Kochari (L*), Qochari, Kocharee, (Քոչարի), K’očari, Köçəri, Kόtsari (Κότσαρι), Koçerî‎, Koçari, Koçarî – Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus

*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 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.

OVERVIEW

Kochari is one of the most ubiquitous dances of Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus (except Georgia). Kochari (Armenian: Քոչարի, romanizedK’očari, Azerbaijani: Köçəri, Greek: Κότσαρι, Kόtsari romanized, Kurdish: Koçerî‎, Turkish: Koçari, Yazidi: Koçarî)) is a 1000 year-old family of folk dances originating in the Armenian Highlands [Anatolian Armenia-DB]. It is performed today by Armenians, Assyrians, Yazidis, Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Pontic Greeks, and Turks….Each region in the Armenian Highlands had its own Kochari, with its unique way of both dancing and music. Yalli, Khigga, and Halay, dances common to Azerbaijanis, Assyrians, and Kurds, have different forms known as Kochari. Below I list these cultures in alphabetical order, and their relationship to the dance.

Meaning of the name

  • Wikipedia quotes Cholakean, Hakob (2016). Ավանդական ուղղագրություն. Yerevan: “In Armenian, Kochari literally means “knee-come”. Գուճ (gudj or goudj) means “knee” and արի (ari) means “come”
  • The YouTube below cites another Armenian ethnologist who says “Kochar word is composed of KOCH (roar, male ram) ոյ ARI (Aryan, heroic) roots”.
  • The Pontic Greek term for limp is ‘kotso’ and the Pontic Greek kochari is considered to contain a number of limps.*
  • In many Turkic languages, Kochari means “nomad” (Köçəri (Azeri), Gochar, Goçede).*
  • In Kurdish [Kurmanji, DB], the word for nomads is Koçer, thus the name Koçerî makes it “Nomadic” (Nomadic dance).*

ARMENIAN; Kochari, Qochari, Kocharee, K’očari, (Քոչարի),

Whatever the root words mean, all are in agreement that Kochari is the dance most widespread and fundamental to Armenian identity. It has been added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvSVXd1lI5c
Caption: Kochari is Armenian dance and Armenians dance it before battle and after when they have won the battle. From a Soviet propaganda film, 1945. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob28S3AvyDE
Kochari and Yarkhusta, the two most popular, nationalistic (and militant) dances in Armenia, are often paired at events, including weddings. Yarkhusta starts at 5:20. 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5q9NSmxJG0

There are MANY varieties of Kochari. However, the most basic form involves 8 slow beats; a pair of ‘knee dips’ (4 beats), and 4 walking steps (4 beats). Both these ‘teaching’ YouTubes start with the dips, but others start with the walks. Once you’re started, it doesn’t matter!

Basic step taught in Spanish. Easy to follow, though! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6ptsVlUv4c
Basic step, with energy! 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ah4o_vWTE
Found here: https://socalfolkdance.org/dances/K/Kocharee.pdf
Very basic Kochari at a wedding in Yerevan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9AjoZL0Rf8
Loose! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viQx0HjjoZQ
Caption: “Kochari is a type of dance, not a concrete single dance. Each region in the Armenian Highlands had its own Kochari, with its unique way of both dancing and music.” 2015.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIfg7c3JWG8
A minimalist version, London, UK 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZJk96J_FBU
Somewhere in Russia. A glance at the dancing is at 1:45. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEqFiKv91Rs
Watch the leader! Location unknown: Armenia?, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MElcSYrljYA
Another leader who adds variations. Germany 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA9cXtPkXMQ
USA? 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Irv-UExbktk

VARIETIES

ALASHKERTI

Alashkerti Kochari. Dancing starts at 1:10. Alashkerti appears to be the basic 8-count step, with increasingly complex variations maintaining the Basic 8-count format.. 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mijn1wxrda0
“The village was known as Sovetakan between 1935 and 2008. In 2008, the village was renamed Alashkert, after the historic Western Armenian town of Alashkert. The village was populated by Azerbaijanis until the arrival of Armenian migrants from Western Armenia.” Wikipedia
“Eleşkirt. Its name is a transference from Alashkert (Armenian: Ալաշկերտ Alaškert), the valley’s former administrative centre. At the time of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 approximately half of the population consisted of Armenians and the rest of Kurds and Turks.” Wikipedia
Alashkerti – Masis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZoCbpukP-A
Alashkerti, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sfgSVNT5Fs

