Undergraduate Research in Dance

Below are recent Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) projects completed by students studying Dance at Pomona College.


Ethnochoreology of Kusht Depdi or Why Do We Dance?

Merjen Atayeva ’19; Advisor: Anthony Shay

This research examines the origins of kushtdepdi and its practice as a dance in the field and an ethno identity dance. The study draws upon textual secondary sources in history, religious studies and anthropology to study the origins of kushtdepdi. Then it looks at textual and visual primary and secondary source materials to analyze the technique variations of kushtdepdi and differences in movement quality and meaning between kushtdepdi in the field and ethno identity kushtdepdi. The research shows that kushtdepdi developed from the Sufi practices of zikr along with shamanic rituals, aimed at healing illnesses, into a dance commonly practiced at wedding ceremonies in the Yomud tribe, one of five major tribes in contemporary Turkmenistan settled east of the Caspian Sea. The dance later spread into other regions of the country. In the mid-20th century, choreographers began putting the dance on stage. After the USSR’s collapse, the dance assumed importance as Turkmenistan’s national dance. Kushtdepdi has three technique variations: bir depim, uch depim and zem-zem. Major differences in movement quality between kushtdepdi in the field and ethno identity kushtdepdi lie in the level of uniformity of movement, interaction between dancers, and usage and control of various body parts. Subsequently, kushtdepdi in the field is more inviting, engaging and invigorating, while ethno identity kushtdepdi is symbolic and creates a spectacle for the viewer.
Funding Provided By: Cion Estate SURP Fund