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Daimohk Chechen Children's Dance Ensemble

by Patricia Somerset

July 19, 2004 -- Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Daimohk started this UK tour by winning a first prize at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, no mean achievement given the very high standards required for this competition. Last Monday, they demonstrated their prize-winning abilities in an evening of breathtaking dance. The dance part of the programme consisted of 12 dances based on traditional Chechen themes, choreographed by Aiza Akhmadova and strongly influenced by the technical expertise of classical dance. The well-chosen programme alternated slower dances with faster, dynamic ones, which were mostly danced by the boys. Set against a plain, black backdrop, the costumes were wonderfully colourful and contributed greatly to the visual pleasure of the performance.

The music was played on an accordian, drum and traditional stringed instruments, and was particularly effective when accompanying the faster dances. The boys strutted their stuff admirably - and what stuff it was! They strode around the stage, tossing their heads, shouting and often building up to a maelstrom of whirling, leaping to their knees, spinning and intricate footwork - sometimes on their toes. First this was performed by the older boys and then the much younger ones joined them, spinning and leaping with as much panache as the others. The Shepherd's dance in contrast provided some knockabout humour, but all performed to the same high standard.

The girls' dances were slower and elegant, performed with fast, small steps unseen beneath flowing skirts so that the impression was one of gliding, accompanied by graceful hand movements. Often the visual appeal was in the shapes formed by the dancers coming together and moving as one. Once again, when the little girls joined the older ones they showed that they could dance with equal dignity and poise. In "Syuli Khelkhar", however, all the girls showed their ability to dance with fast, intricate footwork in this lively Dagestani dance, the excitement being increased by their accompanying screams.

As if they hadn't displayed enough talent with their dancing, the programme also included 2 instrumental pieces and 2 songs. The first of the instrumental pieces was a group of about 6 playing the traditional stringed instruments, a drummer and accordionist. The second was a group of about 8 drummers, who not only played their own drums, but also each others' and then tossed and spun the drums, - so they can juggle as well! The songs were sung by Aminat Akhmadova who had a lovely, clear soprano voice.

When it came to the finale, it was difficult to imagine what Daimohk could possibly do to provide a fitting climax to such a thrilling evening's entertainment. However, they managed to take it all a step further, with the boys not only leaping and spinning, but sword fighting at the same time . The clash of the swords sent sparks flying! When the girls joined them, the pace was slowed as the stage was filled with all the dancers, in co-ordinating costumes dancing a proud, stately dance. Unsurprisingly Daimohk received a standing ovation.

The speeches at the end reminded us that the children and young people from this company come from war-torn Grozny and their lives are filled with uncertainty and deprivation. We needed reminding after watching such an energetic, high quality and joyful performance. It was a very special show.

Edited by Jeff.

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