The Folklore & Artistic Troupe of Dhalaristan is a small folkloric troupe, dedicated to the reinvestigation of the rituals and traditions of the Dhalarii people, who trace their contested origins to the north Caucasus. The Dhalar have long existed on a cultural fault-line between East and West. Since being scattered to the six winds in the Tsarist era, much of their traditional culture has been lost. In questioning the ephemeral nature of cultural authenticity and the political pressures that give it form, the troupe will allow insights into our own culture as viewers. Where is home and the place of cultural origin in an ever more fragmented world? Because the Dhalar are a group without a homeland, each performance of the Troupe is simultaneously a temporary embassy, and a territorial claim. The implication being that home, the locus of origin, meaning, our sense of identity and the factory of culture, is where you choose to situate yourself.
Currently based in Berlin, the Troupe has recruited participants to assist in the creation of folklore/traditions/customs that will be the basis of our culture. The Troupe’s media wing, Turbofolkbüro, has been active in the screening, interviewing, and initiation process of prospective applicants in Berlin. Following the interviews, successful applicants receive several artefacts from Dhalaristan to provide inspiration for the creation of new material. This leads to a series of workshops during which the culture of the Troupe will be developed and devised organically. This includes ritual, song, dance, artefacts, cuisine, costume, social traditions, and myth - any form that plays a role in defining culture. The interview process, and collaboration with the Troupe, is the only precondition for membership. Anyone can become Dhalarii. Dhalaristan is a state that we create through collaboration.
Through the generous support of the European Cultural Foundation and the Balkan Incentive Fund for Culture, the Folklore & Artistic Troupe of Dhalaristan will be touring their unique culture across South-eastern Europe from May to July 2010. In each city that the Troupe visits, we will present a series of interactive workshops, creating a “Cultural Experience Zone” where artists and the general public can experience and participate in traditional Dhalarii culture, as well as interviewing prospective applicants who wish to join the Troupe by contributing to the continued development of this cultural heritage, as it evolves through the journey of diversified locations and extended time which makes up the tour. Our residency in each city also includes workshops with the local community, in which we will work together with them to add to the existing culture of Dhalaristan, as well as developing new elements, and culminates with a performance/presentation, where the previous members of the Troupe and the new members (the local people who were involved with the workshop) will perform the newly developed rituals, songs and dances from Dhalaristan, and share Dhalarii cuisine and artefacts. The cycle continues again with the next residency on tour. Dhalarii culture is always evolving, marked by the influences of people and place that have shaped it in each residency on tour. It is our hope that through participation and interaction, we may gain a greater understanding of what defines our culture and the cultures of those around us.
While the smaller group of representatives is on tour, the remaining members of the “Homeland” Troupe will also continue their work of cultural development in Berlin, and will have performance/presentations at IETM Berlin in April and Karnival der Kulturen der Welt in May. When they are reunited with the touring Troupe in Berlin in July, there will be a final presentation featuring both sects of the Troupe, which will highlight how their practice and culture has evolved separately, based on their differing experiences during the time which they spent apart.
There are also smaller Satellite Troupes, already being started in Melbourne, London, and New York, who will continue their own practice of an ever-evolving cultural heritage based on the same original material. All of the worldwide Dhalarii will be connected, and share their unique tribal development through an open access website. All participating members will be able to share their experiences through a blog, upload their own Dhalarii materials, exchange influences and ideas, and be in direct contact with one another, as part of a worldwide community- the Folklore & Artistic Troupe of Dhalaristan.
The documentation of all activities of the Troupe will culminate in a documentary film and exhibition of artefacts to be presented in international galleries after the completion of the tour.