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Mystery of Olonkho dance

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Mystery of traditional “ohuokhay” as olonkho dance.

Compiled by S.S IlyinaVerkhneviluisk

High school after M.A.Aleksyev,2016

Dear participants of the conference, guests, hospitable people!

Ladies and gentlemen!

On behalf of my co- workers I’d like to share my gratitude for coming and taking part at this wonderfully organized conference and wish you successful work during this time.

Today I’d like to pay your attention to the topic about our national dance “ohuokhay”as olonkho dance because some years ago it was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. ‘15293 people were involved dancing simultaneously for 2 hours with one improviser Mr Alexander Savvinov. It is a unique, unforgettable, significant moment, magnificent and mysterious to watch at, memorable and charming to hear ’- announced the main judge of Guinness Record Mr Jack Brockbank. So let’s give a big hand for this tremendous success of our land the land of Olonkho which is the Epic song of our nation. We are really proud of it too as olonkho was also listed in UNESCO organization as the masterpiece of Sakha nation!

What is ohuokhay?

The word ohuokhay is dated back from the holiday yhyakh- which is our national holiday that is celebrated in June. It’s main origin came from olonkho to glorify the battles between the heroes or the warriors of the Middle World and Abaahy from the Low World. For example, in all olonkhos as “Nurgun Bootur the Swift” by Platon Oyunsky,”Ms Djyrybyna Djyrylyatta warrior”by Prokopy Yadryhyinsky, “Khabytta Bergen”by Kirill Nikiphorov they are shown as defenders of the Middle World. To glorify and worship these warriors at the end of each battle people organize the ceremony of great ohuokhay like this:

So they made a wide and vast , joyful and bright Esekh festival-tuhulgeh on a beautiful copper surface of their blessed Motherland, on a swollen dale of their white alaas…( “ Nurgun Bootur the Swift” p 446 first published in English in 2014by Renaissance Book original translation from the Sakha language supervised by Alina Nakhodkina.)

So ohuokhay is ’the worship to the Sun since our ancestors occurred around lake Baikal’. (N.E.Petrov –professor, Dr of philosophy,2004), the Polish linguist V.L.Seroshevsky in his book “the Yakuts”also wrote about how Yakut and even Northern people singing in a very long drawn chorus.(the Yakuts, p592)

Ohuokhai – a circle dance of Sakha People. They dance it during Yhyakh, a symbolic new year for Sakha People. Ohuokhai is a figure dance that is aimed to represent people’s worldview, its development and deep philosophy. When people dance Ohuokhai, they never do it against the Sun rotation, on the contrary Sakha people, who believe they were generated from the Sun, are glad to see the Sun, and they worship it, that’s why they dance Ohoukhai along the solar rotation. This dance gives them a strong spiritual energy and power. Ohoukhai is loved and respected by people of all ages. It helps to bring up, teach young generation good and centuries-old traditions and customs. Thus, the first aim is to keep Sakha people fit and healthy, both physically and spiritually. Second, during the Ohoukhai dance a soloist describes and sings about well-being, praises human’s best character traits, and tells people to keep themselves away from evil, misfortune and disaster. Third, Ohoukhai calls upon peace, friendship and unity between each other. That’s why participants of Ohoukhai hold each other’s hands tight, they keep the soloist’s words in their mind and heart and loftily repeat these words altogether.

Ohoukhai has got many other advantages. For example, they come and talk about their lives, success, how they have lived so far. Everyone is happy and dressed in their best clothes. If young people meet and love each other during Yhyakh, this marriage union is known to be a strong, loving one. It means Ohoukhai pursues an aim somehow to increase the population.

There are many types of ohuokhay as well as northern people’s round dance ‘haadge’in different districts they are performed differently. But the most spread is considered to be the ‘Viluisk region’s ohuokhay’.Whenever ohuokhay contest is organized in the city Yakutsk Viluisk people win this competition. It is always vivid, like the dance of warriors or the dance of northern people.

Though there are many differences of this traditional dance it has its own ceremony the manner of behavior that is a must. If it is not observed you can’t have a rest you are tired completely.

Viluisky ohuokhay’s difference from central ones is in breathing with belly, stomach. That is the main difference and mystery. The soloist who breathes with belly takes air through his mouth and such performer’s voice is heard from far distance (about 25km Sergey Zverev’s was clearly heard) his breath is said to be very lasting. In central districts performers breath through noses.

The ceremonies of ohoukhay:

In Viluisk’s regions ohuokhaj begins with ritual song-tojuk. The performer goes like the swan swims round as the sun rotates around the Earth inviting all people to join together. Those soloists who gather as many people as possible are reported to be the best singers. For instance , Sergej Zverev –Kyyl Uola is said to collect 1600 people one at a time.

So the first ceremony – the ritual singing –tojuk. The improviser tries to do his best to involve to his ohuokhai the majority of people paying his attention with his clear,perfect, Yakut magic voice- is so called – ‘kylyhax’.

The second ceremony – special invitation. The soloist should improvise, glorify using all his abilities to describe in an artistic way to assure to join his round dance so that to attract many people as much as possible.

The third item – to express the main idea of ohuokhay. It may be different. Some performers attract the public with richness of language, some enchant with gorgeous voice, the others entice with their simultaneous improvisation of poems, the others attract the audience with humour. In other words ohuokhaj is the contest of eloquent and expressive language. In ancient times people tried to express their ideas mocking at somebody else, sneering, joking, even showed jealousy, love while singing.

