The history of our art of dances is older than the history of musical instruments. Even in the early years of the pre-human period, people used to dance by clapping and under the harmonic melodies. The Azerbaijani people created the dances calling the attention of people for centuries long. There were different kinds of dances in the choreography of our nation. It is possible to include here the individual man and woman dances, dancing in pairs and mass form, also dances accompanied by the rhythmic melodies. These dances pleased the people for their character complication, harmony of steps, tenderness and exactness, rhythmic and playfulness. This rich moral resource developed from simple to complicate, promoted, improved, polished and became pure.
During the pre-human period, different tribal members living in the territory of Azerbaijan used to dance when hunting and clapping or struck woods or stones to each other. From this standpoint, Gobustan and Gamigaya pictographies are characteristic. The pictographies existing there are of great importancem not only in learning the rich cultural heritage of the Azerbaijan people, but also the history of development of music and dancing culture.
Yalli- The initial form of which dates back to so many centuries long when it was held around a ceremony bonfire, having the meaning of hot, light, and meal. The word “yal” means row, line of chain. The yalli dancers stand in one line or two rows and sometimes in some rows.
The yalli becoming traditional form existed in two forms; dancing and play yalli, but from time to time it was promoted and was enriched with new shades and as a result of which accepted new motions and reached our time.
The homeland of some kinds of yalli out of 100 is the ancient land Nakhchivan which is the inseperable part of Azerbaijan. The yalli forms considered our national heritage are follows: “Tanzara”, “Folk yalli”, “Gopu”, “Gazi-gazi”, “Hoynara”, “Sharur yalli”, “Four feet”, “Urfani”, “Arazi”, “Siyagutu”, “Khalafi”, “Ganimo”, “Nareyi”, “Galadan galaya”, “Three feet”, “Three steps”, “Kochdu balaban”, “Gulumeyi”, “Haghishda”, “Zari-zari”, and others.
Zari-zari – The dancing belonging to the Azerbaijani people was spread widely in Sharur region, especially in the villages of Havush and Shahbulag.
The “zari-zari” dancing is played in the weddings or in the henna apply ceremonies by women. It also may be danced by men and children.
Hakhishta – This national dancing derived from the word “Ha khishla” is mainly played merrily by hopping and with great enthusiasm. In this dancing, the groups are facing as in the dancing of “Halay”. The distance between them is 5-6m. A solist girl stands in the middle of the group. The girl approaches the groups and invites them to dance, and when demonstrating the certain motions she sings. And rest girls say “Hakhishta” after the last sentence in chorus. As the dancing is played out of music, the solist sings the text as it is in “Meykhana”. The dancing may be accompanied by means of the percussion instruments (naghara, goshanaghara, dumbak).
Uch panja (Three paws) - According to the legend, one day a peasant was gathering wood in the forest, and this moment he sees a bear walking on three paws. As the fourth paw was wounded the bear was walking hopping with his one paw bent. And this episode looked like dancing and reminded any dancing. So, the peasant creates the three paws dancing thereafter. Today this yalli is played with great interest in Sharur region and the villages it covers. In most cases the dancing played by old people it is of two parts; the slow and rapid parts.
Arazi- It is one of the ancient yalli kinds danced in the wedding ceremonies of the Araz river regions of which, Ordubad, Julfa, Sharur, Babak, and Kangarli regions. Another name of this yalli is called “Papuro”.
The yalli consists of two parts and is played by men and women in a mixed form holding their little fingers to their shoulder position. The dancers put their right feet on the heel to the left side and then they quickly put their left feet to the front but not higher. This yalli is danced in the regions of Ordubad, Julfa, Sharur, Sadarak, Babak of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, also in the cultural-mass measures conducted in the city of Nakhchivan and together with this in the wedding ceremonies by the folklore dancing collectives.
El yallisi (Folk yalli) (two feet) – the “El yallisi” consists of 3 parts and is played in Sharur region of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, and the better point is that the tember is gradually rising in this dancing. The “El yallisi” played with the dancers’ little fingers joined one another and fallen down position of simple motion, but dancing is difficult.
