Friday, February 26, 2016

National Dance and Song

When dad and I first came to Mongolia in the summer of 2014, one of our events was attending the performance of National Song and Dance Academic Ensemble at the National Academic Drama Theatre. In the summer months they have two shows nightly. Dad and I loved it so much--we went again this past summer, taking Enji along as he'd never been. In January, I went to a performance by the Tumen Ekh ensemble. A smaller and more intimate setting than the National Theatre, this performance seemed to focus more on folk songs and dances; whereas the National Theatre performance wraps up with a morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) orchestra performing both Mongolian and popular pieces. 

Yesterday at ASU we had the privilege of seeing an hour long performance by our sister school, School 60 (a Mongolian public school).  

IMG_0778 from Heather Caveney on Vimeo.

This performance was nearly as good as either of the more professional performances I've seen, if not better because it was adolescents and teens doing it. They danced with grace and smiles on their faces. The costumes sparkled and glimmered. Our students, grades PreK through 5th, were captivated--cheering, clapping, ooohing and aaahing, and generally sitting on the edge of their seats. 
IMG_0775 from Heather Caveney on Vimeo.

The colors, the sounds, the movements. I was equally captivated and always find myself closing my eyes while I FEEL the sound of the morin khuur. It is unlike any other instrument I've heard--having something both ancient and haunting within its sounds. Some of the music played for the dances included throat-singing, another unique kind of musical performance that is done in Mongolia. Similar to what the morin khuur does to me, throat-singing transports me to a different time and place. You can FEEL the expansiveness of Mongolia's steppe through this haunting and moving music. 

IMG_0774 from Heather Caveney on Vimeo.

If I had to describe what I perceive as unique about Mongolian dance, I would say it's the hand, arm, and shoulder movements. To me, they evoke the feeling of a bird taking flight, of the expansiveness of the steppe, and of tenger--which translates to sky, heaven, ether, or god. I feel these movements invite the viewer into the experience and offer a piece of what makes Mongolia special and unique, a feeling of being part of something beautifully ancient, enchanting, and transcendent. 

If you want to see a few other videos online, here are some I can recommend:
Altai Hangai
My Beloved Country
Throat Singing
Altai Folk Band does Jingle Bells in the Countryside 

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