Dance the Varati

Duplov, November 23 – The Magat Party (“Justice”) of Jonasz Omlen is projected to win the general elections of Orbaijan by a landslide majority. With approximately 80 percent of the votes counted at noon today, Magat is predicted to occupy 54 of the 99 seats in the national assembly.

International observers have reported many small irregularities at the poll booths. As part of his platform Omlen had threatened to outlaw the popular Varati dance if his party would come to power.

When you read this you cannot help but think that this Omlen guy may be a shady character. It is not that simple.

I have lived in a small town removed a three hours drive from Duplov. The Varati is a staple there, and you cannot imagine it ever going away. As far as folk dances go it is simple enough. Paired men and paired women, and all the hand waving and toe tapping that constitute folk dances around the world.

It has one thing that sets it apart, and that is its fierce competitive aspect. You can win or lose a Varati, and winning a dance is considered an honour. People dance to become champions of the family, the dormitory, the neighbourhood or the region, and most Orbaijani enter that ever ongoing competition zealously.

It takes strength and agility to win a Varati, and since being a champion is so important, the partners don’t hesitate to help each other lose by knocking the other over, making them trip or simply even hitting them. Yes, the Varati is often more like a fight than a dance, even though every Orbaijani you talk to vehemently denies so and stresses its aesthetic and social qualities. It is the one dance in the world that wounds most participants, and it is not hard to see why Magat would want to see it outlawed.

But I think there is another reason.

One of the unwritten rules of the Varati, as a sport, is that the winner takes care of any injuries the loser may have gotten. It is brutal dance, and broken legs or any other disabling injuries are not an exception. It would thus only be fair that an activity that ostensibly is only there to while away the time not lead to disabilities.

The men often send over their wives or daughters to take care of the loser with healthy broths and massages, and honour prescribes that these women take their healing job serious. They often stay nights in a row at the loser’s house.

The last ten years or so, many Orbaijni have been dancing the Varati to lose.

Orbaijan’s traditional social fabric has begun to disintegrate, to be replaced by something as yet undetermined. The Varati is killing marriages and friendships. And I think that is the problem Omlen recognizes and tries to tackle.

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