Today this yalli is danced in the city of Nakhchivan and Shahbuz region, mainly in the wedding ceremonies and certainly the people prefer to dance it.
Sharur yalli - Mainly this yalli is danced by juveniles and children. The yalli consisting of 6-8 dancers contains two parts: two - middle and rapid parts. During dancing the position of the hands become very strange: at every one dancers stand hand in hand backside. In the right hand of the first dancer there is a handkerchief and he holds the right hand of the III dancer with his left hand. But the II dancer holds the waist of the I dancer with his right hand and with his left hand he holds the right hand of the IV dancer. The III dancer holds the left hand of the I dancer with his right hand, but he holds the right hand of the V dancer with his left hand.
The “Sharur” yalli constitutes the fundamental part of the folklore repertoire in Sharur and Kangarli regions of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.
Dordayag (Four feet) – The name of this Azerbaijan folk yalli was taken from the action of swing at the beginning of the dancing and making four steps. This yalli regarded one of the oldest. The yalli created in Sharur region, later spread more widely and became lovely for those who were devoted to our national – moral values. During dancing the dancers hold one another’s shoulders with their little fingers. The yalli, consisting of slow and rapid actions, is played either by men and women. Usually this yalli is danced in the weddings and different cultural–public measures of Sharur, Sadarak and Kangarli regions of the autonomous republic.
Gatar maghami- This yalli was spread in the village of Yengija of Sharur region, and only the women play this dancing. The number of women standing in the row reaches about 30-40. They stand at one-another and turn their above body to the right and join their fingers with the dancers standing at. The yalli, consisting of the middle temper and being danced a bit rapidly, a step is made forward with the right foot by I tact, and in the same place the left foot is put at the right foot. Again they step ahead with their right foot. By the II tact they step ahead with their left foot. and the right foot is put at the left foot. Again they step ahead with their left foot.
Turaji – There is such a legend about the Turaji dancing. Once upon a time Najafgulukhan, the khan of the Garabagh khanate, had a very beautiful dancer, and khan always valued her beauty and ability. One day in the wedding of the khan’s son this dancer demonstrates very mastery miracles of dancing. The khan admiring the view says loudly: “You are dancing as turaj (partridge)”.
From that time the dancing is called “Turaji”. The old dancing of the XIX century dedicated to a beautiful mountain bird, even today is very famous and the folklore dancing collective organized of girls at Nakhchivan Teachers Institute was named after this dancing.
Rangi- “Rangi” considered one of the ancient women dancing is characterized for its action diapasone, action merriness. Still this dancing is on the agenda in Nakhchivan.
Dona yalli- Usually it is danced by women, but occasionally by men and while dancing they say “I wish my lovely turn to me, turn to me, turn to me”, hoping that their lovely will do it. This time the yalli leader sings this song under the ancient Azerbaijan music. The homeland of “Dana yalli” is Sharur region of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and today this yalli is repeatedly played by the Sharur Folk Yalli collective.
Gulumeyi- This word was derived from the component of “Ay gulum hey” and today it is the name of the dancing “Gulumeyi” belonging to the Azerbaijani people. Mainly girls and young women play this dance in the “Henna apply” ceremonies and in different merry measures. Yalli, which is mainly danced in Sharur region, is played in the “Khinayakhdi” (Henna apply) by her women relations and kins. But traditionally, the “Gulumeyi” is played after the bridegroom relations and kins leaving for their home by the girl’s relatives, before the girl being taken to the house of a bridegroom. In this dancing, 5-10 people circle and dance. At the end of slow step dancing light mincing the teams are facing. The right wing group dances toward the left, but the left wing group dances toward the right and by this way they finish dancing.