KARNO

Karno Kochari. Karno appears to have the same basic steps, only twice as many. 4 steps to the L, then 4 to R, the 4 dips.There’s also various formations, and solo breakouts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONsV3SbvYVE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6m7fp9Tp3s
Karno variety. 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S-Rm-ysH-A

SGHERDI, SXERDI,

Sgherdi kochari. 20 counts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksBK8ivbtzw
Andok group: Sxerdi [Sgherdi] qochari 20 counts. Caption, Google translated: Kocharis are cult dances that have come down to us from the ecological [pre-Christian-DB] age (TOTEMISM (animalism)). At that time, there was a time when people worshiped rams, and from that cult was born the kochar dance. Kochar word is composed of KOCH (roar, male ram) ոյ ARI (Aryan, heroic) roots. The ram scene should be noticeable in the dance. Aries are fighting animals that, with great momentum, strike each other in poses until they decide the winner among themselves. They have a space allotted to them. We present you Sgherd Kochar, written by Gagik Ginosyan from Abraham Nazoyan. Music by Karin traditional song and dance group. Performed by Andok traditional song and dance group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNY6hog9QuQ

BULANEKH, BULANIK

Kochari of Bulanekh. 8 counts. Masunk Ensemble, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTaAe0-ewdI
“At the end of the 19th century Gop was described as a large village with about 400 houses, all but 50 of them inhabited by Armenians. Although the soil was amongst the most fertile in the region, the inhabitants were almost destitute due to the region’s insecurity and the impossibility of exporting their crops. Two miles south of the village was an Armenian monastery named Surb Daniel which contained the relics of a saint of that name. Today, Kurds are the majority. Before the Armenian genocide, there was an Armenian majority, which was later replaced by Turks.” Wikipedia

MSHOOKHRR,

Caption by Tom Bozigian: The Sassoon Daron dance ensemble from the village of Nerkev Bazmabert perform variations of Kochari. 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z7sQiafN7I
Nerkin Bazmaberd is a town in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia. It was renamed Nerkin Bazmaberd on November 12, 1946. The population descends from refugees and migrants from the occupied Sason and Mus provinces of the Ottoman Empire (current Turkey) in 1915–1918.

MSHO

Msho Kochari. Looks like the taproot T-6. 2012, Armenian tourists in Anatolia, Cilician ARMENIA (no longer exists). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ3vcArxE-Y
Little Armenia (Cilicia) in 1200AD.

Axhkti Kochari

Axhkti Kochari. Gorky, Russia, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_9sk6Hdywk
This group appears to be dancing a Taproot T-6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsPd6cwiokQ
“Nihar” ensemble in Shushi/Susa, Nogorno Karabakh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xt11pOA-dg
Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLLopd0WJVw

Finally, an example of Kochari‘s hold on the Armenian psyche.

Aram Sargsyan (Armenian: Արամ Սարգսյան; born 5 April 1984), better known by his stage name Aram Mp3 (Արամ Mp3), is an Armenian singer-songwriter, comedian, and showman. He represented Armenia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 in Copenhagen with the song “Not Alone“, where he placed 4th. Here he sings his composition Kochari. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EGsgTnHK6Y
A sample of the lyrics, Google translated:

To us from the depths of the centuries
Our grandfathers dance
They dance so much that they move
Mountain, stone these dances
Our grandfathers and our dances
They create a basis for living
The thread of the solid moment of the past
There is your gene in that dance
The movements are as sublime as a shoulder to shoulder lion
Hold your shoulders firmly and the ground firmly
Hit your feet
Our grandfathers and our dances
They create a basis for living
The thread of the solid moment of the past
There is your gene in this dance
From the Reichstag to our grandfathers Mush and Van
Join and forget everything
Shout the words of your heart
To be strong and always strong
Like your dance and grandparents
The thread of the solid moment of the past
There is your gene in this dance 

Give me your hand, we are the winner
My soul sings the song of the mountains
Give me your hand, shout guys
This dance is a weapon, de kochari dance

There are more, and similar.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnOYfuJYs7M

ASSYRIAN; Kochari

I could find very few YouTubes called Assyrian Kochari. It seems to be a relatively minor dance in the Assyrian repertoire.

