Although there are many theories of how they came to arrive in Europe, linguistic evidence suggests that Gypsies, more properly called Roma, originated from India. One popular theory is that they migrated west into Southwest Asia over 1,000 years ago as a warrior class defending Hindu India from Muslim invaders. Considered outcasts, the Roma continued to be persecuted from the local populations that they passed through. This dispersed them even further, and they made their way into Europe and North Africa by the 14th century.
Their distinctive dress, nomadic lifestyle and separate moral codes perpetuated their outcast status. Singing, playing music and dancing was not only an important pastime for the Roma, it also became one of the few sources of income, as they were marginalized from other forms of employment. Roma musicians and dancers became skilled at adapting the local styles into their own individual expression, often transforming it and creating altogether new forms. These forms in turn became popular amongst the Gadje, or non-Roma population.
Deriving its name from the female healers of Romani tribes,
was formed in 2003. They seek to dispel the pervasive and harmful Gypsy
stereotypes by showcasing the rich heritage and community spirit of
the arts of the
TITLE OF PIECE: Ki
shan I Romani, adoi san' I Shuvani ("Where
Gypsies go, there the
wise women are, I know.--Romani proverb.")
*Special guests courtesy of Neva Russian Dance Ensemble
Roma music and dance is as varied as the number of countries in which the Roma dwell. Yet each form of Roma expression retains some common characteristics. These include a knack for improvisation, unabashed self-expression, playfulness, wit, and themes of persecution. The dance incorporates fancy leg movement, quick and rhythmic footwork, playing with the skirt, coy facial expressions and arms held high. Roma music and dance is a community expression, where both performer and onlooker experience the lamentations and celebrations of Roma life.
In the 2005 Festival, Shuvani presents four separate intimate scenes of solo female dancers and their musicians. It follows the Romani Diaspora from India, through Turkey and Russian, to Spain. The long, full flowing skirts featured in each form are traditional costumes, and further connect these diverse cultures through an important Romani taboo concerning a woman's body from the waist down. Women are considered to have very potent "magic" arising from their reproductive regions. Viewed both with respect and mystery, Roma women often cover themselves with multiple layers of skirts.