Joy of Dancing: Kazakh Folk Dance Kara Zhorga

Now that's great I spend every day a lot of time browsing through youtube and call it "research" ... My new love is a Kazakh folk dance called Kara Zhorga (Qara Jorğa - K'ara Zhorg'a - Қара Жорға). It has been nominated for inscription in 2013 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
One first example is a TV version featuring boys and girls in national garments:

 From the description (read full text here):

... According to A.Ismailov “Kara-Zhorga is a dance that embodies a variety of nuances and techniques. It combines bellicosity and buffoonery, tender pace and mobility, speed and calm grace” [...] Kara-Zhorga dance reproduces a picture of a traditional horse competition called bayge. "... Traditionally village residents gather for a feast (called “toy” in Kazakh). Young and cheerful horsemen step out from the crowd and start dancing - bending their bodies slightly forward, harshly swinging with their whips and eagerly entering in rhythmic competition. Young horsemen move in circles, lines and diagonals, out run each other, demonstrating agility of a leap or an intricate hop. The dance imitates horserace – rhythmically sharp-cut hops from one foot to another and big leaps with curving of a body compose major dance technique. A sharp-cut, rough and springy folk tune of Kara-Zhorga dance and the movement that coincides with the horserace rhythm, gracefully merge into a single image of bold horsemen – called “zhigit” in Kazakh, who master equestrian skills with their finger tips” (Sarynova, 1976: 37).
National dress
Overall the dance shows the agility skills and cheerful enthusiasm of a horseman who fully masters the art of riding a horse. [...]

The first notes of Kara-Zhorga dance were taken by artist and choreographer Aubakir Ismailov in 1928 during the meeting with Akhtai Mamanov, chief of amateur-talent group based at Kazkomuna boarding school in Petropavlovsk (city in northern Kazakhstan). [...]

In the pictures are some contemporary national Kazakh costumes; how can you not love those oodles of fluffiness, ruffles and trumpet sleeves?

Performers in traditional Kazakhstan costume 
Nowadays the dance is often performed at big social gatherings, celebration of festive events and even as a flashmob.

And some words about the spiritual meaning of the dance from the same document:

Researchers pay particular attention to initial sacral meaning of Kara-Zhorga, for the dance was mostly performed during “Shildekhana” ritual (feast in the name of newborn). Therefore Kara-Zhorga performance is closely linked with the time of child’s first initiation to the World, his/her acquaintance with the family and surrounding society. This period of human life along with the spiritual initiation and obsequies played most important role in nomadic culture.
Performing Kara-Zhorga for a newborn child aimed at introducing him/her with nomadic lifestyle, life on top of a horse. The tempo of the dance is sought to transmit the nomad’s main attitude to the reality of life; it sets up principal direction for future life of a newborn – meaning the way forward despite the obstacles, way of optimism and mobility. Moreover, performanc e of Kara-Zhorga bears purification and protective properties for both the child and the audience present. Appearing as a ritual and spiritual act, Kara-Zhorga gradually started to inherit characteristics of every day life. Owing to its deep semantic and symbolic meaning, Kara-Zhorga has been very popular among people over a long period of time, gradually acquiring new distinctive properties and styles.
Nowadays, Kara-Zhorga dance embodies the brightest features of Kazakh people and modern Kazakhstan, like – courage, vitality, musicality and mobility harmoniously intertwined with the scenery of beautiful and vast steppes. 

The whole thing looks like lots of fun if danced in a group among friends. On a more artistic level Kazakh ethnic dance presents all the finesse of Oriental stage dances with opulent costumes, delicate hand movements and hazardous backbends, as featured it this video by the magical Uighur dancer Dilnar Abdullah:


Sayat Nova or Synesthetic Cinematography

Sofiko Chiaureli in Sayat Nova - The Colour of the Pomegranates (1968)

Almost impossible to describe is the nostalgic and aethereal feeling of the works of the Soviet Armenian cinematographer Sergei Parajanov (1924-1990). Archetypes of the collective memory of the Caucasus between Byzantine Icons, Persian poetry and early 20th century décadence, put together in dream-like sequences of exceptional beauty. The extremely slow movements of the characters are meticulously choregraphed into a almost mute dance, imbued in the deep sorrow of purple drops of pomegranate juice on ancient cloth. 

Watch the entire movie in its full beauty here.
With these magic pictures in mind I am working when I prepare some Georgian dishes...
Eggplants in Nut Sauce
Cut 1 kg of eggplants into slices, leave them with some salt on the surface for 40 min in order to let them loose some water, fry in vegetable oil, put aside.
Cut in a mixer 1/2 onion, 3 garlic cloves, 200g of walnuts, 1 cup of fresh coriander leaves, 1/2 cup of flat-leaved parsley, 2 tablespoons of fresh dill, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, salt, pepper and turmeric powder, eventually adding some water.
Coat the eggplant slices from both sides, fold in half, decortate with pomegranate seeds, serve with white bread.


