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Lop Nur Uygur cooking dance in NW China’s Xinjiang

Shiliuyun-Xinjiang Daily (reporter Jia Chunxia) news: At the Lop Nur People Village scenic spot in Yuli County, Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Nurnisa Gupur, deputy head of Lop Nur Art Troupe, and her colleagues performed a unique cooking dance, combining cooking scenes such as washing hands, kneading noodles, rubbing noodles, pulling noodles, and serving food with dancing. This performance attracted the attention of many tourists.

Photo shows Nurnisa (second from left) and other performers perform cooking dance at the Lop Nur People Village scenic spot in Yuli County, Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Photo by Pang Bo)

“The Lop Nur people live on the edge of the desert, and they make every effort to warmly welcome guests. While cooking, they can't help but hum a tune, dance, and cook at the same time, which leads to a unique kind of cooking dance.” Nurnisa explained that the cooking dance is a traditional folk dance of the Lop Nur people, spread along the Kongque River and on both sides of the Tarim River. It depicts the entire process of daily cooking and the lively and entertaining dance movements used to welcome guests, showcasing the hospitality and positive living conditions of the Lop Nur people.

Nurnisa, aged 45, a native of Yuli County, was deeply attracted when she first saw the old artists performing at a bonfire party held in the Lop Nur Village when she was 18 years old. “The more I look at it, the more interesting it is, so I imitate it as I watch it.” After the dance, Nurnisa, who is good at singing and dancing, learned the dance under the guidance of the old artists. At that time, as a teacher in a local school, she not only danced in her spare time but also taught students to do the cooking dance and took them to participate in various activities. With the development of tourism and local support, the cooking dance has gradually become widely known by the public, and Nurnisa also started working at the Lop Nur Art Troupe in Yuli County.

Photo shows Nurnisa (second from right) and members of the art troupe perform the cooking dance at the Lop Nur Village scenic spot in Yuli County, Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Photo offered by Mansurjan)

Xinjiang is well known as the home of traditional singing and dancing, with many folk dances that have been passed down through generations. Mansurjan Anvar, the director of the intangible cultural heritage center in Yuli County, explained that the cooking dance, also known as the "small step pulling-noodle dance," is a lively and humorous folk dance. It is considered one of the typical intangible cultural heritages in Yuli County, reflecting the people's love for life and their appreciation for nature.

The cooking dance incorporates sliding dance steps that mimic the process of local women making noodles. Even though the dance performance lasts less than three minutes, it is not easy to truly capture its charm. “Unlike the staggered steps of heels and toes in ordinary Xinjiang dance, the steps of the cooking dance involve parallel movements of heels and toes, and the movements are light and lively.” Nurnisa mentioned that the dance involves strong artistic imagination and creativity. Performers can also incorporate movements such as “shrugging shoulders” and “raising eyebrows,” which are very popular with people.

Lop Nur Uygur cooking dance was included in the first batch of the autonomous region-level intangible cultural heritage representative list in 2007. In 2008, Nurnisa was selected as the representative inheritor of the project in Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture. Nurnisa has danced in towns, schools, and scenic spots in Yuli County, and has taught the cooking dance to more than 400 people.

Driven by Nurnisa, 14 actresses in the troupe have learned the cooking dance. Together, they have introduced this combined art form to scenic spots, schools, and communities. In June, 2024 the art troupe will train artistic teams in townships. Then, in September, they will hold a cooking dance competition throughout the county. "We should take various measures to pass on the cooking dance so that more people can feel the charm of this intangible cultural heritage," Nurnisa said.

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