*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.
Bar, Par, also Govend, Ververi, Mshu Kher, – ARMENIA
Armenia’s long and tragic history has included many displacements and a few genocides, resulting in a widely dispersed population. At least 5 distinct dance traditions exist simultaneously in the Levant, the USA, Istanbul, Anatolia, and Armenia proper. However one dance, possibly the most ancient, is known by all Armenians. It is our old friend the Taproot Dance. Armenians call it by several different names, each with a few spellings, reflecting different regions, dialects, and methods of converting Armenian to English. In Eastern Armenia (the country) it’s called Par. In the Western, diaspora Armenia, it’s Bar, due to different dialects of the spoken language. Part of former Armenia, now in Turkey, called it Govnd, Gyovnd, Gyond, Govend, Goevnd. Another term is Mshu Kher, referring to a Taproot Dance from Mshu, Msho, Moosh, Moush. Then there’s Yerek Votk, meaning “three steps”, a reference to its Taproot structure.
Bar/Par can be used as a generic term for a circle or open circle dance, as in Laz Bar or Sepastia Bar (unrelated to Taproot). When Bar is used alone it’s most likely a form of Taproot Dance. Bars with singing as the only accompaniment are called bari-yerker.
I recently received a detailed letter from Armenian dance and culture authority Gary Lind-Sinanian. Gary was kind enough to review this posting and offer comments and corrections. They are added below in italics.
The verb ‘barel/parel’ now means ‘to dance’ but originally in classical Armenian the word meant ‘to move in a circle’. The classical Liturgy instructs that the priest do a ‘bar’ around the altar. That does NOT mean he danced around the altar…it means that he leads the religious procession to walk around the altar.
Par and Bar are the same word, Eastern vs; Western Armenian dialects. The word was primarily used in the area from Sepastia east through Karin (Erzerum) into the Caucasus. South in the areas of Van/Sasun etc the word Gyond/Govand was used, meaning ‘to move in a line’. The northern dances had more circular dances while the south had more linear dances. Today it is used to mean ‘dance’ and when alone, usually the ‘3 & 1’ dance. [what I call Taproot Dance – DB]. This ”3 & 1′ dance was often not referred to as a ‘bar’ but rather ‘Yerek Votk” (Armenian) or ‘Uch Ayak‘ (Turkish), both meaning ‘three steps’ , but those same names were often used for other dances as well…it’s very confusing. Sorry I can’t clarify a better answer for you.
Though all Armenian Bars share the same basic pattern of weight changes – step, step, step, __, step, __, there is much variety of styling details, some of which are sooo different they appear to be different dances, some of which result in different names. Below, I’ve listed a few varieties, with YouTubes.
Bar, Par, Yerek Votk
The simplest, most straightforward Bar is by Armenian-Americans. Not many fancy dips, hand bounces, extra steps – just an easy step-step-step-kick-step-kick.
“Shourj bar’ is just a catch-all term for a ‘3 & 1’ in the USA. Not a specific melody. Any 2/4 will do, or sometimes a 6/8 or 10/8, People aren’t very picky. But the tempo can change how the dance is actually executed.
In North America, Bar is an open circle with classic Armenian ‘pinkie’ hold. Tempo – various. Face Centre
Variations include a clap on each beat, and a full CW turn on the 1st 2 steps while clapping. Source: Folk Dance Problem Solver, 1996
Govend, Govnd, Gyovnd, Gyond, Goevnd. Գյոնդ or Գյովնդ
The demonstration below says it all. Slower tempo, “zspanak” or “spring”, which is the deep flexing of knees, forearms forward and touching, pinkies interlocked, hands bouncing up & down with knees.
Verver, Ververi. Վերվերի
Ververi is Par on steroids. Fast tempo,
Yes, ‘verver’ is also a ‘3 & 1’. the most distinctive feature is the hopping style. Technically, this was originally a dance for teens (unmarried youth) as a fertility dance, but it now has lost that ritual association so adults do it too.
Back in Armenia the Country, the website Armenia Tourism Blog has an article called “Armenian National Dance Ver-veri: Jump Up High” Here’s text from that article.
“Ver-veri (Վեր-վերի) or Ver-Veruk (Վեր-վերուկ) is one of the most beautiful Armenian dances, popular in all regions of Armenia. It belongs to the two steps-forward/one step-back type of dances and is very easy to learn. The name Ver-veri indicates the mood of the dance — light, joyful and sometimes even humorous. The root of the word “Վեր-վերի” means to jump up high, to dance from joy, to rejoice. It also includes the meaning of height and upwards. In old Armenian this dance was called Vernapar, which means “dance upwards.”
Leaps and jumps are used quite often in Armenian dances. They symbolize the efforts of the dancers to have a magical impact on the fertility of the plants, birds, animals and humans. Ver-veri is usually performed in circles, either hand in hand or by holding each others’ shoulders, with handkerchiefs attached to their waists.
As mentioned above, Ver-veri is quite easy to learn. I suggest you watching the tutorial, which, unfortunately, is available only in Armenian, but I will try to help you with the language.”
“Ver-veri has 2 versions – average and high speed.
Average speed version: dancers perform hands down by taking each others’ hands. Hands slowly move back and forth during the dance. The feet movements are as follows: right foot makes a step to the right, left foot makes a cross-step to the right, right foot makes another step to the right, left foot makes a move in the air without touching the ground, and then goes backward. Then the right foot moves to the left in the air and comes back to its initial position.
High speed version: dancers hold each others’ shoulders. The feet movements are basically the same, they just perform this version with more leaps and jumps.”
Although the average speed version may be self-explanatory, the high-speed version (starting at 2:46) is a little trickier. Both speeds take 6 beats to complete one sequence.
BEATS: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
AVERAGE SPEED: R, L, R, lift L, L, lift R,
HIGH SPEED: hop L,R, L, Both, kick L, Both, kick R
With the high speed version, all movements are higher, more vigorous.
Often in Armenia, Goevnd and Ververi are combined into a continuous set. Yes, they now often use Gyovnd-Verver as a set nowadays, the same way that American-Armenians use Shuffle-Bar as a standard set. People like variety and to end with a more energetic faster dance.
Mshu, Msho, Moosh, Moush, Մուշ, Muş (Kurdish) a city and province in Turkey, was part of a traditional homeland for many Armenians.
Note the use of what Laura Shannon calls the ‘pert’ (fortress) or ‘bahd’ (wall) hold, a tight hold used by Kurds.
Mshu Kher is a traditional dance from Moush, in the Taron district. A variant on the basic ‘three and one’ step, [what I call the Taproot dance – DB] the dance is intense but has little lateral movement, barely moving the group from the starting point. The focus is on the intricate body shifts rather than large movements. The Mshu Khr is said to represent the restless pawing of horses, a traditional masculine symbol. Once a male-only dance, the Mshu Kher is now done by both genders with enthusiasm around the world.
Source: Gagik Ginosyan
Formation: Line of dancers with arms at sides, fingers interlocked.
Style: Erect carriage and focus on the group as one unit. The action and challenge is in the flexing of the legs, not traveling, and Msho Khr has two types of legs flexing. A deep ‘flex’ which requires a flex/plie of the kneees as the body sinks and rises, and a shallow ‘bounce’ which is a movement primarily through the ball of the feet rather than through the knees. The dance is in place and the shifting between the flexes and the weight shifts provides the challenge.
Note: Mshu Kher is one of the most popular and widespread of the traditional Armenian folk dances today and many slight variations and elaborations can be seen on ‘youtube.com’, either among the many dance ensembles that perform it or among the various Armenian youth at social events.