Spirit of Dance festival unites cultures through music, movement

ASTANA – Astana hosted The Spirit of Dance festival, part of the Spirit of Tengri project, Sept. 14 at the Kazakhstan concert hall, the city’s largest. The event gathered dance groups from 14 countries, including Azerbaijan, Canada, Georgia, Latvia, India, Ireland, Kazakhstan,and Uzbekistan.

Photo credit: Gleb Terletsky.

Established in 2012 by Kazakhstan’s Tengri FM radio station, the Spirit of Tengri is a national and cultural project that has welcomed more than 120,000 visitors from Kazakhstan and abroad to celebrate nomadic culture. The Spirit of Tengri provides those from formerly nomadic societies and those simply interested to use music to access and explore their cultural roots. Bands from more than 70 countries around the globe participated in the festival throughout the years.

Now, the brand-new Spirit of Dance project aims to do something similar, but through dance.

Spirit of Dance participants performed national dances in a contemporary manner in 20- to 30-minute blocks, using another country’s traditional sounds to guide their movements.

“We came up with this idea long ago. Organising the Spirit of Tengri festivals, we saw that we could add more and improve them with a real ethnic dance. Different dance groups from around the globe contacted us, but there was no conceptual idea that would have been interesting to us and our audience. We decided that if we could present ethnic music in an interesting way, then we could do the same with dance. Our idea was to invite small dance groups and ask them to present a contemporary version of their national dance,” said Spirit of Tengri general producer Zhan Kasteyev, as quoted by Tengrinews.

“For instance, Georgian dancers adapt their national dance to Canadian music or Canadian dancers adapt their dance to Kazakh national music. This is a show where dance takes us on a journey throughout the universe. We tried to encompass as many countries as possible,” said Kasteyev.

The dance festival promotes diversity of art, said Kazakh Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly.

“I personally thank the project organisers, because we need such diversity in art. As a ministry, we are involved in the classical, ballet and pop genres, but when something extraordinary like this is shown, and for the first time such diverse ethnic dances take place with live vocals, this gives rise to great admiration and deep respect,” said the minister.

“You know, those who visit our country are surprised at how spiritually wealthy our country is. This is a big positive sign that we strive to greatness and diversity. The festival gathered full house and this shows that people are willing to spend money on self development and cultural enlightenment. This is a sign that Kazakhstan is on the right track,” said Mukhamediuly.

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