On Assyrian Kochari Wikipedia says: “Kochari: The notable attribute of this dance is that the participants are connected by arms-on-arms [shoulder hold, akin to dabke-DB]. Each leg makes a kick in a repetitive manner. Common among Assyrians in Syria. Very rare among other Assyrians. 110-120bpm

A 5×2-beat pattern. Moscow, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A79Rk3w3pF4
Mixed pattern. Turlock, California, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh16FeWKOf8
A 9×2-beat women’s line dance. At 0:43, a men’s line appears, doing the same 5×2-beat dance as above. 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E9l4aqC64g
Same 9×2-beat dance. Moscow, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJWQCqNDUSE

Below is a 4×2-beat Kochari with a different arm position. It is more similar to the Armenian Kochari, with similar weight changes.

These notes, (author Ricky Holden), accompany the Folkraft album “Assyrian Folk Dances”, LP4, 1962.
Essentially the same dance as Holden’s. Source: Thirty Assyrian Folk Dances by Peter Pnuel BetBasoo. http://www.aina.org/articles/tafd.pdf

AZERBAIJANI; Köçəri

Köçəri is considered a major dance of the Azerbaijanis, at least in some regions, though I couldn’t find many examples of Azeris dancing it on social (not performance) occasions.

Caption: Description: Yalli (Kochari, Tenzere), group dances of Nakhchivan, are traditional dances based exclusively on collective performances. Typically, yalli are performed in a circle, chain or line and involve games, pantomime (bird or animal imitations), physical exercises and movements. The dances are performed either spontaneously or in a planned manner during festivities, with free participation being one of the key principles. Several factors currently threaten the transmission of the dances, however, including a shift from informal to formal transmission, a preference for staged performances, labour migration, and drastic simplification of the dances. © Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKoxh-jdaec
Green circle is region of Azerbaijan called Nakhchivan, region of the YouTube above.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLazNQlv9iA
First 1 1/2 minutes; 4×2-beat pattern. 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmAbU3f2gE0
4×2-beat pattern, with many variations. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF040mSCRuU
Azeris consider Kochari important enough to feature it at the 2015 European Games in Baku, 2015. Best seen from 0:34 – 0:50. 4×2-beat pattern. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA-eaUZkf98
MUSIC köçəri rəqsi 1968 by KANALA ABUNE OLUN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQPk7qR1eQI
There are many Kochari music YouTubes, featuring many instruments..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJax2bMfIDk

GREEK, PONTUS; Κότσαρι,Kόtsari

For more about Pontus and Pontic Greeks, click here

In Pontic Greek, the ‘kotsi’ refers to the heel of the foot and the Greeks consider the heel to be the main part of the foot which the dancer uses. The Pontic Greek term for limp is ‘kotso’ and the Pontic Greek kochari is considered to contain a number of limps.

2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRelXbA8P6E
2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0heASWzEVBE
Found here: https://socalfolkdance.org/dances/K/Kotchari_(Graziosi).pdf
Caption: National Dance Ensemble Romiosini, Tamassos, Nicosia, 1/05/2018
Choreographer – Agis Toursidis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RljHV7IGPI4
Kars (Armenian: Կարս or Ղարս, Kurdish: Qers‎, Azerbaijani: Qars) is a city in northeast Turkey and the capital of Kars Province. Its population is 73,836 as of 2011.
Kars was in the ancient region known as Chorzene, (in Greek Χορζηνή) in classical historiography (Strabo), part of Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity), in Ayrarat province.

Yvonne Hunt, in Traditional Dance in Greek Culture (1996), had this this to say about Kόtsari: “Another popular dance is Kótsari or Kóchari, originally from the Kars area. It is performed with hands on the neighbors’ shoulders to music of 2/4 rhythm. In its simplest form it resembles hassaposerviko [Taproot T-6-DB] with an added measure. The footwork to the right in the first two measures is morrored to the left in the remaining two measures. Since the steps to the left are done virtually in place, there is very little movement in that direction. The music is accented on every fourth beat which fits the dance phrase exactly. Kótsari is one of the Pontic dances with several variations. Sometimes these variations are called out by the dancer at the right end of the line, other times it is a matter of individual preference. Kirkpatric has some worthwhile comments about the variations and style of this dance. “The length of the step is approximately four to eight inches and the feet never lift off the ground more than two to four inches except during a few of the more vigorous variations.” These “…may be performed by one or more dancers in the line without disrupting the basic pattern being danced by others in the line. It is difficult to know how traditional some of the variations are now, since many different figures have admittedly been choreographed for the stage.”

