The Origins of the Kazakh Dance Khara-Zhorgha
(based on research materials by People’s Artist of Kazakhstan Aubakir Ismailov)
“Living through the myths, we escape from the chronological time and enter the extent of a different quality of time,
The Sacred Time.”
Mircea Eliade, Aspects of Myth
The dance culture of the nomadic world has a history of several millennia. Though at first it was created as a religious ritual, with time dance acquired numerous features typical of everyday life, dividing into various areas of use and specific subgenres. Also, depending on the area, a specific dance acquired distinctive features unique to a particular place.
Kazakh nation has a spectacular diversity of dance variations including war dances, hunters’ dances, imitating dances (for example Burkhut-Khoyan dances), dances with stuffed animals or birds (Orteke-bi), Bakhsy dances, solo dances carrying unique signatures of a particular traditional performer, dances that include elements taken from other nations (Khalmakhsha Bi). Every dance is executed in a particular way depending on the area and specific place where it is performed. That is why Kazakh dance can be divided into several styles, different for every particular dance: Karaganda style, Dzhetysu style, West-Kazakh, and also Xindian-Uigur and Mongol styles of performing Kazakh dances.
One of the most popular dances that we would like to concentrate on, describing its history and origins, is Khara-Zhorgha.
Aubakir Ismailov wrote in his research notes: “Khara-Zhorgha is a dance that implements a variety of inflections and artistic devices. It combines bellicosity and buffoonery, tender lullaby and mobility, speed and calm grace.”
Khara-Zhorgha has many unofficial, folk names such as Zhorghalau and Zhorghany Yelikhteu. After prolonged search and observation including dialogues with eyewitnesses who saw Khara-Zhorgha performed live, Aubakir Ismailov noted several styles of performing this dance, significantly varying in different regions of Kazakhstan. There were such types of Khara-Zhorgha as Khos-Zhorgha and Yerkhekh-Zhorgha. In East Kazakhstan Khara-Zhorgha was performed as a pair dance not unlike Khyzalu-Khashu, and in Caspian region, according to Kherei Khodarov, Khara-Zhorgha was called Shaytankhokh. In addition, distinctive manner of performing this dance was noted in Altai region, in Sary-Sum, and also Tarbagatai.
Aubakir Ismailov made his first notes of this dance in 1928 based on descriptions made by Akhtai Mamanov, amateur theatre supervisor of Kazkomuny boarding school in Petropavlovsk. Aubakir Ismailov made some of his notes on certain elements of the dance observing traditional performer Dyusenbekh, known by his stage name Arkhasybar Duysenbekh, who executed this dance. This took place in aul №6 of Telman area, Karaganda province, which was also Aubakir Ismailov’s motherland.
The same year Aubakir Ismailov, along with his friend, painter A.Shegebekhov, performed Khara-Zhorgha on stage of Petropavlovsk cultural center. In his notes of this dance Aubakir Ismailov makes special mention of particular execution of this dance by such traditional performers as Bizhybai Isshakh (Zhetysu style of Khara-Zhorgha) and Doskei Alimbai.
In his research of this dance Aubakir Ismailov gives special attention to one significant circumstance that uncovers the roots of Khara-Zhorgha’s origins: “This dance was most often performed during the ritual of Shildekhana.” These words suggest complex, or even complicated, origin of this dance. Or, to be more accurate, its sacramental meaning.
Mircea Eliade, a culture expert, quotes representatives of some of the American Indian tribes in his book Aspects of Myth: “If we don’t know where the dance is coming from we won’t talk about it. If the origin of the dance is unknown to us, it cannot be performed.” These were words of a shaman from Nakh tribe. And, as if echoing his words, a dancer from Uitoto tribe tells us: “These are myths of our Father, these are his own words. They are present, and that is why we dance. And if he hadn’t given them to us, there would’ve been no dance at all.” .
The sacred quality of the Khara-Zhorgha dance cannot be questioned. It is possible that, while researching its roots, explaining the reasons of its appearance, deciphering the hidden meaning behind it, we can find at least the minimum of possibility to fathom the sacramental world of nomads that was lost in millennia, as well as the Sacred Time of The Beginnings. Through executing cosmogonical myths poets managed to return reality to its source, and a similar achievement could take place through performing a myth in a dance. That is exactly what Aubakir Ismailov highlighted in his notes, emphasizing the origins of dance, the symbols hidden in its depths.
