There are a number of Azerbaijani folk dances that are old and extremely melodious. They are often performed at formal celebrations, where the dancers wear festival clothes or Chokha cloaks. The dances often have a very quick rhythm, so the dancers must have inherent skills. The first dances were ceremonial and hunting ones. Beginning since early the medieval centuries various types of folk dances began to form.
Azerbaijani folk dances are very colorful from the viewpoint of themes and these types are – labor, ceremony, household, heroism, sport, chorus game (e.g. “Yallı”, “Halay”) etc. For terms of continuation, richness of the rituals and colorful the marriage ceremony is most important. These dances differ from other dances with their quick tempo and optimism. The ritual dances have laid the foundation for various national dances which are subdivided into labor (“shepherds”), ceremonial (ritual, wedding), common, military, sport, round, game, and others.
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Female and male dances greatly differ from each other. The development of female dance has been conditioned by a costume: a long skirt defined the smoothness of legs movement; the entire focus of the dancer is on elaborate movements of hands, arms, shoulders, head, and facial expression. It would be an astonishing fact that the Azeri Women used to wear 3 and sometimes as many as 12 tuman, or skirts, that were outer garments. They would also cover their body with a cloak while moving outside. As part of an Islamic society, the Azeri women also used a facial scarf known as a “Niqab,” or veil, with a falling net to hide their faces from the strangers.
Below: A photograph of female Azerbaijani dancers at Eurovision 2012
As a rule, women perform slow, smooth dances, while Azerbaijani men perform the rapid, temperamental dances. Male dance is determined by leg movement techniques. The dancer can easily stand on toes and promptly kneel. The typical traditional dress of Azerbaijani male dancers consists of under and outer garments and clothes for the upper and lower body. Dizlik is the form of pant or trouser which is used as the underclothing and Shalwar is usually worn over it. Similarly, Koynek is worn as a shirt along with the several tunic skirts used on top of one another.
Types of Dances
- Abayi is an Azerbaijani dance with its origins from the Shaki and Zaqatala regions of Azerbaijan. The subject matter of the dance is middle age. In this area middle-aged people are called “Abayi” and this kind of dance is generally performed by middle-aged men or women. Creators of the melody of this dance are the Shaki composers. It has a slow dancing tempo. This kind of dance used to be performed in group, but later on changed to an individual dance.
- Agir Karadagi is an Azerbaijani melody of a danxce that was created in Karadakh. It is very popular in Shaki and Zaqatala in Azerbaijan and is performed slowly.
- Alcha Gulu (meaning plum flower) is an Azerbaijani-Indian dance created between 1910 and 1920 in the Shaki region by Ali Karimov who lived in the village of Kalva. It is performed by women and has a fast dancing tempo.
- Ceyrani or Ceyran bala is an old and delicate dance. This dance is meant to show the gazelle’s gracefulness and elegance. It is performed by both men and women.
- Chichekler (meaning flowers) is a very elegant dance. In origin, this dance is performed by women in two different forms: slow and fast. It was created in 1910. The group of girls gathers together and collect flowers. They would like to show off and demonstrate to the public how pretty flowers look. Flowers are associated with how pretty the girls are in the colorful costumes. They form circles and triangles during the dance. Sophisticated hand movements and spins create a cheerful atmosphere. The music is up-beat and energetic.
- Choban Regsi (meaning tribesmen dance) is danced only by male performers. The costume is typical to the rural areas and particular to shepherds. The music is up-beat and energetic. This dance symbolizes a cheerful spirit of the shepherd that brings his herd to the valley.
- Innabi is a girl’s dance and performed by one or two girls. The dance is meant to show the grace of women.
- Gangi (meaning dagger) is a dance that calls all people to unity, friendship and invincibility.
- Lezginka is a national dance of Lezghins popular among many people in the Caucasus Mountains. It derives its name from the Lezgin people; Azerbaijanis have their own versions.
- Mirzayi is traditionally played at wedding parties and performed by men and women with handkerchiefs in their hands.