The last ceremony and the most significant part of ohuokhay is – rhythm or rapid pace. It doesn’t go on one form. It depends on the performer’s skill how to guide dancers. The culmination point is considered to be dancing in a quick rhythm jumping higher and higher. When finishing the performer thanks his wings those people who were dancing on the left and the right sides of his hands.

Mystery of ohoukhay.

Mystery why people are not tired of dancing ohuokhay?

When people are involved into ohuokhay try to be relaxed fully physically and mentally: they relax their muscles, don’t care about their difficult problems. The person who dances is relaxed too and his pulse looks like the person who sleeps deeply during the night. Old people know about this mystery that‘s why they are never tired of dancing they relax from inside to outside and get a great pleasure from dancing even it looks like curing. As for the younger dancers they care about their rhythm, how to step graciously, want to show beautiful clothes and themselves so they can’t have a rest during this time while dancing, they are tired very quickly.

Some of ohuokhai performers once were interviewed at the contest who came to our Viluisk region turned out to be masters of sport - wrestlers and a boxer. They made interesting conclusions: wrestling and ohuokhay have similarity – that is relaxation of the body. Those sportsmen who relax for a very short period of time and sooth their muscles win the contest. So they found out that whenever they sing ohuokhay they feel themselves like in the wrestling competition. Actually these sportsmen and elder improvisers told some rules that should be observed .

Some rules how to dance ohuokhay being untired

  • One has to put his both hands on both sides of his neighbors. Don’t disturb and bother them. Your neighbors should have a rest too.

  • Don’t yell uselessly not to bother improviser

  • One shouldn’t think over how to step in the right way. Mind your feet will dance easily.

  • The main thing is to follow the rhythm, give the free hand to your body. Don’t be shy and embarrassed. Move freely, shake your body independently.

  • Release your mind, the whole body. You should feel yourself as if you fly high above the Earth like free birds in the sky.

The importance of traditional dance.

With the spread of modern civilization and urban culture especially great changes triggered by the Soviet period of time, the folk customs and rites in our country have been transformed. The republic during few decades have been turning to ancient folk customs and rites. A persistent effort is being made to revive folk rites, that’s why schoolchildren are taught national culture lessons to preserve our language, to survive in this harsh world.

  • Thus, the round dance ohoukhay is a marvelous treasury of our people: young and old ones and really won an international importance, natural wonder of our nation. It is associated with numerous legends, tales; majestic and awe-inspiring epic song –olonkho. As people rotate with their hands tied together it unites all of them.

  • Ohuokhay gave the way to develop another kind of national song-degereng song.with kylyhakh voice. (it is a kind of voice with vibration of sounds specific only to Yakut people). According to our composer M.N.Zhirkov to accompany ohoukhay Yakut people composed many songs like “Swan’s song”, “the Horse’s song”, “Talba-Talba Tatyjana”and so on. (M.N.Zhirkov Yakut folk music. Yakutsk,1981,p38).

  • Actually, as well as ancient and modern traditional dance takes place in a huge alaas (field) beautiful landscape attract many visitors. Here even the sun shines brighter, the wood and forests are greener, the air is saturated with the fragrance of flowers, the aroma of the ponds and lakes, the smell of larches, pines, birches –everything awakens the artist in a man and inspire pride,love, the fabulous beauty of surrounding areas. So many poets, writers create poems, novels, songs …

  • Ohuokhay is the place of friendship, meeting old and new friends and generations, the feeling of the first love because young people come from different places and get the acquaintance only here – it’s a wonderful and unforgettable moment in the life of young people because they fall in love with each other only at this time , at this moment.

  • Without doubt, ohoukhay influences on the development of the language its prosperity, richness, restoration. The lyrics of ohuokhay depends on the improviser the richer the language the larger his circle is!

  • Our traditional dance is the part of spiritual art from ancient times to nowadays. It unites people, leads to mutual understanding, has got the healing effect on your health, peace between nationalities because we live and inherit one Earth to preserve it to future generation .

  • Ohuokhay really proved to have the healing effect on the health of people. It is said to cure from lung, liver, heart diseases, influences and gives an effect to blood pressure trains muscles of the body etc…Actually people get energy, strength, enjoyment from each other at places, where they occur as they used to visit as many places as possible during yhyakh time.

In conclusion I’d like to invite you to join my friendship dance ohuokhay to have a glimpse of opportunity to feel yourself in a huge alaas in your dream, in the field and gardens full of fragrant flowers “sardana” with their unique shades and fantastic shapes, the scarlet flashes of sunset, magnificent white nights, the everchanging choppy river Lena and Vilui and primeval silence of thick wood, the incessant sounds of waterfalls, marvelous seasons of the year- nobody could claim to have become accustomed to this wonderful land full of life, surprises, hope and future. Anyway, ohuokhay dance as olnkho dance should be lasting forever from generation to generation for many years, for ages!

Welcome to my traditional dance ohuokhay!


1.Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary - Oxford university press,2000.

2. Н.Е Петров Эьиэкэй – эмтээх уцкуу.- Дьокуускай, 1998.

3. Н.Е.Петров.Улуу оьуокайдьыт, чулуу тойуксут. – Дьокуускай, 1994.

4.Nurgun Bootur the Swift by P.A. Oyunsky.-Renaissance books,2014.

5.П.А.Ойунский.Нюргун Боотур Стремительный.

6.П.Ядрыхинскай-Бэдьээлэ. Дьырыбына Дьырылыатта кыыс бухатыыр.


7. К.Никифоров-Лекечеен. Хабытта Бэргэн.-Дьокуускай, 2012.


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