Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thoughts on Zeybek, Bar, Kolbastı, and Hora

This month, the video class discussed Turkey’s Zeybek, Bar, Kolbastı, and Hora dances.

The Zeybek dance comes from the Aegean region and western Turkey. It is named after the Zeybeks, village military, who in the early twentieth-century defended Turkey against Greece. There are many versions of the Zeybek dance. We watched several male solos in which the costumes ranged from a plain white shirt, pants, and shoes to the elaborate traditional costume. The steps were strong and stately and the arms were often held overhead on a wide diagonal. The men also demonstrated strength by balancing on one leg as the other moved up and down and by performing slow descents to the floor.

In the group staged version, men and women performed the same movements with the same qualities. One of the main differences was that the men frequently elongated their arms up while the women held theirs bent, with hand upwards, in front of their torsos.

In the Devlet Halk Dansları (The Turkish State Folk Dance Ensemble) Zeybek, the man performed a stately solo on a proscenium stage in front of a large orchestra. His costume was very intricate and beautiful. The female dancer was also in a beautiful traditional costume. Her moves were soft and flowing. Interestingly, her hands were often closed in a “snap” position. The two dancers took turns performing solos with short choreographic phrases in between which demonstrated the difference between the male and female versions of the dance form.

There are numerous types of Bar dances in Eastern Turkey. The videos we watched were mainly from the city of Erzincan. The all male performers (there are female bar dances as well) were dressed in black shoes, black pants, black vests, white long sleeve shirts, and reddish type cummerbunds. The participants frequently started close together: holding hands and shoulder to shoulder. Then as the dance progressed, they spread further away from each other. Often the leader and end dancer held a white handkerchief. In the video that showed a non-staged version, older men dancing outside in everyday clothing, repeated their movement phrases. The leader was much more improvisational and energetic than those in the staged versions.

We also watched the Hançer Bar, a knife dance performed by two men who hold a knife in each hand. The staged versions started off with two men (a leader and follower) circling around the stage. They displayed their knives by holding them in a V shape upwards or circling them over their heads. The men then came to center stage. Each one displayed his agility with the knives by moving close to the face of the other dancer. The second time the two came back to center stage, their steps consisted of bigger jumps. They then ended facing the audience, moving the knives on either side of their lifted leg. The non-staged version we watched was much more playful between the participants in the ways they displayed their knives and strutted around the floor. However, each still took a turn to demonstrate his knife skills as the other danced in place.

The Lezginka is a Caucasian dance. The staged version we watch showed a dance company of five young men wearing dark jeans and white t-shirts. Their performance consisted of mainly solo demonstrations interspersed with short phrases of group chorography. Their moves were faced paced. Frequently their arms, bent at the elbow, alternated up and down in front of their bodies and accompanied by complex footwork that often landed on the heels. They added to the high energy of the dance by performing leaps and turns.

The duet, a non-staged dance, was performed by a man and woman outside. The woman gracefully traveled in a large circle around the man and controlled the dance space. She primarily performed a cross over step sideways with her arms up overhead doing soft and flowing undulations. She also did several turns, bringing her arms down to shoulder level and bending her wrists. The man’s moves were reminiscent of the ones seen earlier, except he did not have the leaps and turns. In addition, the man had much more variations in his arm patterns. For the most part the man and woman kept their distance from each other except for the few times when he “escorted” her by extending an arm behind her.

The Kolbastı dance comes from Trabzon, a city on the Black Sea. Recently, it has become popular with youths outside of Trabzon. The videos show the dance performed in non-staged settings, often a party or outside. Generally, two men danced at a time with a light hearted and fun revelry. The dancers bent over at a slight angle at the waist with their arms straight out behind and above shoulder level. Fast hops with feet and legs going out in different directions, gave the lower body a rubbery quality.

The Hora dance is predominantly from the Balkan region but can be found in numerous areas, including Turkey’s North West. In Turkey, it is generally performed to 9/8 rhythms. The versions we saw were all by large staged folk dance companies. They performed a suite of dances in which men and women would present their own dances and at times share the stage. The focus of the dances was on the creation and establishment of floor patterns and geometric designs while dancers performed intricate step sequences in unison.
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