Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is the largest of China's provinces and autonomous regions and has abundant natural resources. Surrounded and divided by mountains, Xinjiang's north is completely different from its south.
The 59.5 million Uygurs in Xinjiang are known for their skill in singing and dancing. On festive days and at gatherings of friends and relatives, Uygurs love to sing and dance. Their lively dances demonstrate diligence, bravery, openness and optimism.
Uygur folk dances are distinguished by head and wrist movements. Their clever coordination is enhanced by the typical posture of tilted head, thrust chest and erect waist. The dances, Sanam in particular, express the Uygurs' feelings and character.
A slight shivering movement is characteristic of Uygur folk dances. The rhythmic and continuous shivering of the knees and the momentary shiver when a movement is changed lend grace and continuity.
The fast turns of Uygur folk dances emphasize speed and are followed by an abrupt stop, like a soaring eagle that stops suddenly. The various dances all have their own turns. A turning contest brings the dance to its climax. There are special tempi for various Uygur folk dances, but syncopation and dotted rhythms are prominent features in many.
Following are introductions to Sanam, Dolan, Sama, Xadiyana and Nazirkom folk dances, which enjoy wide popularity among the Uygurs.
Sanam is the most popular folk dance among all the Uygurs in Xinjiang. It mainly originated in southern Xinjiang with its advanced agriculture and culture and a dense population of Uygurs. In forming the Uygur classic music called the Twelve Mukam, Sanam was included, thus it must be even older than the centuries-old Mukam. At the same time Sanam was popularized among the Uygurs as an independent dance.
At weddings, on festive occasions and at parties people invariably dance Sanam. For instance, at a song and dance party the whole village, old and young, men and women, relatives and friends, joins in the dance. One family plays host for each party. The dancing and singing are kept going with games of passing flowers, wine cups or belts. Sometimes a performance of Mukam songs and riddles or a recitation of poem is included.
On the first day of a wedding celebration friends on both sides invite the bridegroom and their relatives to their homes. In the evening the bridegroom and his friends go to the bride's home to welcome the bride. A band plays as they go singing and dancing on their way. Throughout the day Sanam is the main form of singing and dancing.
In a performance of Sanam people sit in a circle with a band in one corner. As people clap their hands and sing in unison, the dancers dance. Besides singing the familiar old songs, they improvise new verses to old melodies to describe the festive scene and their joyous feelings.
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