‘Here the dance is put into the chest and taken out on holidays’

The Tatar national dance was reconsidered on MOÑ theatre platform

MOÑ theatre platform launched a series of performance evenings starting with two projects trying to reconsider the Tatar folk dance. Two heroes of the Dance Evening, Saida Minubayeva and Gulsina Galimullina, talk about their relationships with this phenomenon and the possibilities of its development.

“Even our parents don’t recognise us during concerts”

Saida Minubayeva was an artist of the State Song and Dance Ensemble for nine years, she left it in May. Her performance How Much? is laconic: it is a long preparation for the performance and the start itself. Saida made it up during the project Inclusive Performance Workshop when her teacher, choreographer Nurbek Batulla offered her to create a folk dance campaign.

“I thought what I could talk about for a long time. And I wanted to show how much time I spend on the preparation for a performance,” says Minubayeva. “Our performances in the ensemble are sometimes not solo concerts but one performance. And this is why you come early in the morning, do a rehearsal, then wait, then girls do a make-up for an hour, turn into traditional Tatar girls. They all are carbon copies, even our parents don’t recognise us during the concerts, everybody has a very similar makeup. We dance for three minutes, and that’s it. I wondered if the spectator thought about it. Should the spectator know about this?”

A stage Tatar dance is not as much conservative as artificial phenomenon, Minubayeva notes and then starts to think of how to say nicely not to insult anybody.

“I don’t feel that when I dance or watch it there is some history, the power of the people is in it because all these movements considered traditional Tatar were recorded by folklore expert Gaynulla Tagirov less than 100 years ago. Nobody knows what had been before. Tatars had existed, they had been dancing, what did their dance look like? It is a question for me. In the dance Yarmek, we try to find the authentic movement by improvisation turning to the memory of our body.

Why not bring the passion of flamenco to the Tatar dance?

Minubayeva wonders why people get so excited with Caucasian dances. Why are there several flamenco schools in every big city? Gulsina Galimullina has been dancing flamenco for 12 year, but recently she has been dealing with projects where she combines her knowledge with Tatar traditions. Yarmek is a dance of residents of the namesake village from Samara Oblast, which appeared as a ritual of young men’s farewell party before going to the army. In the dance, the elderly hit the youngsters’ legs with a whip, while the latter try to catch the whip with their foot. Now all residents dance it in Yarmek village.

Vladislav Utkin and Aynur Faizov (artists of the State Song and Dance Ensemble) participate in Galimullina’s performance besides Minubayeva. Bayan player Rustem Rafigullin and guitarist, kuray player and percussionist Aydar Abdrakhimov accompany them. Two dances, yarmek and flamenco, are mixed.

“I am often asked why not bring the passion of flamenco to Tatar dances. And I came to think that they could be mixed,” says Galimullina. “Nobody taught me to perform the Tatar dance, I saw parents, grandparents to dance. I am not a specialist here. But I have dedicated 12 years to flamenco. In my homeland Baltasi we have Bast Shoe dance, its meter isn’t typical, sextuple time. There was a performance during the project Life is in Movement. But the dance itself was remembered more, it seemed we didn’t finish the performance. When I was offered to do it one more time, I decided to find a new dance talking with Saida. Yarmek has a story, it has a lot of times, there is passion, which coincided with my flamenco dance.

A Tatar dance cafe now!

A dance is a language, continues Galimullina, explaining that she expresses her feelings through flamenco more accurately. While the Tatar dance is considered as something old, which must be performed in costumes.

“It is a way of communication,” the girl goes on. “Earlier, when girls and boys couldn’t tell something to each other, they expressed it through the dance.

Improvisation is the gimmick of the performance. There is a melody of the dance, but there is no structure, patterns, everything appears on the stage.

“Once before the performance we thought that people went to army, dances, but what did girls saying off boys for 25 years felt?” Galimullina puts an example. By the way, at MOÑ, the performance was shown indoors for the first time.

“10 years ago the Tatar dance was a conservative phenomenon,” the choreographer says. “You go to concerts, see how people dance, you don’t like something. I thought perhaps I had been dancing flamenco for such a long period of time that I disliked Tatar folk dances.”

Then Galimullina compared the situation with Andalucia where people from all over the world fill a 70-square-metre dance room, festivals are held, flamenco is popular, people are proud of it even if they don’t dance it.

“Because unlike our folklore flamenco hasn’t stopped developing, new waves, movements appeared. While here the dance is put into the chest and taken out on holidays.”

The Tatar dance turned into a product, says Galimullina, for an event, to welcome guests. But these melodies cause emotions, one wants to dance. However, when she showed her mother what she did in performances, her mother said Tatar girls don’t dance this way.

“I am Tatar, won’t I be Tatar if I raise the skirt more?” reflects Gulsina remembering flamenco masters who showed it to the world like Carmen Amaya. She started going on tours abroad, with live musicians promoting her love for the dance alone.

Galimullina concludes that there must be a place or places where people could come knowing that Tatar dances are performed there like it happens to tango or flamenco.

“When we held events in embankments and parks in summer, people joined us and then asked where they could come to dance. While there is no such a place.”

Radif Kashapov
Analytics Tatarstan
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