Khara-Zhorgha dance is traditionally performed during the first initiation of a child. It is a time of the first Initiation into the World, society, and family. In nomadic world, this moment played one of the most important roles in a person’s life, which are initiation, religious ordination, and sepulchral rite. This is the time to renew the performance of the most significant myth of the Turkic people – the myth of the World Creation, the myth of Tengri.
“Every new birth is a symbolic reproduction of cosmogony of the mythical history of a tribe. The aim of this reproduction is to ritually administer the sacrament to a newborn, to make the baby part of the sacramental reality of the world and culture, and thus reaffirm its existence according to mythical paradigms. More than that, a newborn baby becomes part of a significant number of beginnings.” (Mircea Eliade)
The performance of Khara-Zhorgha in the most important period of a child’s life had several meanings. The first one was to make the child a part of the nomadic world: the child was introduced to a nomad’s way of life, always on a back of a horse. The tempo of the dance was created to represent the initial spirit of the reality of nomadic life. It established the general destination of the future life of the newborn – the forward direction, despite the obstacles, the direction of construction, optimism, and mobility. Other elements of Khara-Zhorgha include cleansing and protection, for both the child and guests who had come to participate.
To confirm what was said before, let us make a quotation of Mircea Eliade: “The term Kalusari, which means “magical dance”, on a linguistic level dates back to the Roman “cal” – “a horse” – and the rhythms, melodies, and motions are suggestive of a cleansing rite of clandestine societies. And a horse, as well as a bird, is a mediator between worlds, a sepulchral animal.”
Any mystical experience is always supported by substantial reality, and the sacramental quality of the Khara-Zhorgha dance that, aside from the cosmogonic and cleansing meaning, is a symbol of protection still carries some everyday, social distinctive features of Kazakh nation. That is exactly why Aubakir Ismailov, in his observations of Khara-Zhorgha dance’s performance, especially emphasizes the manner of executing this dance: “Khara-Zhorgha is a dance of a Dzhigit horseman, someone familiar with the master’s skill of horse riding. It depicts cheerful, perky mood of a horseman with all of his habits and mannerisms. The dance has a buoyant, joyous, galloping, reckless character.
As a result of enormous semantic and symbolic meaning, the Khara-Zhorgha dance, over a very prolonged period of time, was distinctly popular, and was frequently performed by common people, acquiring new special features and styles.
We would like to highlight the execution of this dance by such performers as Bizhybai Isshak, and Doskhei Alimbai. Also, in 1936, during the Moscow festival of folk dance, Khara-Zhorgha was performed by H.Sarsembayev, M.Utegenov, and Bolshakhbayev.
In 1934 Aubakir Ismailov directed Khara-Zhorgha dance for the acting group of GITIS, and in 1939 this dance appeared in the repertoire of the State Philarmony Folk Dance Ensemble, also directed by Aubakir Ismailov.
Some elements of the Khara-Zhorgha dance were used in production of Aiman-Sholpan performance in the ballet version directed by Ali Ardobus and Aubakir Ismailov. We should emphasize particular manner of performing this dance in the production of ballet master Ali Ardobus who enriched the Khara-Zhorgha dance with new elements.
In 1943 Kazakh Dance Suite was put on stage of Theatre of Opera and Ballet named after Abai, and Khara-Zhorgha was part of this performance, also produced by Aubakir Ismailov.
In 1959 Khara-Zhorgha dance bewitched all of the spectators of an exhibition of achievements in Montreal, charming them with its rhythm, special mood and marvelous energies.
A professional record of Khara-Zhorgha dance was recreated by Aubakir Ismailov in co-authorship with Dauren Abirov in their joint work on Kazakh national dances in 1961.
Some of the types of accompanying music for Khara-Zhorgha dance should also be mentioned. Aside from the generally used tune, the dance can be performed to Bozaygyr. Also, as mentioned in Aubakir Ismailov’s research, there was another musical variation of the traditional Khara-Zhorgha tune, used by a traditional performer Bizhybai Isshak in his execution of the dance.
We’ll finish this small research essay on Khara-Zhorgha dance with words of Aubakir Ismailov: “In Kazakh national epics and legends there are direct mentions of different dances. But many various reasons – religious, social, many centuries of difficult life of the Kazakh nation, barbarous treatment of the Kazakh culture from colonizers and feudal lords – contributed in oblivion of the wonderful, buoyant art of Kazakh dance … but nevertheless many dances with their variations in style of performance, depending on the regions of Kazakhstan where their execution is different, original, distinctive, survived till our time.”
среда, 20 июля 2011 г.
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