I have been to Uzbekistan quite a few times and last month marked my sixth visit. What made it different was that this time I was the guest of Zulya Rajabova and her Silk Road Treasure Tours, and I had a real guide – the lovely –and industrious– Hilola Akhmedova assigned to show me around. As a result I caught the show at the Nodir Devon Begi Madrasa in Bukhara and was entertained in full tourist style! But this was not a westernized faux-authentic presentation. It was a true performance of Uzbek dance and music, and fully enjoyable. There was even a fashion show woven into the presentation, with contemporary styles utilizing Uzbekistan’s marvelous textiles. It struck me as a perfect way to enjoy an evening in Bukhara; sitting in the courtyard of the madrasah, savoring dinner or just tea and sweets, and enjoying a terrific show of music, dance and fashion.
The dancers are part of the folk ensemble “Bukhorcha.” Most of the dances presented were performed by groups of women, but there was one exception, a solo improvisation by Zamira Aminova (the dancers take turns soloing) whose dancing really struck me. Frankly, I was so busy trying to capture the entire show on video that I did not take note of it until I reviewed my footage. I found that Ms. Aminova was extremely graceful. Perhaps it is easier to appreciate such a thing when only one dancer is dancing, but what struck me was that although her movements were not as complex as others I have seen, she never stopped seeming to float like a leaf on the wind. There has to be plenty of strength to accomplish that.
A bit about Uzbek dance, because on this last trip I discovered that Uzbeks really LOVE to dance! Just start some music, make some dance moves and soon everyone will be dancing, or watching and cheering the dancers on. Their dances fall into two major categories, folk and formal. The three main schools of formal dance are from Bukhara, Khorezm and Ferghana. What remains fairly consistent throughout each is an emphasis on movement of the upper body; mostly on the arms and hands, which undulate expressively, and seem to be using their own special sinuous sign language. Facial expression is also important, mostly expressing delight. There is no pelvic movement, and the legs and feet are primarily used for traversing space.
The dancing in this solo is an improvisation based on the movements of the Ferghana style, but there is, I think, some western influence, as many of the serious dancers in Uzbekistan have also studied ballet. In particular note how she “spots” when she spins…something I have always associated with ballet, even though the technique is no longer confined to that genre.
The song being performed is “Buylaringdan.” The lyrics praise the beauty of the beloved; figure, stance and movement. The band members play dutar, tanbur, nay, chang, gijjak, rubob, and saz and of course, the frame drum, the doira.