now known as “Uzbekistan”). The ensemble has contributed a lot into the development of the Uzbek classical and folk dance.
In 1957, Mukarrama Turgunbayeva created “Bakhor” ensemble and headed it till the end of her life. “Bakhor” ensemble has acquainted the whole world with the Uzbek dance. Later «Shodlik» ensemble was headed by K. Mirkarimova, R. Sharipova, M. Irgasheva, and Yu. Ismatova.
In 1958, «Lazgi» ensemble was created.

The philosophy and the forms of the Uzbek dance
The Uzbek national dance has come to our days in two forms: the traditional classical dance and the folk (folklore) dance. The classical dance is presented by Fergana («Kagga Uyin») Bukhara («Makoma dance»), Khorezm («Ufori makoma») schools. The folk dance is very diverse. These are joyful, lyrical, dramatic dances with their own regional distinctions. The biggest amount of the folk dances has preserved in the mountainous regions.
The Uzbek dance is very expressive; the hand movements and the bright facial mimics prevail in it. At times it is even compared to a pantomime. Dance philosophy consists in the feelings’ expression – in joy, sorrow and, certainly, love. Before the dance begins, the Uzbek dancers traditionally press palm to their breast, then stretch hands towards the sky as though they are saying that everything comes from the heart.

Khorezm dance school
Khorezm dance school is distinguished in the originality of movements and expressions. Many dances are based on the fauna imitation – these are doves, souslik, goat, cat dance; cock and sheep fight; pheasants, goose, quail and seagull dance. The dancers even manage to imitate the animals’ sounds.
Many dance elements of this region are connected to the circus art, where the most skillful masters dance with fire, knives or on the rope.
The most expressive and famous Khorezm dances are considered to be «Lyazgi», «Dance on the plate» and «Dance of the broken fingers ».
The last one is connected with the ancient legend about the king’s concubine, which one day fell down and broke hands’ fingers. In order not to upset her lovely one, she danced without her fingers’ unbending. The king stayed very pleased, as he thought that girl’s strange movements were a new dance. Now this is one of the most popular Khorezm dancing styles.
Also Khorezm school has satirical dances, which tell about professions (the dance of a fisherman, a baker, a barber, a cooker, of the shepherds). In these dances not the professions, but separate persons are laughed at.
The dancing costumes are also distinguishing. An inseparable part of Khorezm man’s dancing costume is a rough fur cap – papakha, and the woman’s headwear on its turn is very elegant. The dancers’ costumes are decorated by multifold coins.