Why Khorezm Lazgi is the sunniest dance on earth

Dubai - The ancient dance form of Uzbekistan, which has got a seal of approval from UNESCO, represents two interconnected sides of a unified whole



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Thu 9 Dec 2021, 8:40 PM

Lazgi is a unique dance form with a thousand-year-old history. It was born in the land of Khorazm and reflected on the rituals of nature and feelings of love and joy. In 2019, Khorazm Dance, Lazgi, was included in the Unesco Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. wknd. catches up with Gayane Umerova, executive director of the Art and Culture Development Foundation and the head of Uzbekistan’s cultural programme at Expo 2020 Dubai, to know more about the dance form that has a thousand-year-old history.

Explain how Lazgi dance has evolved as an Uzbek cultural expression that has influenced the erstwhile USSR’s performing arts landscape.

We know that Lazgi is an ancient dance not just because it has been passed on to us from our grandparents — and to them from their grandparents, but also because there are ancient paintings, depicting Lazgi, there are ancient texts, describing Lazgi. As you mentioned, Unesco, the Cultural Foundation of the United Nations, recognised the importance of the Lazgi dance for global culture. Unesco has invested a lot of time in studying archives, doing research to find proof of it. And we know that Lazgi as a living artistic form has constantly evolved, and during this evolution, various forms of Lazgi have been born that use different instruments, create slightly different forms, rely on slightly different principles — all of them represent our rich and diverse cultural heritage. Lazgi is a living representation of Uzbek customs and traditions and when our society changes, it manages to capture this change, to stay authentic and relevant, allowing performers to express themselves naturally, ensuring that we can learn from our national culture and teach next generations about our past and present, and create our future without forgetting who we are. Lazgi dance was attracting attention of many famous scholars and historians even when Uzbekistan was an integral part of the USSR. They put a lot of effort into their research on this topic.

How are love and soul interconnected in this dance form?

Lazgi dance represents two interconnected sides of a unified whole: it is the love of the dance and the arts in Uzbekistan. This is the most profound emotion that every person feels towards their country and cultural heritage. And at the same time, this dance represents the very essence of what we are, what we treasure in our culture and our traditions, and, therefore, it represents the soul of our country, it allows dancers to embody this rich history — and our feelings towards it.

Lazgi dance is a living representation of our customs and traditions and when our society changes. It manages to capture this change, to stay authentic and relevant, allowing performers to express themselves naturally, ensuring that we can learn from our national culture and teach next generations about our past and present, and create our future without forgetting who we are.

What’s the allegorical tale behind Lazgi dance and what does it embody?

What we see on the stage during Lazgi dance is this double aspect of our culture, the unity of what we are in our hearts, and of those emotions that we and dancers can express through the dance. At the same time, it is crucial to say that Lazgi is an ancient dance. It goes back to the times when we lived closer to the elements, and could feel them more urgently — and that is where Lazgi dance borrows its expressiveness, its dynamics. Lazgi dance is not just some formal art, but it is a way of living through our historical memory, our cultural past and present. It demonstrates the foundation on which we are building our future.

What attempts are being made to preserve Lazgi dance amid a changing world order, where sociocultural mores are undergoing a rapid makeover?

We put a lot of effort into preservation of our traditions and it is a result of our very intensive work that Lazgi dance has been included into the Unesco list of intangible heritage. We support dancing collectives; we encourage young people to learn and to develop Lazgi dance. We are not afraid to invite international experts and global talents to develop their own versions, to reflect on our heritage, because it is very much alive. It is a living art form and cannot be controlled or suppressed. It has to develop naturally, as it constantly evolves, and responds to changing contexts of our contemporary lives.

Why has Uzbekistan emerged as the most dominant arts and culture hub from the Central Asian states that have an overwhelming influence on Russian culture?

It is not a competition. So, we don’t aim to dominate. But we do work a lot to develop our culture, to preserve our heritage, to initiate collaboration on the global level, to develop professional and creative networks, to produce innovative cultural programmes, to create platforms for young talents at home and abroad. We are constantly looking for opportunities to demonstrate that we are open and ready to work together with other countries, institutions, and experts for the sake of our shared future. And we also feel that we bear a lot of responsibility. We need to preserve our culture, to make our culture accessible to everyone and to ensure that nobody is left behind.

How has choreographer Raimondo Rebeck encapsulated the joie de vivre of Lazgi through his troupe’s rendition?

Raimondo Rebeck managed to combine several artistic forms, even several choreographic languages in a very organic way, and this synthesis allowed him to demonstrate that Lazgi dance is a rich tradition which is still very relevant in this day and age. His vision showed that Lazgi dance is a part of contemporary culture of Uzbekistan as much as it is an ancient tradition. Even though it is a thousand-year-old art form-, Lazgi allows contemporary dancers to show what they feel, to express complex emotions that everyone experiences today in the global world, the combination of our past that we cherish and our future that we are building.

joydeep@khaleejtimes.com


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