Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.a.2

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Azerbaijan has nominated Yalli (Kochari, Tenzere), traditional group dances of Nakhchivan (No. 01190) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Yalli, traditional group dances, are dance expressions based exclusively on collective performances. Typically, yalli are performed in a circle, chain or line, and involve elements of games, pantomime (bird or other animal imitations), physical exercises and movements. The community of the yalli dances consists of practising dancers, who enact the dances either spontaneously or in a planned manner at various festivities and celebrations. Some variants of yalli bear a song-like character and are practised by both women and men, while others are practised by men only and imitate pastoralist games with some elements of butting animals. Until the mid-twentieth century, yalli were widely practised but several factors have impacted the transmission of the practice thereafter. They include a gradual loss of social functions for certain types of yalli, a preference for staged performances, external factors such as labour migration and the economic crises of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a shift from informal to formal transmission, and a drastic simplification of the dances, which has entailed a loss of diversity.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

U.1:   Yalli dances symbolize energy, solidarity and the rhythm of life, reinforcing social cohesion and friendship. Kochari and Tenzere are the most widely practised forms, and as local communities identify with them most intensely their chances of revitalization seem to be highest. The dances are transmitted informally during festivities and celebrations, as well as formally through folk dance groups and school education.

U.2:   Passive knowledge of the element significantly exceeds active knowledge; many yalli dances persist solely in the memories of elderly people and archives. Due to several negative factors, the element was considerably weakened in the second half of the twentieth century, and its practice continues to decline. The main risks include a loss of variety, the use of homogenized, simplified forms, the gradual loss of different roles of practitioners and social functions of the dances, the prevalence of stage performances and the young generation’s preference for other types of entertainment in urban contexts.

U.3:   Past safeguarding measures primarily focused on identifying, researching and documenting the element and strengthening its practice in folk dance groups, schools, music schools and culture houses, without any systematic approach and community involvement. The proposed safeguarding plan is well-conceived with clear objectives reflecting the identified needs, a budget and a plan for the central government and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Nakhchivan to allocate fifteen employees. The plan aims to create favourable conditions to transmit yalli and sustain their practice in the future, and the establishment of an association and a Yalli Information Centre would allow practitioners to share their experiences and network.

U.4:   The nomination was initiated by the Sharur Folk Yalli Dance Ensemble, representing the community of yalli dancers, which retains and transmits knowledge of the dance to younger generations. Selected practitioners worked directly on preparing the nomination file and other practitioners, communities and stakeholders were involved in the process through consultations in a working group; the practitioners who were most actively involved and several other stakeholders provided their free, prior and informed consent.

U.5:   Since 2010, the element has been inscribed on the Register of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The inventory is updated through fieldwork as well as requests from relevant communities. Practitioners and several local folk dance ensembles and musical schools helped identify and inventory the element, and Sharur Folk Yalli Dance Ensemble members played a leading role in collecting information among the community.

  1. Inscribes Yalli (Kochari, Tenzere), traditional group dances of Nakhchivan on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Reminds the State Party that intangible cultural heritage is intrinsically spontaneous and ever-changing and invites it to pay particular heed to ensuring that the large-scale training of new dancers does not lead to the standardization and decontextualization of the dances, the creation of new stereotypes and the further weakening of their spontaneous forms;
  3. Takes note that the heritage of traditional group dances is shared by communities in the region and beyond.