I shamefully admit that I am terribly ignorant about world geography.  Even though I attended some pretty great schools growing up, to this day I couldn’t place every state in the United States on a map if I had to, let alone being familiar enough with Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asian geography to speak with authority.   I’m ready to change that. I mean, if I’m going to take inspiration from these regional cultures in my dance movements, costume aesthetic, and musical intonation, then I would like to have a better idea of who, what, and where I’m representing with those influences.

So, for today’s Cultural Connection, I’m checking out Uzbekistan. Geographically, we’re looking at “Central Asia” – what was once the Soviet Union, below Russia.  Sort of sandwiched between the Asian continent and the Middle East…got it.  (That’s a lot of ‘stans)

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Here’s what I’m taking away from my online research about Uzbekistan:

  • Suzani embroidery comes from here!
  • This ‘Stan is right at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road…so that means lots of transfer of cultural ideas and goods from around the world
  • “Hospitality is ranked higher than courage” and they take their tea ceremony very seriously as such… (quote from the Embasy of Uzbekistan to the US website)
  • In many parts, groups of neighbors, called “mahallya”,  govern themselves by concensus.

uzbekistan_23

I wonder how this self-governing tribal community attitude would work in any town in America…though we could definitely channel the notion in our dance troups and communities….

Here are some more gorgeous photos of Uzbekistan from photographer Michal Huniewicz  (http://www.m1key.me/)  Thanks to Michal for sharing his talent and travel experience with us – check out his photo blog from his trip, full of rich details about his experience in Uzbekistan.

For use of his photographs, Michal simply asked us to make a donation to a wildlife/animal charity of our choice. What a guy! I chose my old stomping grounds, the Memphis Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Fund, where they focus their efforts on species like the Louisiana pine snake, Komodo dragon, Mississippi gopher frog, and striped newts.  (www.memphiszoo.org)