fresh from the field and showers and ready to watch folk dancing in the Ulaan Baatar  concert hall

fresh from the field and showers and ready to watch folk dancing in the Ulaan Baatar concert hall

After returning to Mongolia’s capital from a week of camping, we had only an hour to clean up and change quickly in the hotel, so we could attend a dance performance at the State Opera House. I stripped right away to shower, but only then discovered there were no towels in the room. Bummer. Hard to order towels, when the staff doesn’t speak English. I had to dress and go downstairs, and then took my shower anyway…though I was the last of our group in the lobby, we made it to the performance on time.

Many years ago I went to Brazil to study capoeira, the very deadly martial art that the slaves there disguised as a dance with musical instruments and songs to fool their 18-19th Century masters. The subtle moves in grimy, sweaty practice halls were nothing like the colorfully costumed, public renditions seen by uninformed tourists in nightclubs. But who knew.

I enjoyed many of the choreographed dances I saw in Ulaan Baatar that night, and have looked at over 100 videos on youtube to select some for you. But I have the impression now that what I saw in Mongolia was a commercial production for tourists, just as the capoeira presentations for night club acts in Brazil was not so authentic. One of the scientists on our trip told me the costumes are not traditional, and I gather now that many of the original dances were done inside gers, so there is almost no space to prance around.

Nevertheless. Here are some peppier selections I like with comments underneath.

Start at 1:20. This was one of my favorites actually performed by this same group. The announcer at the concert said the cups on their heads were supposed to be filled to the brim with mare’s milk and not one drop is allowed to be spilled.

this clip above shows many of the shoulder and arm movements that I saw in the concert hall performance.

go to 6:30—7:00 to see flexible hand dance segment. Then 12:15 to end to hear four different kinds of world-famous Mongolian throat singing.

3:20—3:50 shows the shoulder movements that might help my tennis swinging

a contortionist at the Opera House program was astonishing…supported her whole body weight with just her mouth. check out 3:10—3:40 and tell me how this young lady does it