English Russiаn

Dances of Armenia

Great Komitas once said "Dance reflects the power of each nation's civilization>>. Dance had a special meaning in the nation's life since its origin. Based on the whole system of their ancestors' dance movements, the Armenian people formed their own dance, which developed over the centuries, supplemented and even got rid of unnecessary outmoded forms. Developing little by little, Armenian dance became a reflection of the Armenian character and spiritual strength.

At the very beginning of dance origin, with the help of it, people worshiped totem deities, spirits, and gods. At the same time, in mystical dances and rituals, people expressed their desire to change nature. Then, through theatrical dances, people started to pass on stories, epics, and traditions to their tribes and then to the nations of the next generation. The dances, with the help of which tribes living in the Armenian Highland and then the Armenians showed themselves, had also ritual character and were devoted to pagan gods. This kind of dance was performed during rituals and was devoted to different gods.

The main Armenian dances are springy movements. Even here, there is a lot of variety in how many springy movements are performed during one move, and also, these movements are performed sharply and deeply, or smoothly.

 By the performance type, dances are divided into three large groups — dances accompanied by songs, dances that were accompanied by folk instruments, and finally, dances with a combination of the first two. The meaning of dance in people's lives is indicated by the diversity of Armenian dances that reached us, taking into account that most of them were lost. Dancing was a part of many events in people's lives. According to the content, dances were divided into the following groups: mythical, epical, lyrical, religious, street dances, rope-walker dances, ritual, workers dances, combat, children dances, etc. Different natural conditions left their mark on dance. And of course, one cannot fail to mention such an important attribute of the Armenian dance as the national costume - taraz. These costumes differed from each other and characterized the region, to which dance belonged.
Depending on what the dances were devoted to, they were performed outdoors, or indoors. Outdoors dances were performed during religious events, such as Vardavar, Trndzes and so on. People danced in the places of pilgrimage, too. Every village and town had special allotted squares, where people danced during feasts.

Outdoors, there were also funeral dances performed.

Each dance had its own meaning. So, during weddings, through the whole way to the church, some dances were performed in order to withdraw evil.
Before, dances, theatrical performances and games were systematized, and according to the performance time, they had certain rules. Only at the beginning of the XX century, several dances were performed not ritually, at any time and in any place.
Except, time and place rules, there was also a rule for the dance sequence.

By the number of performers, Armenian dances are divided into collective, group, pair, and solo dances.
In collective dances, an unlimited number of people could participate at the same. Depending on the meaning and content of dance, collective dances could be danced separately or together by married and unmarried men, women, teens, and kids. Group dances were harder, only a limited number of people could dance. Also, collective and group dances differed from each other with the way of holding hands during a dance- with the little finger, hands, crossed hands, shoulders, or they held on to the waist.

A bright example of collective dance is "GYOVEND'' (ball in grapar). This dance symbolizes the continuity and unity of the community. This was danced only in a closed circle, and the thing was that they shouldn't let evil to enter the community.

Dance's movement- 2 steps to the right, 1 step to the left.  The movement to the right brings luck, the movement to the left- failure. 2 steps to the right and a step to the left symbolize the changeability of life. In many Armenian collective and group dances, there is a movement to the right side. But, as the whole life of Armenians is showed in the dance, therefore, there are dances that express the difficulties of life. These dances are the ones with a movement to the left side. This kind of dance was performed during burials. There were also dances, the movement of which was directed to the left side, they were intended to perpetuate the memory of ancestors, and also, in some cases, the movements to the left side were related to combat dances, which were directed to the enemy.

Armenian combat (warlike) dances stand out with beauty and greatness.
The majestic combat Armenian dance is a work of art, which reflects the courage and unshakable freedom of the Armenian nation. These combat dances go back to the depth of centuries. So, Movses Khorenatsi mentioned combat dances when he told about Artashes I burial( II century BC). More than 300 pure male dances, which reflected confrontation, have reached our days. These were danced before and after victories in the battles. Sometimes, with the help of combat dances and theatrical performances, people told about war. Armenian martial dance is combatant, if it is danced by an order, it is the army, and if they are standing against each other, these are two withstanding armies. During the dance, these arrays are destroyed and again built, attack and retreat, beat hand to hand, creating battle scenes. All combat dances are performed at a fast pace.
In addition, combat dances had also practical meaning- they were used for the physical development of young people. With the help of this dance, they developed agility, stability, and other qualities, which are necessary for the warrior.

Other famous Armenian dances are  berdapars (fortress-dances), which represent scenes of the siege and capture of the fortress, dances of attack and retreats, dance-fighting with weapons, pair dances, representing duel, dancing and clapping (ծափ-պարեր), such as Yarhushta, where movements are focused on beating each other with hands.

Combat dances were especially common in historical Armenia's region of Sasun, which is known for its impregnable nature. There's no wonder because Sasun is the birthplace for David of Sassoun- the hero of the Armenian epic. Seeing the dance of Sasunians, Maxims Gorky said "The dances of Sasunians don't amaze with the complexity and diversity of the figures, they don’t even seek for it. There is something completely different in them - something greater and deeper... of course, there is probably some hidden symbolism in this ancient dance, but I couldn't figure out that this is perhaps the victorious dance of the warriors ..."