chopi چۆپی / halparke ههڵپهڕكێ
For decades, centuries and perhaps millennia, Kurdish people have expressed their joy and solidarity through dance: dancing at engagement parties, weddings, birthday celebrations or any major life event, in preparation for battle or celebration of victory, at day-long picnics, or spontaneously with friends and family to their favourite music.
Kurdish dance (traditionally called ‘chopi’ but now more widely known in Sorani Kurdish as ‘halparke’) is not meant to be danced alone. It is done in a line, hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, as a sign of community, supporting one another. The person at the head of the line holds a kerchief in their right hand, and is called the ‘ser chopi kesh’. That person sets the pace and everyone else follows his or her rhythm and steps. The person at the end of the line is called the ‘gawani’, which is the Kurdish word for a cattle herder, who walks behind his herd. Another important aspect of Kurdish dance is that it is most often done wearing traditional Kurdish clothing.
Though nowadays, some people prefer to dance just men with men and women with women, for modesty sake, traditionally, and still today, it is very normal to see men and women of all ages dance together, especially among family and close friends, as a sign of equality between the genders, as well as their coming together in marriage to produce life. In fact, most of the dances relate to life.
From the most basic left & right step, marking night and day, and circling around a big space representing a year going by, to stomps and scoops of the feet depicting reaping what you sow in life, each step represents a cultural value. Some dances show we may have setbacks in life, but urge dancers not to give up! Just like the current of a stream, weakening as it spills over the edge of a cliff, it will collect again into the flow of the river below. Likewise, a soldier wounded in battle continues limping forward in spite of pain.