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Young Bukharians learn centuries-old dances


Joyce Shelby, Daily News, November 21, 2007
Firuza Yagudaye doesn't have a formal name for the fast, festive dance she's teaching a group of mothers and daughters in a Spring Creek recreation room.

"It's just called, 'Happiness,'" explained Yagudaye, who dances professionally with the Bukharian Jewish ensemble Shashmaqam.

"All the women do this dance at Bukharian weddings," Yagudaye said.

There are about 280 Bukharian families in the Spring Creek area, said Rabbi Avrohom Hecht, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie, which sponsors the sessions.

But many of the American-born children of Bukharians â?? who come from the central Asian Republic of Tajikistan and neighboring Uzbekistan â?? don't know the dances done for centuries in their parents' homeland.

So in September, Yagudaye began a weekly class for mothers and daughters. For mothers, it's a time to have fun with daughters.

For daughters, it's a chance to leave hip hop behind for a while and dress up in the festive gowns that their mothers wear on special occasions.

It's also a time for the daughters to take off their baseball caps and put on flowing headdresses. But cell phones remain attached to wrists during class.

The Happiness Dance begins with daughters and mothers taking quick steps across the floor in single file, hands up hips. It ends in a circle, with the girls and women surrounding the bride or another woman of honor.

"This is a wonderful dance and I've always wanted to learn to do it because I was always shy when I saw it done at weddings," said Rachel Gavrielov, 21.

She is taking the dance class with her mother, Devorah. The family came to the United States from Uzbekistan 16 years ago.

"I grew up with these dances," Devorah said.

Mira Yusupov, who is attending the class with her daughter Meirav, 17, said, "It is very important for our kids to know these dances. Even though we are in America, we want them to know where they came from."

Natalie Israilov, 10, who comes to class with her mother, Lydia, added, "It's fun to learn new things."

Funding was provided by Give a Mitzvah â?? Do a Mitzvah, a program of the UJA Federation of New York. The program encourages young people celebrating becoming a bar or bat mitzvah to donate a portion of their gifts to a worthy cause. One girl asked everyone attending her party to help set up the dance class.

A second class to teach Bukharian girls how to bake and make traditional dishes will start this month, Hecht said.

"In the Bukharian community, the source of inspiration for the family is the mother," Hecht said. "We think it's very important to strengthen the ties to these matriarchs."


Keywords: Bukharian Jews, Asian, culture