Gazi-gazi- This dance is included to the famous groups of dancings belonging to the regions of Sharur, Shabuz and Kangarli of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. A group of men dancers raise their hands to their breasts position holding the hands of one another and a yalli head with a stick in his hand stands at the head, but a foot man stands at the foot of the team. The sticks in the hands of the yalli head and yalli footman are to punish the rule breaker in the dancing. The dancers play this dancing so selfishly, aragantly. This yalli consisting of slow, middle and rapid forms is played by all dancers under the supervision of the yalli head (holder). If somebody does not act the actions correctly, that time the dancer is punished.
Kochari- It is one of the widely spread yalli in Azerbaijan, especially in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. As it is seen from its name, the creators of this dancing are nomadic tribes. In the same time, this dancing is included to the lovely dancings of the Azerbaijani people. The “Kochari” dancing, consisting of slow and rapid parts, is of three variants. In the men or women lining up one after another or one woman after one man position, a yallihead (holder) holds a stick in his / her hand. This stick is not to punish the dancers, but factually it has a dancing importance.
Today this dancing is played in the ancient Nakhchivan land of which Sharur, Sadarak, Kangarli, Julfa, and Shahbuz regions’ folklore collectives and it gives a stimule to the weddings.
Urfani- It is the king yalli of Sharur region. The yalli, distinguished for its mightness, fearlessness and rich with other elements of which, a complicated structure, is mainly played by men and demands much more ability from the dancer. This yalli is included to the ancient yalli groups of Azerbaijan. The “Urfani” yalli is also played by women of Nakhchivan city, Sharur, Shabuz, Ordubad and Kangarli regions together with men. In most cases, the young girls and boys order this dancing in the weddings to demonstrate their dancing skills and abilities. The “Urfani”which is played very slowly and rapidly consists of two forms.
It is better to state that this yalli is too different and one must learn it from the initial elements slowly and turn by turn.
Kochdu balaban – It was created in Ordubad region of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. As it is danced under the supervision of the balaban and dumbak or zourna and dumbak, this yalli is called so. The originality of the yalli is that from the beginning of dance, 5-6 persons stand holding on one-another’s shoulders in a circle form and the same number of people climb up their shoulders. This kind of element exists in the dancing of the “Gazi-gazi” yalli. But in that yalli this element is individual. But in the yalli “kochdu balaban” the dance begins with this. The people standing under move very slowly, they step to the right with their right foot, and then they put their left foot at their right foot. By this way they move circling.
Galadan–galaya - According to different diagonals the men stand to the left of the audience but the women line up in the right of the audience. The melody of this yalli is very popular and is always accompanied with the song as given below:
From fortress to fortress,
I threw one stone
To all visitors
To be a fellow
One of the characteristic features of the yalli is that in the process of dancing, both a man yalliholder and a woman yalliholder hold a wooden sword in their hands. At the beginning of dancing, they throw the swords in the middle of the area. By holding each other’s shoulders they stand crossing their fingers tightly act toward the left side. The actions are very simple; firstly to step to the right and to put the left foot in front of the right foot.
Uchayag (Three feet) – This dancing was created in Ordubad of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and is very ancient folklore dance. It is greatly different from the “Tanzara” dancing, but only the yalli of dancing character. The yalli consists of slow and rapid parts.
Chopudum (Chopu-chopu) - The play part of the dancing started under music, thereafter the teams of the uchayag yalli stand face to face, is called “Chopudum”. The two yalli holders stand face to face. One of them takes something out of his pocket and puts it into the mouth of his opposite man. The second yalli holder must repeat the act very quickly. If the second yalli holder does not have the very thing, his friends have the right to render their assistant to him. If the very thing is found, the second yalli holder acts his turn anything (lies down, sits down, runs etc). This time the first yalli holder must act the same action. If the needed thing is not found or the first yalli holder cannot act the very action this time, all team members are punished with a special stick (1-1,5m length) prepared in advance. The loser team has the right to resist but not to beat (strike). The winner team enjoys of the action and continues dancing. But the losers become sad and bend their heads down. One of the winners touches on the shoulder of a loser friendly, a second one gives sweet to his rival, the third jumps on the back of the loser one.
By this way the chopudu is over. This yalli is danced in all ceremonies and holiday measures of Ordubad and people enjoy it.
