Travel Like a Local: 4 Ways to Discover the Dances of Uzbekistan

Travel Like a Local: 4 Ways to Discover the Dances of Uzbekistan

The complex Silk Road rhythms, melodies, and musical instruments of Uzbekistan are utterly fascinating. 

It is enchanting to watch dancers clothed in richly detailed hand-woven and hand-tailored costumes twirling and swaying in smooth, well practiced moves handed down from generation to generation. Our travelers agree, saying it makes for a richer travel experience and deeper connection with local people.

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Good Manners – Dancing in Central Asia


We specialize in giving travelers the opportunity to connect with local people at dance performances that are included as part of our itineraries – often in interesting locales, such as the tiled courtyard of a madrassah, or right next to your dinner table alongside locals.

Here are some of our favorite opportunities to see an authentic dance performance while traveling through Uzbekistan:

A dance performance in Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Peter Guttman

A dance performance at a madrassah in Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

1. Dance at a Madrassah with a Local Audience

Two phoenixes spread their wings on either side of a shining sun on the archway that leads into the Divan-Begi Madrassah in Bukhara, where a nightly Uzbek music and dance performance is held. Built as a caravanserai in 1622, it was converted to a madrassah, or Koranic school, with student rooms clustered around the courtyard.

Here in the courtyard, local dance enthusiasts and travelers sit around low tables, drinking tea and enjoying a program of the traditional dances of Uzbekistan. The vivid costumes of the whirling dancers add to the beauty and grace of the production.


See a Dance Performance at a Madrassah in UzbekistanThese MIR small group tours usually include a dance performance in a Bukhara madrassah:

You can also opt to have MIR hand-craft a custom, private Uzbekistan tour itinerary just for you, built around your dates and interests.

Dancing in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo: Michel Behar

A royal-purple-clad ensemble performs at a madrassah in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Photo: Michel Behar

 

2. Dance in private settings 

It’s really fun to have a dance performance for just for your own group. Lots of small Uzbek dance troupes will bring their own musicians and costumes, and dance as you and your companions enjoy a meal of Uzbek specialties. You may be encouraged to get up and dance with them, and after a nice glass of Uzbek wine, you may very well feel like kicking up your heels.


There are all kinds of dance styles in Central Asia, from subdued and swan-like to playful and energetic. This video showcases the spirited Khorezmian dance style in a small, exclusive setting for a small group of MIR travelers in Khiva, Uzbekistan.

Samarkand hosts several young peoples’ dance troupes that will put on an occasional private performance for MIR small groups. The Fuete Children’s Ballet School performs classical ballet and Uzbek dances in Art Gallery Hall. And the Jannona troupe of youthful dancers performs in Samarkand as well.

The Topotushki Dance Troupe’s name comes from a Russian word meaning tapping or stepping. Their lively dances are based on traditional Uzbek styles with some Russian and European influences.


See a Dance in a Private Setting in UzbekistanThese MIR small group tours usually include a private dance performance:

Dancing in Uzbekistan. Photo: Richard Fejfar

Kids keep the traditions alive in Uzbekistan
Photo: Richard Fejfar

 

3. Visit a Master Dance Class

One of the many exclusive travel opportunities that MIR can arrange is a rare look inside a master dance class in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. 

Megan Gilboy, MIR Accounting/Benefits Coordinator, has a passion for ethnic dance and joined the ANAR DANA dance group in 2008. ANAR DANA has worked with MIR on our Dance Tour Through Uzbekistan small group journey since 2016. Megan has traveled on every departure of this trip and captured this special footage of their visit to, and participation in, a Master Dance Class.

Traveling with the ANAR DANA dance troupe through Uzbekistan is one of Megan’s favorite travel memories:

For me, dancing with locals is the best way to connect with people and the culture. Many of my deepest friendships and connections in Central Asia are through dancing and this tour

Megan Gilboy, MIR Accounting/Benefits Coordinator


Visit a Master Dance Class in UzbekistanIf you’re in love with Uzbek dance and traditional costumes, and would enjoy learning Uzbek dances as well as experiencing the highlights of Uzbekistan, you might want to learn more about the special journey, Dance Tour Through Uzbekistan. You don’t need to be a pro to join this tour, just a dance enthusiast. 

MIR's Megan Gilboy (center) performs a dance in Bukhara, Uzbekistan Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

MIR’s Megan Gilboy (center) performs a dance in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

 
4. The Unexpected Dance Party

So far we’ve covered opportunities that are thoroughly researched, coordinated, and planned out to be part of a hand-crafted itinerary. And then there are the dance performance opportunities that happen on the fly, and extend into the streets.

Spontaneous dancing breaks out all over during the spring festival of Navruz. If you’re in Uzbekistan during this celebratory time, you’re liable to run into small groups dancing, singing and feasting in the parks and on the streets. You can celebrate Navruz with the local people on MIR’s small group tour Backstreets & Bazaars of Uzbekistan.

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Learn from the Locals – Navruz in Uzbekistan

It’s a red-letter day when you encounter a common wedding tradition in Central Asian countries: newlywed couples walking among the old streets and ancient architecture for photo ops.

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Wedding Traditions in Uzbekistan

On his most recent tour of Khiva, Uzbekistan, MIR Sales Specialist Kevin Testa crossed paths with a lively, spur-of-the-moment wedding dance and shares this video of some of the festivities. 

It was one of his favorite moments of his trip:

One of my favorite memories from my time in Central Asia was getting to witness a spontaneous wedding dance on the streets of Khiva. Their joyous, natural movements captured my attention for what felt like ages. This wasn’t a canned, rehearsed performance put on for tourists, yet was somehow far more impressive and real. It was easily a highlight for me.

Kevin Testa, MIR Travel Sales Specialist

When you see a wedding party in Central Asia, there's bound to be street dancing Photo credit: Kevin Testa

When you see a wedding party in Central Asia, there’s bound to be street dancing
Photo credit: Kevin Testa

 

Travel to Uzbekistan with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia and an affiliate office in Uzbekistan, with a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

You can learn about the dances and many other cultural traditions of Uzbekistan on one of these MIR tours

  • A private trip, customized to your travel dates and interests.

MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys; we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. 

 

Chat with a MIR destination specialist about travel to Central Asia by phone (1-111-111-1111) or email today. 

 

(Top photo: Dancing in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo: Richard Fejfar)

PUBLISHED: January 16, 2018

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One thought on “Travel Like a Local: 4 Ways to Discover the Dances of Uzbekistan

  • Great article! I love to watch and also to join these kind of gatherings. The last time I watch these kind of gathering here in the Philippines. I witness the well known Sinulog Festival, a religious gatherings. I will definitely put it on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing this.