Tibetans have always loved to dance, and Gorshey, the traditional circle dance, has been popular for a long time. But of late, its popularity among Tibetan communities worldwide has gone through the roof. I’m trying to think of when this surge in popularity happened. There may have been more than one catalyst – but what is more definitive is that it has become wildly popular – and bringing joy and harmony in its wake.
This trend of truly celebrating and enjoying Gorshey perhaps began in the larger Tibetan communities in the West – New York, Minneapolis, and Toronto. Gorshey initially became part of Tibetan community get-togethers and parties. It quickly became not only a part but the heart and enjoyable part of gatherings. I think another catalyst may have been some catchy Gorshey numbers filmed on the idyllic grasslands of Tibet. They were stunning – and that may have fired the imagination of communities I wrote about earlier.
Be that as it may, over the past couple of years, Gorshey’s popularity within Tibetan communities spread worldwide – from settlements located in remote corners of India to communities in diaspora in Europe, Canada, Australia, and the United States. I watched this with happiness and fascination.
There was a period when some semblance of conflict, almost along regional lines, threatened to bring some dark clouds onto a community already beset and going through perhaps the darkest period in our history. I believe Gorshey changed the trajectory and the conversation in our Tibetan circles. If we had a communal Twitter handle, it would be Gorshey, now trending instead of anything else. I think Gorshey put cold water on the simmering bubble of regionalism that had unfortunately crept into our midst. I cannot be happier.
Another reason for my big smile is that Gorshey seems to have brought genuine joy to the lives of many. I can see Tibetans visibly happy when they are doing Gorshey. At gatherings, people impatiently wait for introductions, speeches, and other items to be over to quickly get down to the real joy of the evening – Gorshey! And, when Gorshey starts – the smiles come in quickly. Those adept at it take the lead – willingly – and proudly – displaying their dancing skills and often flashing the latest trends in traditional Tibetan dresses. Those not so adept, those who are shy and not given to dancing, get coaxed by the moment, and others encouraging them to fill the circle. In a matter of minutes, the atmosphere of the gathering changes to joy and enjoyment. What is there not to like about a community having joy and harmony again?
More and more Tibetans are getting serious about Gorshey. Folks are now learning and practicing Gorshey’s steps on YouTube so they can have more confidence and fun at the next gathering. As far as I know, practicing bit was not a part of past parties. No one practiced dancing at a party – now they do!
Aside from parties and calendar gatherings, Tibetans have found a more regular and frequent event to do the Gorsheys – Lhakar! I think this is simply brilliant. For those unfamiliar, Lhakar is White Wednesday. For Tibetans, this is the most auspicious day in the week for HH The Dalai Lama. We all love His Holiness – and so what better way to celebrate this special day than to offer purifying Sangsol and do our traditional Gorshey? So now Gorhsey enthusiasts don’t have to wait for special occasions – every Wednesday is also Gorshey Day!
And, yes, people are with their phones to capture their Gorshey moments. So we get to see Gorshey celebrations from all over the world. I saw this smaller Gorshey celebration where a few Tibetans had fun at what looked like a public space. Soon, a group of curious bystanders stood to enjoy the show. Some fun-loving looker started to sway and take part – and soon, there was a mini Gorshey flash dance. I would love to see a Gorshey flash dance on a larger canvas – say, on the streets of New York – maybe someday!
Gorshey has a universal appeal. It is fantastic because people of all ages can enjoy it. While youths understandably dominate our circles – the pace of most Gorshey dances is such that older folks and even children can join in quite effortlessly. So the dance and the enjoyment are for everyone who wants to participate. And Gorshey has enormous potential to be inclusive – to bring joy and participation from non-Tibetans. If we Tibetans keep up this blatant enthusiasm for Gorshey, I see it trickling into other Himalayan communities like Ladakh and Sikkim. And maybe even beyond.
For seven straight years, we invited a talented Bollywood DJ, Prashant Kakad, to Helena, MT, for our annual fundraisers. In its peak years, hundreds of Montanans would put on sari(s) and kurta(s) and have a fun evening copying Prashant’s dance moves and enjoying Bollywood music. My imagination runs riot to a bunch of white folks going wild over a catchy Gorshye number someday!
Another thing that makes me smile is that children and young Tibetans seem to like Gorshey just as much. My fun-loving niece in California and her two children visited us this summer. One evening, she led the family on a round of Gorshey dances – and I was thrilled to see her two children enthusiastically participate. Even more encouraging and exciting, students in our schools are learning Gorshey with joy.
I’m in love with my people. I know our struggles so closely because I lived them. I celebrate the successes, big or small, of any Tibetan worldwide. I rejoice when something like Gorshey captures the imagination of our community and brings joy and harmony. Long live Gorshey!
Sharing Tibetan Culture – By Karma Tensum