Tribal Roots and Armenian Women's Dance

       More and more I am interested in studying and performing women's traditional dances from the Middle East and Central Asia, particularly the Caucasus Mountain area. My time studying with Helene Eriksen, a dance ethnographer based in Seattle, definitely fueled that fire. For many years I have studied, performed and taught 'belly dance' both folkloric and fusion styles including American Tribal Style aka ATS and 'Tribal Fusion' belly dance. ATS and Tribal Fusion are modern forms of 'belly dance' that draw randomly it seems from folkloric dances of the Middle East, India, and North Africa, as well as Flamenco. ATS belly dance was created by FatChanceBellyDance director, Carolena Nericcio,  and is clearly defined and documented with the primary characteristic being that of group improvisation. Tribal fusion belly dance is the further evolution of ATS, it is usually choreographed not improvised and, blends elements of ATS with other styles of dance. It frequently incorporates elements from Hip Hop, Breakdance, 'Egyptian' or 'Cabaret' belly dance, as well as from other dance forms.  Although I appreciate the strength,  beauty and sisterhood embodied in these dance styles I wonder how aware most dancers and teachers are of the cultural roots of these dances. As a 'wanna be' dance ethnographer I am fascinated and amazed by the language of dance and the connections I continue find as I delve deeper into the roots of traditional dances. 
     Recently I have been working on an Armenian Women's dance to Uzundara, brides dance. The Azerbaijani people also claim this song as their own. The dance seems to be performed often at weddings. Like all traditional dances, Armenian dance has many forms region to region, for different celebrations, rites of passage... Today many of these dances have been adapted to stage and the movements have become exaggerated and costumes stylized. The dance style that I have been focusing on are the women's dances performed both solo and in highly choreographed group dances. These dances are characterized by slow, graceful, sweeping arm movements and undulating wrists, sedate gliding walks and much like in Georgian dance the dancers appear to float through space. Many of the movements like, the angles of the arms and poses, have been appropriated by western dancers over the last century. Mata Hari was highly influenced by these dances and this can be seen in the classic 'Mata Hari' poses and elements of the costuming she employed. The hypnotic flowing arm movements and 'C' shaped hand position that have become standard technique in contemporary 'Tribal' belly dance also come from Armenian, Persian and Central Asian dance.  Here are a couple video examples Armenian women's dance, enjoy!

One my favorites even though the music is a bit 'cheesy'

Armenian women's dance-
Sayat Nova

Another Armenian women's dance