Asma–kasma- This dancing is one of the ancient traditional wedding examples. At present, this dancing is played in the weddings of Ordubad, Julfa, Babak, Sharur, Sadarak and Kangarli regions of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and as well as in the wedding ceremonies of Nakhchivan. As a bride is taken to the bridegroom under this music, it was called “Asma-kasma” (threat). When bride is taken the musicians play, and the women accompany the bride dance in front of the bride. The dancing is accompanied by music. The song dancers and audience sing songs. The speed of the dancing is slow, a bit exaggerated and jumping.
Asta Garabaghi- As it is seen from naming, this dance was created in Garabagh, inseperable part of the Azerbaijan Republic, but later it was widely spread in the Southern zone of the republic, especially in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, and above all, in Shahbuz region.
This dance is simply called “Garabaghi” in Nakhchivan. Only the old men and women of the village Khinjab of Kangarli play this dance. The action order of the dancing is stable, in its slow part it is danced in the place of standing, but then a bit moving. In Shahbuz, only the old women play this dance.
Kasma – It is one of the ancient dances widely spread in Nakhchivan. Its music is simple, but interesting. It is included to the comic dancing groups. Only men play this dancing. Jumping, hopping, repeatedly strike and spring actions are characteristic for this dancing. Usually a dancer tries to dance as more amusing as he can. “Kasma” is one of the ancient dancings played in the wedding ceremonies of all regions of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.
Gizlar bulaghi (Girls’ spring) –The spring mentioned in this dance is situated not far from Nakhchivan. The girls used to assemble here, enjoyed, and sang songs. The dancing “Gizlar bulaghi” was connected with this event. Even today the people of Ordubad, Julfa, Sharur, Babak, Sadarak, Kangarli, Shahbuz of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic use this melody in their weddings and other ceremonies.
Tanzara – The meaning of this dancing, which is famous in the villages of Charchiboghan, Chomakhtur, and other villages of Sharur region, is “Gizili tanbatan” (Half golden) in word by word translation and today Tanzara is included to the repertoir of the folklore dancing collectives respectively. The women dancing used to put on all kinds of golden things, dressed luxurouly – including rings, ear-rings, bracells, chains etc. and those women resembled beauty and sparkling. The name of Tanzara one of the ancient dancings of the Azerbaijan people, is connected with this. Tanzara means- half gilt, half decoration. This dancing is played by the folklore dancing collective of the Vaykhir village cultural house joining their little fingers. Firstly, they step three steps ahead, and strike their left feet on the ground. Then they put their left feet ahead and for a while stand on it, then they make three little steps back and enspeed their actions a bit more in the second part with the actions of the first part.
Tello – The “Tello” yalli is characteristic for men and women mix form of dancing. The dancers hold their little fingers with one-another and rise to their shoulder position. The process of dancing consists of two middle and rapid speed parts and this time the dancers swing the shoulders down and up. This yalli is in the repertoir of the folklore collectives of Sharur, Sadarak, Shahbuz, Julfa, Babak regions of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. This dancing is also played in the most regions of Azerbaijan.
Uzundara – One time it was a speedy yalli play in the region of Sharur. Two rows of dancers consisting of men and women used to play it. During dancing the men yalliholder held a stick in his hand, but the women yalliholder a handkerchief. After dancing of both groups, the yalliholder of the women group used to “fight” as if joking. The uzundara has been included to the repertoir of the folklore collective of Kultapa village cultural house of Babak region, though it is on the agenda, also in Sharur, Julfa and Ordubad regions of the autonomous republic.
Gopu – It is a kind of yalli included to the dancing groups, which since the ancient times till today the people of Azerbaijan dance it. This yalli depicts the fragment of cranes migration in spring. This yalli is only played in Sharur and Kangarli regions.
According to its style, this dancing is called “gopu”. The “Gopu” which is played by men and women in two rows and demonstarting their aragancy, selfishness (exaggeration), consists of three parts: slow, middle and quick.