Supposedly, “Ishkhanats Par” belonged to holy dances. There have been listed three variants of the dance, those danced by the Armenians in Hayots Dzor, Shatakh and in the surroundings of lake Kaputan (Urmia).

The one danced in Hayots Dzor is called “Sheykheri”, “Shekhani”, which was also a martial dance. It was too difficult to perform, that’s why only few, young people mainly performed it. The spiritual leader of Kurds was called a Shekh. This, too, proves the holy nature of the dance.

The princes, the lords and powerful people stood in front of the dance line and made donations to the drum and zurna players. Sometimes the poor also danced. The Armenians played “Shekhani” during the pilgrimages, at the churches in Van, Timar, Berkri in all celebrations and weddings.

The musical measure of Shekhani is 2/4. This measure is typical of martial dances. The dancers make a line which is never arched. 12-15 people, side by side, move either forward or backward. They stand side by side, a bit away from each other, with lowered hands, without bending the ankles, the handhold by little fingers, the right hand over the left.

The name of “Sheykhani Shivhalani” popular in Shatakh, can’t be properly interpreted by anyone. But everybody claimed that the first two parts of the dance which were performed slowly, were called “Sheykhani”(8 bars at 4/4 rhythm), the third and fourth more lively parts were called “Shivhalani” (13 bars at 4/4 rhythm). We can suppose that “Shivhalani” is connected with mourning and memory: there are leftward and backward steps. But this association must have been forgotten, as there are many joyful jumps in it.

In all its variants they stand holding hands by little fingers. The ankles are bent on the level of waist and the palms are stretched forward.

The third variant is “Sheykhane” danced in Parskahayq. This, too, is interpreted as “dance of lords”. We can suppose that this variant too belongs to holyl dances.

“Ishkhanats Par” is a very solemn and noble dance, technically one of the most complex dances in Armenian dance art. The musical measure of “Sheykhane” is 4/4. They hold hands with crossed palms, the left hand over the right, The dancers stand in a line which is never arched. The line moves forward, then comes back and making a turn at 90 degrees, moves to the right and turns back. During the movements on the spot the ankles are bent raising the palms on the breast level, during the movement to the right they are raised on the waist level. The music and the dance become more lively.

DANCE OF LORDS

The martial play-dance “Yarkhushta” belongs to the class of clap dances and stands out with its unique structure, its playful, musical and folkloric texts and the colorful style of its performance. Clap dances are a type of Armenian martial dances which are characterized by claps of facing couples. These claps imitate the passage of arms. Among Armenian martial clap dances are “Kharzani Yarkhushta” or “Taq Yarkhushta”, “Slivani Yarkhushta”, “Machino”, “Mndo”, “Hala Kshta”, “De bjhan bjhan”.

We distinguish two kinds of clap dances according to the way the claps are performed: claps with one hand and claps with both hands. One-hand claps describe a situation when one of the parties attacks and the other defends himself. In case of both-hand claps, both parts are attackers, they both attack, fight and defend at the same time.

The martial play-dance “Yarkhushta” was popular in Sasun. The name of the dance had different interpretations, among which is the one which says it means “comrade-in-arms”. “Yar” is a Persian word which means “beloved, friend”, and “khysht, khshtik” mean “a short spear, weapon”. The terms “play” and “dance” are synonyms. “Yarkhushta” is a kind of game which represents something between a game and a dance or the process of passing from one to another. This martial game is characterized by dramatized pantomimic dialogues between individuals and groups, duels, competitions, fighting game, competitive spirit, the presence of winning and losing parts.

The players were divided into two groups. Three claps of the warriors declared the start of the game, after which they attacked each other in a direct line, clapped three times and withdrew. All this was performed very rhythmically, accompanied by singing and dancing. This rhythmic game continued until one of the sides felt defeated.

Those who played “Yarkhushta”, used to wear military clothes and a dagger.

In time, the playful elements of Yarkhushta movements have given way to their dancing nature. Dancers are arranged in a circle, which at times is dissembled and rearranged into two parallel facing lines. These two lines approach each other, as if attacking each other, collide with claps and retreat. The lines are dissembled dancing and rearrange into a circle. The main structure of the dance is like this: a circle - two lines - a circle. The sequence of these arrangements seems to symbolize the notion of universal infinity. The main steps of “Yarkhushta” are interrupted by claps of facing rivals hitting the ground with one knee. The dance forms follow each other in the sequence typical of traditional dance. But free improvisation is also present, especially in round dance. The dancers can make turns, clap, lower their hands, change their position before rearranging into the next line. This is the part of the dance when the warriors as if prepare for the attack. It starts after the lines are dissembled.

According to the composer Spiridon Meliqyan, the musical measure of “Yarkhushta” is 2/4. It starts in a moderate tempo and gradually becomes faster. In the old, “Yarkhushta” used to be performed accompanied by a song. The text of the song is very short, and it keeps repeating:

Tosilbano, tosilban,

Tosilbano, tosilban

The meaning of the words is unknown. Probably it symbolizes an appeal for war. The performance of the dance was accompanied by drum and zurna, which has enriched the folk music and made the dance complete.

“Yarkhushta” is one of those unique, traditional dances, which has undergone little changes. It is popular also in scenic dance art. In 1930- ies it was staged by Srbouhi Lisitsyan and Vahram Aristakesyan.

