National dances show a nation’s typical characteristics and behaviors. Armenian national dances have an ancient origin. They show our lifestyle, mindset, attitudes, and history. Plutarch, a Greek philosopher, was the first to speak about Armenian dances. According to him, in the 1st century BC, Armenians had an amphitheater and performed different dances there.
“Yarkhushta” is a martial play-dance. It is one of the Armenian traditional clap dances that was popular in Sasun. The name of the dance, “Yarkhushta”, means “comrade in arms”. “Yar” has a Persian origin and means “friend, lover”, and “khysht” means “weapon”. This dance is a martial game that shows a duel, competition, or fighting scene. The dance is performed in two groups. They start with three claps, then attack each other, and withdrew. People, who were dancing “Yarkhushta” would wear military clothes and have a dagger. The performance of the dance is always accompanied by zurna and drum, which enriches the traditional music and makes the performance complete. This is a very unique dance as it hasn’t undergone many changes.
“Qochari” is the most popular Armenian dance, and it has as many “dialects” as the Armenian language. Each region in Armenia has its variation of Qochari, overall there are around 60 variations. It is an ancient dance that symbolizes the worship of rams and shows fights between rams. It imitates the forward attacking movements of sheep with jumping, bouncing, and transfer of weight support. It is very dynamic and masculine dance. The movements of this dance were depicted in petroglyphs of caves in the Syunik region. Until the 19th century, only adult men were dancing Qochari. The dance starts when the leader calls “Hey!”
The “Berd” dance originates from the ancient Armenian province of Vaspurakan of the ancient kingdom of Armenia. It was part of the old Armenian game “Gmbetakhagh” (the game of Domes). The name of the dance, “Berd” means “Fortress”. The dance aims to create a fortress. Dancers have to stand on each other’s shoulders to create a 2-story human wall. Men would perform this dance before battles. The dance shows a siege of the fortress and ends with the victory of soldiers protecting the fortress. The performance of the dance is always accompanied by zurna and drum.
This is a common dance in all regions of Armenia. The name, “Ver-Verie”, means “Up” (“to jump up”). In all dances of this type, there are movements of jumping. The first part of the dance is slower, then it becomes faster and lighter. Usually, this is a very happy, lively, and playful dance. The dance symbolizes development, growth, and prosperity. During the dance, the leaders of dances would jump up to motivate their descendants to strive for more.