Thursday, September 29, 2011

A little bit about the Halay and Horon and a Dance Observation

A little bit about the Halay and Horon
This weekend my video class examined two Turkish folk dances: Halay and Horon. Both are line/circle dances that contain numerous versions. Frequently, they are accompanied by the zurna (double reed instrument played with circular breathing) and the davul (two headed drum). The kemenche (a string instrument) may also be played during Horons.

The Halay is performed largely in Eastern, South-Eastern, and Central Anatolia. Participants hold each others’ hands and often stand shoulder to shoulder. The leader and end dancer typically dance with a handkerchief. At times, the leader may break off from the group and perform more complex and elaborate movements.  Men and women dance together, especially in non-professional settings. Many of the professional dance group videos either have all men dancing or men and women alternating dance positions. The movements predominantly consist of complex foot and knees patterns. The group generally holds their arms still and maintains an upright body position. The soloist may execute some drastic level changes and more arm movements.

The Horon is performed along the Northern Turkey in the Black Sea region. The Horon is fast paced, and can be in different rhythms, such as 7/8, 7/16, 2/4, 5/8, and 9/16. In fact, professional dance performances often have several rhythm changes and a tempo acceleration.

It is also a chain dance performed by men and women, in which dancers typically hold hands.  There are many more videos of professional male groups dancing. When women are present in these venues, they frequently maintain their own chain. In non-professional settings, women and men dance in the same line/circle. The Horon also has a leader. However, unlike many line/circle dances where the leader is at the end, in the Horon, the leader is in the center. 

The Horon contains complex foot and knees patterns, such as knee lifts, small frontal leg kicks, shoulder shimmies and upper body twists that are frequently combined together, hip twists articulated with leg movements, and deep knee bends (performed by men). Horon dancers hold their hands low or circle them forward at hip or shoulder level. Men frequently bring their arms over head. I particularly enjoyed watching Horon dancers fine a line between the looseness of the shimmies and the tension underlying them in the elongated body. 

One of my students asked and commented on the apparent lack of ballet and ballroom in the staged versions of the Horon and Halay. I initially replied that I thought the Halay and Horon did not lend themselves to these types of additions. While studying Egypt folk dance, we discussed the fusion of ballet and/or ballroom into Egyptian folk dance, especially in regards to the extension of arms, the use of releve, and the many feet patterns. Since the Horon and Halay performers focus on holding arms/hands and complex foot patterns, these ballet feet and arms elements could not be fused. However, latter on, my students commented that they enjoyed the precision and tightness of the unison presented by the professional dance companies. Their comments made me compare the staged and non-stage versions, in which the non-staged versions did not contain precise unison movements. And I thought, perhaps ballet’s influence of the choir aspiring to be one unified unit comes in the form of the spectacularly precise unison of the Turkish staged folk dance.

Along with watching videos from the JVC’s Anthology of World Music and Dance and video clips on youtube, I also came across a website that I love: They not only have clips of Turkish dance but also a few clips demonstrating dance moves!!!
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