What is Armenian Dance?

Armenian dance derives its value from centuries of rich history in Armenian culture.  Armenian poetry, song and dance are emotional expressions of pain, suffering, unity, joy and love.  For example, Armenian line dance, performed while holding hands, or with arms on each others’ shoulders, symbolizes unity, harmony and encouragement.  In line dances there is always a “Bar-Bashi” or leader, who, with red handkerchief in hand, guides the line of dancers during the entire dance.  Interestingly, the movement of the feet are often more important than the rest of the body.  For instance, the stomping of the ground telling the story of lost Armenian lands.

Certain line dances represent the everyday lifestyle and culture of old Armenia.  For example, the “Laz Bar”, which comes from the Black Sea region, depicts fishermen supporting one another in bringing in the catch by holding one another’s shoulders.  The “Dance with Candles”, or “Momerov Bar”, an eastern dance, is performed at the conclusion of wedding receptions, where the blowing out of the candles means it is time for the guests to go home!

“Lyrical Dances” have also found their way in the list of Armenian dances, and are choreographed for women in groups or as solo.  Among these are “Ouzoundara (Bride dance with Maids), “Naz Bar” (Graceful Dance - woman’s solo), “Gagachner (Tulips), etc.  Special dances have also been created for couples in love, such as “Shalakho”, “Bari Hraver” (Invitation to Dance – humor dance).

Popular Diasporan dances, such as Tamzara, Lorgé, Shirkhani and Daroni originated from Western Anatolian Armenia, which is modern day Turkey.  Tamzara comes from Kharpert and Arabkir in Western Armenia, and is danced both in couples and in a line dance.  It is believed that this dance derives its name from the legendary folk hero “Tamouz Ara”.   Among American Armenians’ favorites are Michigan Hop, California Hop, Armenian Misirlou (derived from Greek Misirlou) and Sepastiatziner.  Despite the fact that Armenian dance choreography and music styles are evolving with time, the original foundation of rhythms and steps stand strong.

The chief Armenian musical instruments are the Dhol (drum), Zourna & Doudouk (wind), and Kamancha & Kanon (string).

If you are considering dancing non-professionally, it is important to acknowledge and accept that enjoying dancing is far more important than which foot you’re using!