YARKHUSHTA

Rostam Bazi is one of Armenian martial dances. Martial dances used to be considered sacred, and great importance was attached to their performance. The dances were performed before the battles, to raise the warriors’ martial spirit and battle training, sometimes also to foretell the battle’s successful or unsuccessful outcome through imitative actions. The dance was performed also when celebrating victories and during funeral rites, especially if the dead had been a military man. Its performance in folk celebrations had a special ritual purpose: to provide welfare for the newly-weds and the community, to successfully overstep the line between the old and the new. People called the martial dances “fighting games”. The army dances used to be called “Parq Banakats” (army dances). The military plot and separate dances bore resemblance to mythological and epic performances. All the nations and tribes used to dramatize battle and duel scenes. This kind of performances were done also by Armenian ancestors, later the Armenian nation. Supposedly, the initial variant of the dance Rostam Bazi used to be devoted to Vahagn, the God of War. Martial dances, competitions and games played an important role in the physical education of young people. Due to it, martial dances were involved in the soldiers’ physical training. This conditioned its popularity with the people. Later domestic elements were added into the dance and developed along with their cult significance.

Up to this day martial dances have not lost their variety, the ardent nature of their movements, jumps, attacks and their pantomimic expressiveness.

“Rostam Bazi” was popular in Parskahayq, the surroundings of Lake Kaputan (Urmia). Rostam is the name of the famous epic hero of the Persian writer Firdusi, who was a symbol of bravery and heroism. And “bazi” means “game”. So the dance can be interpreted as “Game of the Brave”.

Though martial dances are generally linear dances, being of two types: one linear and two linear, “Rostam Bazi” is one of the rare martial dances which is performed as a round dance. The music count is ¾ though with mixed accentuation. The main direction of the movements is to the right which implies its positive and triumphant nature. The steps are a bit rounded and arched, which is typical of Persian Armenians’ dance art. The count of steps is seven, which, too, has a positive implication. The first two counts are movements with the left foot on the spot, the third is a movement to the left which seem to aim at breaking off the previous misfortunes in the battles and prepares for a victory in the coming battle. During the next three counts the body with a slight right turn makes a sharp movement to the right. On the count seven the body regains its initial position, completing the step with a high jump, as if recording a victory.

Presumably, this dance is a relic of pagan times. The form of the dance which reminds a sun disc, testifies it. According to some records, the dance used to be performed with small daggers or torches which were later left out.

ROSTAM BAZI

Shavali is an old Karno swaying song-dance. In different parts of Karno region there are many dances which are performed to this music. Though the most widespread “Shavali” in Karno region is the one at the 6/8 tempo, some kinds of the dance are performed to the music at the 10/16 tempo. Some people call the dance “Shavali”.

This dance used to be a part of wedding dance and is still remembered as a “must” wedding dance. Some think that “Shavali” is only a wedding dance. It is also referred to as a dance of in-laws. Two lines of the song, still preserved in people’s memory, run as this:

Dear in-law, I’ve learnt a dance,

Two steps forward and a sway”

The in-laws had an important role in the weddings, and it’s quite possible that there used to be a special ceremonial dance for them. They must have been the head of dance. Unfortunately, we have no information about it. We also don’t know if the in-law was the bride’s or the groom’s parent. Karno dwellers who have moved to Javakhq and Akhaltskha, have still preserved the tradition when the toastmaster demands to make a room in the dancehall for the in-laws to dance. Hence we can presume that the dance was performed by the bride’s parents, considering the fact that the bride’s parents were more restrained and usually didn’t dance.

Swaying dances are relics of cult worship of totems, domestic idols and ancestors. The leftward steps and swaying are a proof of it. The dancers’ movements during the dance are conservative and solemn. When performed by women, their graceful movements remind of “Uzundara”. The narrators resemble this dance to another forgotten Karno dance, ”Hushik Mushik” dance, the only difference being the position of the body during the steps sideward.

This is a round dance, performed mainly by middle-aged men and women. They dance in a circle, sometimes opening the circle. The handhold is by little fingers, the palms are held on the level of the shoulders, the tempo is moderate, the rhythm is even.

The dancing steps are:

1.A step to the left with the left foot, making a swaying movement of the body to the left.

2.Join the right foot to the left taking the weight of the body and making a swaying movement of the body to the right.

3,4 and 5, 6 steps are the corresponding repetition of the first two steps.

7. Repeat the first step

8. Making a right turn twitch the right foot, slanting it to the right by 45 degrees

9. Making a left turn twitch the left foot, slanting it to the left by 45 degrees

10. Repeat step 8

11. With the body bent forward, make a step forward with the right foot.

12. With the body bent forward, make a step forward with the left foot.

13. Spinning on the left toe, draw up, at the same time transferring the body weight on the right foot.

14. Twitch the left foot, slanting it to the left by 45 degrees.

SHAVALI

“Loutki” is one of Van dances. The root of the word “ Loutki” is “luyt”. The verbs “lutal, lutanal” and the noun “lutanq” were derived from this word. “Lutanal, lutal” means to attack somebody scolding, to disgrace, to curse.

Witchcraft and wizardry was not the only function of old voodoo priests. All sure of themselves, they also drew trouble to their enemies and people they disliked, like the little birds were treated by their totemic ancestor the Katak bird. These functions, already deprived of their bewitching meaning, went down to the jokers and clowns, the heirs of the voodoo priests, who got the right to discover, to mock and scold others’ reprehensible deeds. With their mockery and wit they cheered up a group of people, denouncing and publicly reprimanding the others, which later became a social struggle tool, a weapon in the hand of the exploited against the exploiters. The root of the word “Loutki” confirms that it has a relation with these clown-jokers’ dances.

All the movements of the dance “Loutki” express sparkling joy. This is a clown’s joke-dance. It used to be danced by men alone, and only recently it has become a mixed type of dance, involving both men and women.

In “loutki” the stamping is done by the entire bottom of foot and toe. They stand side by side, not changing this position even during the turns, the handhold is by little fingers, the ankles are bent at the right angle. Forearms are stretched on the level of waist and are nearly motionless.

LOUTKI
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