HISTORY OF BIELGEE
Biyelgee dance is believed to be originated from the nomads and their ger /nomadic dwelling/ occurred in history. A report written by S.Soronzonbold, State-Honoured Music Scholar on Music of Hun Dynasty concluded that Biye biyelgee dance might have been originated from the Hun Dynasty. Furthermore, Mongolian Secret history, which is the largest source of Mongolian history and culture from the 13th century, reads “Mongolians had a wedding festivity around a large tree by dancing till the land becomes curved from the stomping”.
The tradition of biye biyelgee dance, which is an unparalleled form of traditional dance that expresses the never-ending cycle of life and its happiness, struggles, and traditions, has passed through generations amongst the Oirad people of Western Mongolia. This majestic art was created by the nomads and has never been repeated by others to become a classical form of folk art.
The Bielgee is performed by dancers from different ethnic groups in the Western provinces of Mongolia such as Uriankhai, Torguud, Durved, Bayad, Zakhchin, Kazakh, Khoton and Myangad. Regarded as the original forebear of Mongolian national dances, Bielgee dances embody and originate from the nomadic way of life.
Biyelgee has several varieties including Uzemchin, Torguud, Uriankhai, Zakhchin, Kazakh, Uuld and Durvud. Choreography is rich and diverse since people living in different parts of the country employ different means of expressing their feelings.
Biyelgee dances typically confined to the small space inside the ger (nomadic dwelling), so the dancers make practically no use of their feet while half sitting or cross-legged. Since the bielgee dance was performed in a small space inside a ger with a presence of many people, the movement or chest and hands played main roles. The dance is embodied in swift movements of hands and shoulders with quick transitioning between movements. The dancers principally use only the upper part of their bodies, and through their rhythmic movements, they express aspects of Mongol lifestyle including household labor, customs, and traditions, as well as spiritual characteristics tied to different ethnic groups.
Bielgee dancers wear clothing and accessories featuring color combinations, artistic patterns, embroidery, knitting, quilting and leather techniques, and gold and silver jewelry specific to their ethnic group and community.
The dancers play a significant role in family and community events such as feasts, celebrations, weddings and labour-related practices, simultaneously expressing distinct ethnic identities and promoting family unity and mutual understanding among different Mongolian ethnic groups.
The melodies of musical instruments play a key role in distinguishing the biyelgee dances of various Oirad ethnic groups. For instance, Uriankhai and Torguud biyelgee dances are performed on the sound of tap music while Kazakh biyelgee is performed on the sound of doombor fiddle. Durvud, Bayad, Zakhchin and Khoton people perform their dances on the sound of fiddle.
GUINNESS WORLD RECORD
In July 2013, 5204 performers who were draped in Mongolian traditional costumes performed the traditional biyelgee dance and broke the Guinness World Record. This event drew performers from more than 10 ethnic groups including Zakhchin, Bayad, Torguud, Kazakh, Buryat, Uuld, Khoton, Uriankhai and Durvud who danced the “Gaits of Ambler Horse” and “All-Mongolian Motto” in their own interpretations.
This unique and colorful gathering was an expression of centuries-old history, tradition and cultures embodied in flexible art of body movement. The oldest performer of the event was 82-year-old woman while the youngest was a 3-year old boy.
Traditionally, Mongol Bielgee is transmitted to younger generations through apprenticeships or home-tutoring within the family, clan or neighborhood. Today, the majority of transmitters of Bielgee dance are elderly, and their numbers are decreasing. The inherent diversity of Mongol Bielgee is also under threat as there remain very few representatives of the distinct forms of Bielgee from different ethnic groups.
In 2009, Mongolian traditional folk dance, bielgee, was registered as a UNESCO Non-Tangible Cultural Asset in Need of Urgent Safeguarding due to decrease in performers who maintained the special feature of the dance in its original form. Moreover, the distinguishing factors of the dancing varieties have become vaguer these days.