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Halay or Yalli (Azerbaijani: Yallı,Armenian: Շուրջպար šurǰpar; Syriac: ܚܓܐ Ḥeggāʾ, Greek: Χαλάϊ Chaláï; Kurdish: Gowend or Dîlan, Turkish: Halay, Sakha: Ohuokhai) is a popular dance in the Middle East.
Halay is traditionally played during wedding on the zurna, supported by a davul, but in the recent years, electronic instruments have started to replace them. Typically, Halay dancers form a circle or a line, while holding each other with the little finger or shoulder to shoulder or even hand to hand with the last and first player holding a piece of cloth. It is a national dance in Azerbaijan and Turkey.
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” in Azerbaijani means row, line of chain. The Yalli dancers stand in one line or two rows and sometimes in some rows.
One source suggests a possible connection of the Turkish halay to alay: a crowd at a parade, or a regiment. The word alay is traced back through Greek ultimately to the Latin ala meaning a wing or a certain military formation with cavalry at the wings.
The Ohuokhai Dance
The Ohuokhai dance appeared long ago when the Sakha people lived in the South and were typical cattle-breeders, so-called sun worshippers. It is a native dance that combines three forms of art: dancing, singing and poetry. The Sakha word "yungkyu" (Yңкүү, dance) comes from the verb "ungk" (Yң, to worship).
The Ohuokhai is a simultaneous round dance and song. Dancers form a circle and dance, arm in arm, hand in hand, with the left foor put forward, while making rhythmical, graceful movements with their bodies, legs, feet and arms. A lead singer improvises the lyrics and the other dancers repeat them. This Ohuokhai leader has a special talent not only for singing but also, what is more important, for poetic improvisation. There song leaders compete at the national Yhyakh festival for the best poetic expression, best song and biggest circle.
Poetic improvisation of the Ohuokhai represents one of the richest and oldest genres of Sakha folklore.
The melody of the Ohuokhai is put to many types of music, from marching tunes to operas. Kylyhakh is the special singing technique of vocal cord vibration. This technique gives a unique national Sakha colouring highly appreciated by experts in "throat singing".
The Ohuokhai plays an important role in the developmen of the musical and choreographic arts.
A famous folk singer, poet and composer, Sergey Zverev from the Suntarsky region added many new elements in the expressiveness of the movements.
- Sevan Nişanyan, Sözlerin Soyağacı: Çağdaş Türkçenin Etimolojik Sözlüğü (the family tree of words: an etymological dictionary of contemporary Turkish), Istanbul, 2007
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