Kurdistan: Traditional Kurdish Dance Culture

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Northern Kurdistan

Kurdish dance culture (Kurdish: Govend, Dilan / Hilperkê ) is a group of traditional hand-holding dances from the Kurdistan. It is a form of round dancing, with a single or a couple of figure dancers often added to the geometrical centre of the dancing circle. The Kurds sing and dance in all of their festivals, birthdays, New Years, Newroz, marriage and other ceremonies.

Kurdish dances reflect samples of Kurdish life over the past thousands of years. Rhythmic and elegant movements (originating from historical record, geographical location, the Kurdish way of living, beliefs, work and struggle, war and quarrel), are called Halparke (or Helperkê/Hilperkê in Kurdish alphabet). Halparke has got its special place in Kurd’s culture in a way that knowing about that needs the deep and valid slight of the viewers to watch the dancers’ singing and giving thanks in Hoshar fighting against cruelty in Zangi joy and happiness in Garyan, etc..

The dancers, hand in hand, are depositories of centuries of revealed culture in Halparke that indicates their unity in history. These movements differ in different parts of Kurdistan from the variety point of views, and joy and worry have their own special place. Some kinds of these rhythms wear out and are forgotten through the passage of time. Kurdish people from Kurdistan mainly dance the helperke, it is more easier and the simplest.

In every dance one dancer falls or comes to the head of the circle who is called ‘Serchopí’, holding a colorful or symbolic object in his/her right hand. It is a tradition that no one take his/her place until he/she leads the dancers group at least one circle. The rest of dancers are called Gawaní. Sometimes Gawaní is also primarily called to the last dancer of the circle. This line of dancers differ from many ages. You can have 3 years old and 83 year olds in the same line at a party.

Some Kurdish dances have various and numerous versions such as following: Dilan, Sepe, Chapi….
The Geryan version is a fast motive dance. In the Dilan version, the dancers on the circular path consist, usually, of alternating men and women holding hands and colourful handkerchiefs called desroke, in a semicircle, and moving around the circle with the leading and trailing persons waving their kerchiefs in elaborate motions. The leading individual often accentuates the customary steps and motions for the dance by displaying more energy or even by adding to the standard moves some of his own personal liking. Chapi comes from the word “chep” or “chap” meaning “left”. It is one of the more simple Kurdish dances. It consists of stepping forward on the left foot twice and then stepping back on the right foot twice while traveling in a circle. Sepe is similar to chepi but with motion towards the center of the circle and hitting the right foot roughly to the ground. There are also other variations used by Kurds, each dialect has its own form. Depending on location, some dialects have even the same dances, but in different directions.

Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish Classical performers – storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj) and bards (dengbêj). There was no specific music related to the Kurdish princely courts, and instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs and are epic in nature, such as the popular Lawik’s which are heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes of the past like Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love. Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed specifically in autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry and work songs are also popular. Kurdish folklore is a very rich one. Kurds have their own national attire. The women usually wear colored dresses.These dresses differe from area to another area. One can tell from which province or city a certain lady is by looking at her dress. As to the men, they have the “shalûshepik” or “rengûchox” a sort of baggy trousers “shirwal” with an upper shirt. Round the belt they tie a long piece of cloth. The men also use “shashik” or “cemedanî” with a “claw” on their heads. Kurds love to dance and they have hundreds of folk-dances.The music usually have speedy tacts and high tuned. They mostly use the “zurna” (kind of flute) and “Dehol” (drum”. While kurds also enjoy melancholic maqams or ballads that usually tells about events from the past. Many historians use these ballads as oral history passed through the generations.


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