*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.
While surfing the web I came across YouTubes of an Armenian dance called Ver Veri or Ververi.
It’s immediately recognizable as our old favourite Taproot Dance. Seems to be very popular in Armenia. Armenia the physical country, that is, not Armenia the place in the imagination of Recreational Folk Dancers. 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.
National Armenian dances are something that every Armenian should be proud of. They are all full of tranquility, peace, joy, love and tender. 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.
In the first part the choreographer speaks about the dance. 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.
Here’s another Armenian website:
This is probably the most famous traditional Armenian dance. Almost every Armenian person can dance it. This dance is imitating the flight of the bird. Each jump is showing the willingness to fly high, while the movements of the hands symbolize the flight itself.
Here’s some YouTubes showing that Ververi is both Armenian and popular as a living dance.
Ververi is often preceded by a similar but slower dance called Goevnd, or Gyovnd.
Ververi, often coupled with Goevnd/Gyovnd, is taught in schools
Looking closer at the evidence, and adding a big dose of speculation on my part, I see some interesting patterns. Most of the people dancing Ververi are young, many are children. Although not exactly performances, many of the YouTubes shown are in semi-formal situations with leaders, and devoid of other context – similar to folk dances by Recreational groups in the West. In other words, I don’t see food, wedding dress, elders – the usual signs of traditional dance in a ‘village’ setting. Often, though not always – Ververi or Goevnd-Ververi, is accompanied by pre-recorded music, often the same recording.
That same recording is used by the performing group Karin to demonstrate Ververi.
Googling KARIN, I discovered it was founded by Gagik Ginosyan in 2001. It turns out he’s the guy teaching Ververi, second YouTube from the top. This group is highly respected and awarded by the State. Quoting from KARIN’s website “In 2005 “Karin” Traditional Song and Dance Ensemble, along with the foundation “Our City is our home” and Narekatsi Art Union, started the dance teaching program “We and Our Dances” which teaches the abc of the Armenian dance art to all the devotees of Armenian culture, thus trying to restore the traditional Armenian culture in the everyday life (emphasis mine). In 2009 the Gafeschyan foundation and Erevan Polytechnical University joined the program and unselfishly supported the program which has by now gone beyond the borders of Armenia “
As Armenia rebuilds itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is rediscovering the value of its ancient culture. It seems that KARIN is spearheading a revival of interest in traditional folk dances by educating urban young people who had been cut off from their roots.