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Khorovod - folk dance of Russia

The khorovod is another Russian folk dance we want to talk more. The name means circle dancing and chorus singing at the same time. The khorovod dance is one of the most ancient folk dances that has Slavic roots. This dance was performed at folk festivals and pagan rituals.

Khorovod was performed in the following way: women stand in a circle and move from east to west, as the Sun goes across the sky. Foreign visitor noticed that Khorovof reflected some traits of Russian character as enthusiasm, creativity and joy of living.

 

Vladimir Dahl, the legendary 19th century expert in Russian folk culture, defined the khorovod – which was also known as karagod, tanok, krug (circle) and ulitsa (street) – as an outdoor gathering of young people in rural areas, accompanied by dancing and singing. In fact, the word khorovod has many different meanings in folklore studies, ethnography, history of art and spoken language. Thus, in its wider meaning, the word khorovod coincides with a concept of ulitsa (street), which was widespread among peasants (as indicated in historical expressions such as “go out into the street, go out to dance in khorovod”, or “don’t let somebody go out into the street, don’t let them dance in khorovod”). In these cases, it designates various pastimes pursued by youth in rural areas from spring to autumn. It should be said that people in Russian villages did perform this outdoor round dance in wintertime, but such performances were extremely rare.

 

The khorovod usually started in the following manner: two or three young girls and the same number of marriageable girls from a neighbourhood stood in the middle of a street and started singing songs, acting out the lyrics. They were gradually joined by other girls and then by young men, who very often brought accordions, violins and tambourines with them.

However, there was another way to get a dance started: on a festive day, in the village centre (usually the venue for trade fairs), several girls in bright Russian sarafans would sit next to each other on a tree log and quietly sing humorous songs, while young men would sing along and provide a soft musical accompaniment. After some time, all of them would stand up and join hands to form a circle. Only then would one of the girls break out into loud singing, and one of the lads, carrying a bright handkerchief in his hand, step into the centre of the circle. A round dance would begin, with a pantomime gradually unfolding inside the circle.

The khorovod was also a symbol of unity and friendship. Dancers usually held hands, or the little finger of their partner. They could hold the opposite ends of a handkerchief, a shawl, a belt or a garland. In some regions, dancers didn’t move in a circle, but in line, keeping at a precise distance from each other. Khorovod patterns largely depended on location, as the dance was popular in all regions of Russia, each of which had its own, unique characteristics of the dance.

 

 

In northern regions, the khorovod was distinguished for its gentle, reticent, subdued manner and exceptional melodiousness, as if in allusion to the delicate and austere beauty of the North, as well as some of the inherent characteristics of the Russian soul. Despite its calm and decorous nature, Northern khorovods were expressive and emotionally charged.

In central regions, in the vicinity of Moscow, khorovods were more cheerful, lively and light-hearted. The dance was accompanied by another outstanding creation of Russian folk art – incredibly beautiful folk songs. People would clap their hands, tap their feet and make fast and energetic movements.

Khorovod dances in the south, with their beautiful, balmy weather, were famous for their impetuous, dashing movements and elaborate patterns. Embodying strength, boundless energy and youthful fervour, Southern khorovods usually involved huge crowds of participants.

Translated into English by Nadezhda Tsyba

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