Lazgi – Fire dance by candlelight

On the big stage: "Lazgi – Dance of Soul and Love" by Raimondo Rebeck with the Uzbek National Ballet, 2022 guest performance at the Ballett Dortmund

Berin Iglesias Art

Oh how the word shimmers: Lazgi. In French it sounds like “lascar,” a sly fellow. It puts us in mind of the word lasciviousness, or Lascaux for the more historically minded – of the cave paintings left behind by prehistoric humans. It was also the discovery of prehistoric rock paintings that saw the Central Asian Lazgi declared one of the oldest dances still practiced today.

Lazgi dates back to the Persian Zoroastrian fire cult, which worshipped the sun and fire and cultivated the “eternal flame” much as the Olympic flame is preserved for the modern-day Olympic Games. Lazgi is a fiery dance from western Uzbekistan. It is fast, extremely agile, and builds up a great deal of energy very quickly, only to be extinguished again just as abruptly. While everyone in the steppe province of Khorezm from seven to seventy years old dances Lazgi at weddings and festivals, there have been and continue to be countless people who want to do away with it: Sufism in the Middle Ages, later Soviet folklore, and today the general Islamic suspicion of any form of dance: hardly any other art has gone to rack and ruin and yet persevered as steadfastly as Lazgi.

Lazgi seizes every opportunity to dance: here, it is being danced at the Great Melon Festival in Khiva

Zulya Rajabova

Lazgi’s temperament fascinates dance science, dance archives, and dance journalism. Despite all the evidence handed down by these disciplines, Lazgi is a dance that is deformed to the point of kitschiness or stylized into an archetype of breakdancing. It is still painted over by the spirit of Soviet ballet folklore, especially in the capital city of Tashkent, a thousand kilometers away. Since Lazgi has been recognized internationally as an intangible cultural heritage, it has become the “national dance of Uzbekistan,” and now it belongs to all Uzbeks.


Khorezmian dancer, oil painting, 2019

Dilorom Mamedova
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An explosion of applause


Lazgi makes the body shake like an earthquake. Wild and spirited, it is one of the oldest dances in the world still practiced today, with rock paintings showing it to be at least 3,000 years old. If you want to experience it in its purest form, you have to travel to a city called Urgench in western Uzbekistan.

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