History

Excerpt from the interview with Adriana Dal Borgo, international Khaita Joyful Dances instructor and a close student of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu.

In November 2011 at Meriling, in the north of Tenerife, Rinpoche discovered on YouTube a lot of very courageous songs sung and written by young Tibetan artists living in China or Tibet. One song in particular called ‘Denba’, meaning ‘the truth’ (n. 5.10 in the collection ‘Message of Tibet’), expresses the heart of their message in a very poetic way.

“Mountain snow made of drops of nectar milked from the sky,
Limpid, clean rivers flowing in our minds,
The pure language of our fathers planted in our lineage:
These three are the real melody of the waters from the snow.

The Brahmaputra river binds our compassion,
Mount Everest holds our affection,
The Vajra knot of our commitment:
These three are the real melody of the waters from the snow.

Writings of joy and sadness on the face of the mountains,
Months and years of happiness and sufferings delivered to the rivers,
Our karma of pleasures and sorrows sung to tunes:
These three are the pure melody of the waters from the snow.

I am you and you are also me,
We are all one family,
We have the strength of being united and have a goal:
These three are the true melody of the waters from the snow.

I am you and you are also me,
We are all one family,
We have the strength of being united and have a goal:
These three are the true melody of the waters from the snow."

So Rinpoche started to write down some of the songs, copying the words one by one from each video, and listening to many songs to choose those more suitable to his purposes. The small group of us who were present in these fortunate circumstances tried to follow Rinpoche’s singing, but none of us knew Tibetan so we just had to hum! 

In order to make the songs more accessible to all of us, Rinpoche decided to transcribe them with the system of drayig so we could follow the words and sing with him, after he had explained the meaning of each. And this is how it all started.

You can imagine the enormous amount of work involved in writing down not only the texts of the songs but also the pauses, indicating with symbols the melody and when some vowels of the words were longer, even the vocalisms, both in Tibetan and in drayig! From that moment on, most of the Master's daily routine was dedicated to this. 

The house was non-stop music, from the very early morning when the Master would wake up and start working, listening and transcribing the songs until late evening when we would sing.

When Rinpoche left Tenerife in December 2011, 42 songs were ready to be studied and sung. A couple of months later in February 2012, at Tashigar South, Rinpoche presented the first collection of 60 songs, divided into six groups of 10 songs each. 

At the same moment dances started to accompany the singing as it came very naturally to me to start to move. At first we did the simplest dances. At least now it looks like this but not at that time when it took some hours to figure out one of the basic steps of all Tibetan dances – right, left, right, and up!

We started with the circle dance ‘So ya re lo’ (1.3.9) then ‘Ala la mo se’, 2.9 from the 1st Vol., and ‘Dendrel Sanbo’ (1.8), the ones that it was possible to learn from the video. Imagine 10-15 people dancing in a relatively big living room, around the big table, between armchairs, paying attention not to break lamps or windows or not to hit each other in our first not so harmonious gestures.

This group of enthusiastic, sometimes surprised but definitely devoted Khaita pioneers spent many hours around the Master, basically right after lunch until late evening, and so it became the main daily activity. Singing and then dancing together was a great way to practice and overcome limitations and expectations.

In some videos the dances were not complete, we could see only partial movements so the next 'step' was to build a complete choreography from those sequences. At Tashigar South, Rinpoche asked us to work on dances such as ‘Nas Qenbo’ (1.3.5), ‘Naco Bod-la Ga’ (1.3.6) and a few others. I tried to understand the principle of the movements and create a reasonable and pleasant sequence. For me it was a completely new activity but I quickly started to enjoy giving shape to a song and developing it.

In some other dances, Rinpoche himself guided me in creating the choreography, indicating precisely which movements corresponded to the different parts of a song. ‘Pu Yana’ (1.6.3) is one of these dances, in which the Master found a very interesting movement, lasting just a few seconds in the video that reminded him of a precise movement of Vajra Dance.

In others dances, such as ‘Draxis’ (1.11.8), and ‘Draxis Nima’ (1.8.3),Rinpoche suggested some of the basic movements, but most of the dances of the first period, the first two years, were created together with the Master.

In September 2013 the competition "Merigar Under the Stars" also came about from Rinpoche and his wife Rosa’s suggestion and we all seriously started to dance! The first round of the competition was successful thanks to the moving efforts, dedication and collaboration (even though at the beginning many people asked why we were doing this) of people coming from all the countries belonging to Merigar East and West and Kunsangar North and South. There was so much love in all this! And so much potentiality!

Immediately after, for the first time Rinpoche asked us to create from zero a choreography for a song, ‘Ema Lha Gyallo’. (1.1.5), that didn't have a dance yet. Tsering and Topgyal on one side and Svetlana Vainine and Tzvetan Aleksandrov (who collaborated a lot as part of the Merigar West team in the competition), on the other, created two nice dances.

After this, a long series of dances were choreographed, and now we have over 200 Khaita Joyful dances, that we keep dancing around the world. 

The history of Khaita Joyful Dances continues...