Get that Groove: Oum from Marocco

A star is born in the Maghreb! It had been years since we have been waiting for a great female singer from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, and from Morocco comes the new star, brand new and brilliant,  A star is born in heaven Maghreb! It had been years since we were expecting a great female singer from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, and Morocco that is a real diamond happens to us, brand new and brilliant, unexpected multifaceted reflections  - and not just a desert rose!

Umm does not sing only Moroccan music, or necessarily North African music, but like others before her, such as Charaï or Mamya Sophia she takes great pleasure in singing jazz in her Moroccan dialect, and in all kinds of rhythms or tunes - from Brazil, the Caribbean, India or even the Sahara nearby - all that pass through her head.

Morocco is surprisingly modern in some ways, and finally this modernity is expressed in music. There was the "women's liberation movement" in the '70s, and with this disc Oum signs the consecration of the "liberation movement of the song in the Maghreb," a region remained less affected by new experiences mixing music, as did countries like Lebanon or Turkey for example.

Umm insolently borrowed her name from "the star of the East" that was Oum Kalthoum by not suspecting anything! She also humbly placed herself in the footsteps of her grandmothers, great-grandmothers and all women singing songs in the evening in villages in Morocco and elsewhere in the Sahara and the Maghreb, women that she honors in her work, not as forgotten treasures, but as living treasures. 

Magnificently accompanied great artists such as saxophonist Alain Debiossat, guitarist Patrick Guyanese Mary Magdalene, Cuban bassist Damian Nueva Cortes, or Jean-Luc Fillon oboe. Oum, (the Moroccan public knows already two albums), makes here a big entry on the international music scene. Listen only "Taragalte" ... Information about her upcoming concerts on Facebook ...

Translated and adapted from a French article by Nadia Khoury-Dagher, published here.
Picture credits here.
OUM, «Soul of Morocco», MDC/Distrib. Harmonia Mundi


Tutorial: Serouel M'douar - Algerian Urban Costume

So this part of the costume, the pants, are really easy, but it took me ages to find that out, because I couldn't find any desriptions of the cut of these particular pants (serouel in Algerian) that I never happened to see with my own eyes - all I had were photographs. 
The name - serouel m'douar - could have been a useful hint, if I had asked somebody. So the meaning of the name (m'douar means nothing else than "round") became clear to me after a couple of samples that I had tried to make. So here's the description.
You need upholstery fabric which is usually around 3 meters wide. Or you sew a piece which is at least twice as wide as the required length of your serouel (Does that make sense? Lenght: approx 1m; width 2-3m. It depends, how volouminous your serouel should look like and it depends of course on the characteristics of the fabric, stiif or soft, thick or thin).
Now fold your fabric twice. 
Cut out a quarter of a circle, or, if your serouel, like in this case, is longer than wide then the waist is the broadest part and the pants become slimmer towards the ankles in a rounded shape. A small piece between the feet is alredy united.

If you unfold the fabric now you should have a
two semicircular pieces eventually connected on the rounded side.

Pleat the waist, or simply gather it (pleats look less bulky).
Se the side seams and leave generous holes where you feet should go (leave at least 40 cm between them, otherwise you will not be able to walk!) 
Almost done. Waistband and hem at the feet are still missing, but the idea is clear.


Algerian Urban Costume Step 1: Research

It is one of the worst of my habits not to finish one project before starting the next one... so here I am again.
My fingers have been itching a long time for this and since the other dancing ladies have expressed their interest to work on Algerian Andalusian Dance I am heading to this adventure right now.
The costume-to-be should represent the festive attire of a high-class lady from Algier roughly in the middle of the 19th century in order to create a choreography on classical Algerian Andaloussi Music (explanation will follow...)
The fabulous book of Leyla Belkaid: Costumes d'Algerie, Edtions du Layeur, Paris 2003 offers deep historical explanations and many historical photographs related to this issue.
Below are a couple of variations of a late 19th- early 20th century style of indoor clothing.
The first part to explore were the trousers. This particular style is called "serouel m'douar" and is used also nowadays with a slightly different silhouette; as modern ladies want to look more slim they use less and more delicate fabric.

For the historical garments thick and heavy jaquard textiles have been used for the trousers, most probably silk. Nowadays you can use upholstery fabric which has similar characteristics and is relatively cheap.
And here you can see a modern serouel m'douar:
(picture credit: here.)
In the next post I will show you how to sew such a serouel.


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