2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtuG0lJHgDA
2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CftZqr11cPk
Kilkis, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhrgObXiuPQ
Tik first, Kotsari starts at 3:40. Pella, Greece, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Glnd5Mi4GM4
Pella
This one received ridicule in the comments, perhaps because of the bouzouki-style accompaniment, perhaps the high kicks. Location unknown. 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5P-ZrRg7Fg
Tria ti kotsari – a variant in 6/8 time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srmstiPcdho

KURDS; Koçerî

For more about the Kurds, click here.

In Kurdish, the word for nomads is Koçer, thus the name Koçerî makes it “Nomadic” (Nomadic dance). However the dance itself is anything but nomadic. It hardly moves. It is the Armenian basic Kochari, but the 4 walking steps are often in place, sometimes “in the shoes”, when they can be seen at all. It’s obviously popular among the Kurds. There are countless YouTubes like these below, a few of a different variety.

2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Jio57YOuH4
2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPCa3cYtBBc

Muş 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLu-54yNBNY
Wikipedia: Muş (pronounced [muʃ]; transliterated as Mush, also historically Moush or Moosh; Armenian: Մուշ, Kurdish: Mûş‎) is a city and the provincial capital of Muş Province in Turkey. Its population is mostly Kurdish.
MUŞ?, Wedding, Some or most of these women may be dancing a Taproot T-6. 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsBwnvNSlXI
Patnos, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xby0ZUSwfc
Wikipedia: Patnos (Armenian: Բադնոց, Latin transliteration: Badnoc‘ or Patnoc‘, Kurdish: Panos) was a historically important Armenian city, is now a district of Ağrı Province of Turkey on a plain surrounded by high mountains including Süphan, watered by tributaries of the Murat River.
The plain has been settled since at least 1300BC and this was a centre of the Urartu civilisation. The city has many historical ruins from Urartian period.
Today Patnos is a small town in an impoverished rural area.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVoIpZB6lrw
Yemişen is a village in the District of Hamamözü, Amasya Province, Turkey.
Wedding Bayburt, Gümüşhane. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFNqXxonz04
2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uchY3OdLFLU
Şirvan (Arabic: شروان‎, Syriac: ܫܝܪܘܢ‎, romanizedSherwan,
Kurdish: Kufra/Şêrvan‎) is a town and district in Siirt Province in southeastern Turkey.
Starting at 5:30, “Kochari” is danced to a Taproot T-6 pattern. Germany, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55oPWFaBZ1c
8 slow steps Basic Kochari to faster music. Germany, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPz9-KHUPI4

SYRIAN, IRAQI KURDS

This is a different Kochari. 1st two YouTubes label it dawat Kochari. Different, slower rhythms, anyway. Footwork appears to be a Taproot T-6. I’m labeling it Syrian & Iraqi due to the Arabic lettering in the titles.

10-8 time, S,Q,Q,S. Dawat Kochari. Dance (moving to left) can be seen from 3:50. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMgyA7XQFcw
4/4 time. Dancing (to the right) can be seen at the 17 minute mark. 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntsMTPrdyts
10/8 time, S,Q,Q<S. 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C68JiymR7Yo

TURKS; Koçerî,

Although Turks do Koçerî, it doesn’t hold the special place in the repertoire that it does among Armenians, Kurds, Azeris, or Pontic Greeks.

Location unknown. Ahmet Özdemir Koçeri Segavi 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJBbqmYSkZE
2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnyhbBUiRag
2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6Izs7viiKo
Kars (Armenian: Կարս or Ղարս, Kurdish: Qers‎, Azerbaijani: Qars) is a city in northeast Turkey and the capital of Kars Province. Its population is 73,836 as of 2011.
Kars was in the ancient region known as Chorzene, (in Greek Χορζηνή) in classical historiography (Strabo), part of Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity), in Ayrarat province.
Nothing in the titles or captions indicate where this dance is or who is doing it. It’s called
Koçeri Dik Halay, which is more a Turkish thaan Kurdish title. I’m guessing it’s Turkish, due to the open movements. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDfcdJ56p8Q
2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cODGrIvERsE
Erzurum is the largest city in and capital of Erzurum Province. It is situated 1,900 meters (6,233 feet) above sea level. Erzurum had a population of 361,235 in the 2000 census, increasing to 367,250 by 2010. The city’s population consists mostly of ethnic Turks, with a Kurdish minority based on the south side.
Same melody as Armenian Kochari. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB1tJ0GUG3s

YEZIDI; KOÇARî

For more about the Yazidi, click here.

Yezidi in Germany https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg7P6eqEKwg
Yezidi wedding https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io_bME5an5s
Moscow, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-NhVaLnc2o

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