After my first Saturday night here, I have learned to head over to the park whenever I heard music. I never know what I am going to find. So, last Saturday night, when I heard a sound system being tested as I headed out to do a little shopping, I stopped by the area where the dancing had been the week before. Nothing there.
After my shopping excursion, I decided to see if I could find where I had to go for work on Monday on my own. I walked up, found what I thought was my new workplace and headed home, stopping to buy some boiled corn that women were selling, still warm, out of large plastic bags on the sidewalk. I had no intention of eating then, but I thought their kernals would be nice cut off the cob and thrown into the lentil soup i was making, my sustenance for the next few days. As I neared the park, the music was thunderous. There was certainly something going on, but it was happening in front of the Opera Ballet House instead of in the only performance area of which I had been previously aware. A huge frame had been erected at the top of the steps, with a huge scene of what I could only assume were the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan. On either side, were horseshoe-shaped entrances into some sort of colored fabric tubes on either side. The cement at the foot of the stairs had been covered with a huge plastic cover of some sort, bursting with pinks, and blues, greens, and yellow in some sort of symmetric design to form what was obviously a giant dance floor. Young men were waving Tajikistan flags aloft from the steps above the tunnels, and the dance area was surrounded by young couples, the women in traditional dress and the men wearing white shirts and black slacks, and holding more flags. There were policemen around the perimeter who shooed me, and anyone else who dared to get too close,
On the dance floor were dozens of young men, perhaps in around 13-16, dancing wildly in some sort of part acrobatic, part dance performance. I wondered what I had already missed, if anything. I soon got my answer. I suspect that they had been the “pre-show” because, when they finished, women in long pink dresses with wide skirts big white flowers plastered all over the front of them in various designs started pouring out of the tunnels on either side of the mountain scene, in front of which stood a woman singing into a microphone. From where I stood, I couldn’t really see their feet, but they were waving their arms to and fro and dancing around in various choreographed circles and swirls. They wore little fabric square hats pinned, I presumed, to the back of their heads. After they performed, they fanned out to stand around the edges of the dance floor with the flag-bearers and their female partners, making it that much more difficult to see. But there was no turning back because yet another stream of women was pouring out of the tunnels and onto the dance floor.
The next group was wearing straighter dresses, this time made of glittering gold. They too swirled around the dance floor for a time, accompanied by a different singer, before peeling off to admit yet another flood of women, this time wearing lime green long tunics over lime green pants which narrowed at the ankle, the national style of clothing for Tajik. But on top of their lime outfits, they sported long colorful coats which were breath-taking. I feasted my eyes on their dancing colors as these women two swirled to and fro, in and out, in what was undoubtedly a well-rehearsed choreography group dance.
But the streams of women did not stop there. After them came women in white satin tunics and pants; the tunics were embroidered with bright colored patterns of thread and were slit up the sides as kurti worn by women in Nepal. Then came women in purple and white tunics and pants followed by, last but not least, women in white again, but this time with little red vests not unlike what is worn in Switzerland. At this point, the women in pink streamed out to begin another dance and I assumed that the show would continue for awhile longer with each group, in all likelihood, pouring out into the limelight.
Now, this being my second Saturday here, I think it is fair to say that Saturdays are “hopping” in this part of town, at least at this time of here. Once opera season begins, social performances may shift indoors as the end of all approaches and winter sweeps in with cool temperatures and, possibly, some snow.
Today, the music started in the afternoon, but as I was working I did not go out to investigate immediately. As it continued into the late afternoon, I decided to head to the supermarket to see if I couldn’t find some ground chicken for Bhakti and some bananas for myself. First of all, I passed the smaller event area under the bells of colored lights where I had seen the first dance. Much to my surprise, it was swarming with miniature versions of the women from the week before, little girls from about 5-8 years of age, I think, each belonging to different groups, identifiable by their different costumes, much like their mothers (presumably) had been the week before.
One woman, wearing a beautiful black tunic and pants, punctuated by glimmering designs was calling loudly into the microphone as difference groups, each with their own adult escort, dressed, of course, to match her collection of miniature ladies, joined hands to wind themselves into a continuous circle like a labyrinth, at the center of which were a few little boys, also dressed in matching outfits. There were outfits made out of traditional multi-colored fabric, with little square hats attached to the girls heads, there were yellows, and reds, and blues and purples everywhere I looked. One group wore what I can only describe as a collection of miniscule wedding dresses; many of these had huge pompoms of white somehow attached to their heads. Needless to say the quality of the choreographing was not as pristine as that of the women, as various escorts struggled to make sure that her charges were all in line and moving in the right direction.
As I walked away and towards the supermarket, I looked back and saw the next generation of young women dressed in brightly colored tunics and pants headed into the fray, this time accompanied by young men.
Much to my surprise, this was not all that was going on in my front yard today. As I rounded the corner of the Opera Ballet house, the area in front of it had been transformed from the dance floor it was last week to an outdoor showroom for a vintage car show! Cars from the 50’s and 60’s, of various styles were lined up in two rows, all with various people peering in their windows and, in some cases, climbing in and out. Many had been polished to a brilliant shine, eagerly reflecting the sun off their different colored, and shaped, hoods, obviously the proud possession of someone who could afford good restoration work, or who could do it themselves. There was an old Rolls Royce, and even a long white stretch limousine. It would seem that everyone who had a car they wanted to show off was welcome.
Again, a big stage had been erected at the top of the stairs leading up to the entrance of the Opera Ballet house, with a colored backdrop with writing on it, presumably the name of the event. Different singers were stepping up to take their chance at the microphones, some had choreographed arobatic dances to accompany their music.
The music carried on long into the night, different styles echoed across the park and into my living room through the open window. Since I don’t really like crowds all the much, I felt like I had the best seat in the house on yet another hopping Saturday night at the Grand Old Oprey in Dushanbe.