Monday, August 28, 2006

August 2006: Ishqashim

We recently visited Ishqashim, the most southern district of Badakhshan. Ishqashim is situated along the northern border of the Hindukush mountain rage shared with Afghanistan. We traveled by car along this windy and temultuous road covering over 450kilometers before we returned to our home base in Khorog. Unlike the districts we have previously visited, the language spoken in Ishqashim is Vakhon not Shugnan. For all of our Tajik team members, three of which are Shugni speakers, it was their first visit to this region of Badakhshan. We were fortunate to see two uniquely different presentations of Ishqashim dance and music. The first was in the small village of Toghuz located at the bottom of the mountain that boasts the reknowned Bibi Fatima Chashma (a sacred Natural Hot Spring attributed to the wife of Imom Ali.) The second was held, furher east along the Panj River in a village by the name of Vrang. We have been received warmly by many families on our field expeditions throughout Badakhshan. Ishqashim was no exception. Our TDI team was hosted by the wonderful family of Rahim Sarvarkhonov, whose home was within one kilometer of the Bibi Fatima Chashma above the village of Tughoz. We were very touched by their warmth & hospitality.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dance Video Clip from Ghund

Aug. 13th, 2006 | 02:57 pm

Our TDI team traveled to the district of Ghund directly east of Khorog along what is known as the "Pamir Highway" to visit the home of the well respected and loved Mado musician and teacher, SultanNazar. Mado is a genre of devotional music unique to Badakshan. The mystical poetry of Nasser Khosrou, Hafiz, Rumi, local Badakshani poets and others comprise the lyrics of Mado song. The mastery of music and song executed by SultanNazar was phenomenal but it was the passion and love expressed that really touched all of us. Such a high level of music created a very intentional space allowing the dance performances that followed to be were presented in their highest form. Most exceptional was the Dance of the Horse, Raks-e Asb, perfomed by Oyatsho Shohidaryoev: male, age: 30 and Qimatgul Masumova: female, age: 16.

Get this video and more at

TDI Journal

Aug. 10th, 2006 | 04:23 am

Tajik Dance Initiative news from Badakhshan:

Hello Ballet Afsaneh community,
We are writing you from the heart of Badakhshan in the striking city of Khorog. First and foremost we apologize for the delay posting to our blog. The internet has been extremely shaky and we were not able to find a way to post until now. We have been in Khorog for just over two weeks, and already we have been exposed to a wealth of extaodinarily rich and diverse traditional Badakhshani music, poetry and dance. In the past few weeks we have gone on field expeditions daily into various local districts surrounding Khorog. Each village is about an hour or two driving (and often a bit more by foot because the terrain is very coarse in the mountains) and we have visited the villages of Roshkala, Ghund, Siyov and Charthem. So far we have seen traditional Maddoh (devotional and poetic music), Rappo (more vigorous and often danceable music) and Fallak music (ghazals with sung with gloteral vibrato).

Already we have had the opportunity to interview and speak with a diverse range of exceptionally talented musicians and dancers and have seen some of the greatest masters of Pamir dance and music such as: Ali Akhbar, Barodar Khan, Kurbon Shah and Sultan Nazar to name a few. One spectacular dance in particular we saw was a couple dance called Raqs-e-Asp (the dance of the horse) a courtship dance between male and female dancers. The dancer’s costumes were vibrant colors of red, blue and green and they performed dozens of rigorous spins with extreme fluidity, agility and grace. Along with our field expeditions we have also been invited to a number of traditional and modern Pamir weddings which have been a blast! Aliah, Sonja and myself (Tara) have been taking daily dance classes (before and after our field expeditions) from 8am to 10am with Master Badakhshani performing artist Mahingul and night dance classes from 8pm to 10pm with the incomparable Zaragul Iskhandarova. In the next few weeks we plan to visit the region of Ishkashim and the Bartang Valley. Stay tuned to hear more about the TDI team, our adventures and stories from Badakhshan!

BAACS in Tajikistan

Ballet Afsaneh and the Tajik Dance Initiative

Jul. 6th, 2006 | 01:33 am

In 2005 Ballet Afsaneh, the professional performing arts ensemble of the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society, launched the Tajik Dance Initiative (TDI). Over the next two years, with the help of our artists, volunteers and foundation partners, the project will support the research and development of dance and related arts in Tajikistan. Providing an opportunity for both Tajik and international artists and scholars to work together to maintain the vitality of Tajik dance in its cultural context and its relationship to place, time and spirit.

Located north of present day Afghanistan, east of Uzbekistan, to the north and west of Pakistan and China, this remote region of the world, once known as Bactria, maintains a deep connection to dance in its many faceted secular and spiritual forms. The artists of Ballet Afsaneh have had a passionate interest for many years in the dance and related arts of this particular region of Central Asia. For us it is a dream come true to have this opportunity to study with our teachers in Tajikistan and to help support the stewards of traditional expressive arts as they emerge onto the world stage.

2006 marks our first project year and the pilot program is "Humanities Link". The program engages young Tajik scholars and artists with their international counterparts for field research expeditions and skill building opportunities. Fostering a team spirited, collaborative, non-extractive approach to research and bio-cultural stewardship.

This blog will create a place to share the adventures of our participating artists and scholars, where they can share their progress, thoughts and pictures of friends and activities as the TDI cultural exchange project unfolds. Check back in often, share your comments and enjoy the adventures of our intrepid Afsaneh travelers.

To read more about the work of Ballet Afsaneh and the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society visit our website: