don't have to dance like the professionals
in order to enjoy the Armenian experience.
If you attend a party in Armenia (and it is very
likely you will), you will experience the Armenian
dance - an elegant mix of movements that can at
once resemble the Dance of the Veils or the Sabre
Like many cultural phenomena here, it has a history.
Ancient Armenian dances and songs were closely
related with their everyday needs. They were singing
so that oxen could draw the yoke quicker, they
were dancing in front of them so that they could
have a rest, they were throwing their hands up
asking the rain to fall down on them.
Modern Armenian dance is also a reflection of
its time period. The traditional dance is mixed
with numerous innovations of Western and Eastern
Armenians have several accepted types of dance:
kochari, round dance and solo dance. Women raise
their hands upward and twist them in time with
music and rhythm. They keep their hands a little
bent down at wrists with middle fingers bent inward.
Armenian men don't twist their hands but just
throw them up and encourage dancers with loud
According to ethnographer Arusiak Sahakyan, in
earlier times a traditional Armenian woman never
danced with her face open and never raised her
hands higher than her ears.
But in the 21st century, Armenian women are even
doing the belly dance, with all its jingling risqué
costume and seduction.
Armenian dance is distinct by its vitality, and
it used to be that every region or even every
village had its own unique dance. Round dance
is the most popular in Armenia and is a brief
review of Armenian history.
"We have always been surrounded by enemies
and we are dancing shoulder to shoulder as we
used to fight and protect our lands shoulder to
shoulder, hand in hand," says honored worker
of dance art Vanush Khanamiryan.
Round dances were formed from as many dancers
as people wished. Holding little fingers, with
elbows bent and forced together or with hands
simply dropped down, a dancers' chain was always
moving to the right with rhythmic movements of
the feet. There were also round dances with a
couple dancing in the middle of the circle. During
wedding parties the engaged couple used to dance
in the middle of the dancing circle.
Round dance had one other meaning. According
to tradition, the leader of the dance, who headed
the dancing chain, was transfusing the strength
of his hands and arms, his happiness and grief,
to other dancers. And every time when in the community
someone reached a success then he headed the chain,
and during the hand-in-hand dance was transfusing
his success to others.
is all about movement. And some of the movements
Up to now Armenian dances have been accompanied
by Armenian zurna (wind instrument), accompaniments
of dhol (drum), often by the accompaniments of
tar, saz, kanon (string instrument) and duduk.
Of course, these days the easiest option is to
play a compact disc or cassette.
One can almost always find in the repertory of
many Armenian dance groups dances like Kochari,
Berd (Fortress), Suserow Par (Sword Dance), Nazani
(Graceful) dances, however, each group has its
own unique performance and explanation of those
The Berd (Fortress) is the most typical Armenian
dance. Even a dance group was named after that
dance. It is a victorious and courageous men's
dance. During that dance, dancers stand on each
others' shoulders protecting their home and native
land. Berd dance can be two-story and three-story.
There are numerous traditions concerning creation
of that dance, but the most believable explanation
was found by Srbuhi Lisitsyan. She says when Armenians
were again fighting against Turks, they dug deep
holes like trenches and hid there waiting for
Turks. To find out whether enemies were approaching
they stood on each other's shoulders, and that
gave birth to the Berd dance.
While the average Armenian party is pretty open
to any form of dance expression, national dances
have specific patterns to follow in group competition.
Each event of daily life was marked by the dance.
Even a small detail could give a birth to the
new dance. Even nature had its influence. In the
mountainous areas of Armenia the dance was more
rugged and expressive, more masculine, while in
the Ararat Valley the dance was feminine, graceful
The best advice for participating is to forget
your inhibitions. Then watch what somebody else
does and make your own interpretation.