Armenian Shuffle (L*)- USA/Armenian

*a Living dance is a 1st Generation dance that is still performed in the country of origin (or immigrant communities) as part of a social event like a wedding where others can participate (not for an audience) by people who learned the dance informally (from friends and relatives by observation and imitation, not in a classroom situation). For more information, click here and here.

Armenian dance authorities Gary and Susan Lind-Sinanian, write in their Shuffle dance notes: “The SHUFFLE, one of the oldest and most popular of the American-Armenian dances, was created in 1951 in the Merrimack Valley north of Boston. The ‘Shuffle’ quickly established itself among all American-Armenian communities nationally. The name is derived from the “shuffle” or “two-step” (R-together-R, L-together-L) that begins the dance and is very common in Armenian solo dancing. The ‘Shuffle’ is ubiquitous with many different regional names, including ‘Sirun Aghchik’, the ‘Glide’, ‘Slide’, ‘Two-step’, ‘CrissCross’, ‘Barsamian Bar’, and ‘Ten’.
Most contemporary dances have no ‘official name’. The “Shuffle” is the most important dance among American-Armenians, only exceeded in popularity by the basic ‘Bar’. Unlike most contemporary dances, the ‘Shuffle’ is not physically strenuous and can be done by any age, which reinforces the popularity. The dance melodies are always a 10/8 rhythm, typical of Kharpert and Diyarbekir, and musicians informally refer to a shuffle rhythm as ‘playing a 10’.

Shuffle – the Music

Lind-Sinanian says almost any Armenian tune in ’10’ will do for the Shuffle – few are specific to the dance. Stands to reason, as Armenian musicians are playing mostly traditional melodies much older than the dance. A ’10’, the 10/8 rhythm, is common to Armenians, but not so to most non-Armenians. It features a hypnotic uneven beat structure, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow. For those trained in Western music, that’s 10 beats per measure, counted 1,2,3, 1,2, 1,2, 1,2,3.

Ussak Ten Eight Medley. Mal Barsamian, clarinet

Kharpert and Diyarbekir are two regions in what is now Turkey.

Elazığ is the modern Turkish name for the region Armenians know as Kharpert. For more on Kharpert, click

Diyarbakir is the recent Turkish name for an area continuously settled for at least 12,000 years. Wikipedia says “It was ruled by a succession of nearly every polity that controlled Upper Mesopotamia, including the Mitanni, Arameans, Assyrians, Urartu, Armenians, Achaemenid Persians, Medes, Seleucids, and Parthians.[15] From 189 BCE to 387 CE, the region to the east, west and north of present Diyarbakır came under the rule of Greater Armenia and was part of Aghdznik province (ashkhar). The Roman Republic gained control of the city in 66 BC, by which stage it was named “Amida”.[16] In 359, Shapur II of Persia captured Amida. The majority of the city’s Armenian and Assyrian population were massacred and deported during the Assyrian Genocide & Armenian Genocide in 1915. Many Kurds view Diyarbakir as the capital of Kurdistan.[6][7]

Shuffle – the Dance

I tried Googling ‘Armenian Shuffle’ YouTubes and got virtually nothing using a 10/8 rhythm. Same with all the alternative names Lind-Sinanian listed. Armenian Wedding didn’t work, either. However, Armenian Church Picnic – that’s the secret password!

Until 1:55. St. Vartanantz located in Chelmsford, MA, year 2010
Ari Ari (Tu Im Hbard Hye Aghchig) Watertown Armenian Festival 2006. Roger Krikorian Vocals-Dumbeg
Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border, and the St. Stephen’s Armenian Church Picnic from Watertown.
Providence, RI Picnic, 2011
St. James Armenian Church, Watertown MA. Picnic

It turns out not ALL Shuffles are danced to music in ’10’. These are in 2/4 or 4/4.

picnic, St Gregory, White Plains NY

Lind-Sinanian says: “NOTE: This dance is found throughout North America with many variations. Whichever version being danced locally is always the ‘correct version’ by definition.” … Note: In some Armenian communities, the arms are swayed more aggressively during the dance (cts 1-4), or can swing down and up (cts. 5-8). Swing joined arms down to sides (cts. 5 & 6), swing arms up to original position (cts. 7 & 8). The line’s leader establishes the use of arms while dancing with the rest following his/her example.” I have noticed that in all the YouTubes shown here, no one is swaying arms. Too bad!

This Shuffle has an extra 4 steps, plus claps. You get a good look at around 1:50. Aravod Ensemble @ Columbia University. 2006

Other Shuffle Dances

Many other American-Armenian dances start with/are based on the Shuffle, including Ambee Dageets

And Sirun Aghchik (Sweet Girl). Click

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