Sabre Dance

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The cover of a 1953 record of the "Sabre Dance" by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Khachaturian Sabre Dance cover Indianapolis Symphony 1953.png
The cover of a 1953 record of the "Sabre Dance" by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

"Sabre Dance" (Armenian : Սուսերով պար, Suserov par; Russian : Танец с саблями, Tanets s sablyami) is a movement in the final act of Aram Khachaturian's ballet Gayane (1942), where the dancers display their skill with sabres. [2] It is Khachaturian's best known and most recognizable work. [3] [4] He apparently felt that its popularity "deflected attention from his other works." [5]

Armenian language Indo-European language

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language that is the only language in the Armenian branch. It is the official language of Armenia as well as the de facto Republic of Artsakh. Historically being spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands, today, Armenian is widely spoken throughout the Armenian diaspora. Armenian is written in its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, introduced in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

A movement is a self-contained part of a musical composition or musical form. While individual or selected movements from a composition are sometimes performed separately, a performance of the complete work requires all the movements to be performed in succession. A movement is a section, "a major structural unit perceived as the result of the coincidence of relatively large numbers of structural phenomena".

A unit of a larger work that may stand by itself as a complete composition. Such divisions are usually self-contained. Most often the sequence of movements is arranged fast-slow-fast or in some other order that provides contrast.


Its middle section is based on an unnamed Armenian folk song. [2] [6] According to Tigran Mansurian, it is a synthesis of an Armenian wedding dance tune from Gyumri tied in a saxophone counterpoint "that seems to come straight from America." [7]

The music of Armenia has its origins in the Armenian Highlands, where people traditionally sang popular folk songs. Armenia has a long musical tradition that was primarily collected and developed by Komitas, a prominent priest and musicologist, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Armenian music has been presented internationally by composers Aram Khachaturian, Alexander Arutiunian, Arno Babadjanian, Karen Kavaleryan as well as by pop musicians and performers such as duduk player Djivan Gasparyan, composer/instrumentalist Ara Gevorgyan, singers Sirusho, Eva Rivas and many others.

Tigran Mansurian composer

Tigran Yeghiayi Mansurian is a leading Armenian composer of classical music and film scores.

Gyumri Place in Shirak, Armenia

Gyumri, is an urban municipal community and the second largest city in Armenia, serving as the administrative centre of Shirak Province in the northwestern part of the country. By the end of the 19th century, when the city was known as Alexandropol, it was one of the largest cities of Russian-ruled Eastern Armenia with a population similar to that of Yerevan. It was renamed to Leninakan during the Soviet period. The city's population grew above 200,000 prior to the 1988 Spitak earthquake, when it was devastated. As of the 2011 census, the city had a population of 121,976, down from 150,917 reported at the 2001 census.

"Sabre Dance" is considered one of the signature pieces of 20th-century popular music. [8] It was popularized by covers by pop artists, [9] first in the US and later in other countries such as the UK and Germany. Its use in a wide range of films and TV series over the decades have significantly contributed to its renown. [10] Sabre Dance has also been used by a number of figure skaters from at least five countries in their performances. Tom Huizenga of NPR describes it as "one of the catchiest, most familiar—perhaps most maddening—tunes to come out of the 20th century." [11] Billboard magazine calls it "a piece that's known to every pops orchestra in existence." [12]

NPR Non-profit membership media organization

National Public Radio is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization based in Washington, D.C. NPR differs from other non-profit membership media organizations, such as AP, in that it was established by an act of Congress and most of its member stations are owned by government entities. It serves as a national syndicator to a network of over 1,000 public radio stations in the United States.

A pops orchestra is an orchestra that plays popular music and show tunes as well as well-known classical works. Pops orchestras are generally organised in large cities and are distinct from the more "highbrow" symphony or philharmonic orchestras which also may exist in the same city. This is not to say that the distinction is complete; many symphony orchestras put on pops performances with some regularity, while other pops orchestras are actually second identities of the "highbrow" orchestra and composed largely of the same players.

Hit in the U.S.

In 1948 [13] the "Sabre Dance" became a jukebox hit in the United States. [14] [15] Due to its popularity, Newsweek suggested that 1948 could be called "Khachaturian Year in the United States." [16] In 1948, three versions of the "Sabre Dance" reached number one in the Billboard Best-Selling Records by Classical Artists:

Jukebox device to play music singles with

A jukebox is a partially automated music-playing device, usually a coin-operated machine, that will play a patron's selection from self-contained media. The classic jukebox has buttons, with letters and numbers on them, which, when one of each group entered after each other, are used to select a specific record.

Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine founded in 1933.

<i>Billboard</i> (magazine) American music magazine

Billboard is an American entertainment media brand owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, a division of Eldridge Industries. It publishes pieces involving news, video, opinion, reviews, events, and style, and is also known for its music charts, including the Hot 100 and Billboard 200, tracking the most popular songs and albums in different genres. It also hosts events, owns a publishing firm, and operates several TV shows.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra American symphony orchestra in Chicago, IL

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was founded by Theodore Thomas in 1891. The ensemble makes its home at Orchestra Hall in Chicago and plays a summer season at the Ravinia Festival. The music director is Riccardo Muti, who began his tenure in 2010. The CSO is one of five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five".

Artur Rodziński Polish conductor

Artur Rodziński was a Polish conductor of opera and symphonic music. He is especially noted for his tenures as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic in the 1930s and 1940s.

New York Philharmonic American symphony orchestra in New York, NY

The New York Philharmonic, officially the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., globally known as New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO) or New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, is a symphony orchestra based in New York City. It is one of the leading American orchestras popularly referred to as the "Big Five". The Philharmonic's home is David Geffen Hall, located in New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

These three versions were included in the Year's Top Selling Classical Artists by Billboard in 1948. [21] The "Sabre Dance" became the first million-selling record of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. [22] According to the Current Biography Yearbook , it was Levant's performance that "received popular attention." [23]

Current Biography is an American monthly magazine published by the H. W. Wilson Company of The Bronx, New York, a publisher of reference books, that appears every month except December. Current Biography contains profiles of people in the news and includes politicians, athletes, businessmen, and entertainers. Published since 1940, the articles are annually collected into bound volumes called Current Biography Yearbook. A December issue of the magazine is not published because the staff works on the final cumulative volume for the year. Articles in the bound volumes correct any mistakes that may have appeared in the magazine and may include additional relevant information about the subject that became available since publication of the original article. The work is a standard reference source in American libraries and the publisher keeps in print the older volumes. Wilson also issues cumulative indexes to the set, and an online version is available as a subscription database.

Hit in the U.K.

The version by Love Sculpture reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1968. [24]


The Sabre dance is heard for 2 minutes in one part of Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygène.

The "Sabre Dance" has been used in numerous films, animated films, TV series, video games and commercials over the years, oftentimes for humorous effects. [66] The piece's popular familiarity has been enhanced by its traditional use as accompaniment by travelling circuses and on television variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show when novelty acts such as plate spinners appeared. [11]

Some notable TV shows that have used it include The Jack Benny Program (1961), A Piano in the House from The Twilight Zone (1962), The Onedin Line (1971 and 1972), The Benny Hill Show (1985), Our Very First Telethon episode of Full House (1990), The Simpsons (1991), Two and a Half Men (2004), What's New, Scooby-Doo? (2004), "Peterotica" episode of Family Guy (2006), SpongeBob SquarePants (2007), and The Big Bang Theory (2009). [67]

On June 6, 2013 on the 110th anniversary of Khachaturian’s birthday a modern take of the Sabre Dance—Sabre Dance on the Street—was performed at Yerevan Cascade by Barekamutyun dance ensemble and Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. [68] [69] [70]


Films in which the "Sabre Dance" was used include The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), One, Two, Three (1961), The System (1964), Amarcord (1973), Nu, pogodi! 6th episode "Countryside" (1973), Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986), Repentance (1987), Punchline (1988), Hocus Pocus (1993) Radioland Murders (1994), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), [71] Don't Drink the Water (1994), I Married a Strange Person! (1997), Vegas Vacation (1997), A Simple Wish (1997), Blues Brothers 2000 (1998), The Lion King 1½ (2004), Kung Fu Hustle (2005), Scoop (2006), Sicko (2007), Ghost Town (2008), Witless Protection (2008), Le Concert (2009), Pájaros de papel (2010), Sabre Dance (2015). [66] In his frenzied comedy One, Two, Three , director Billy Wilder used the dance repeatedly for comic effect, including a crazed chase through East Berlin, and the chaotic closing ride to the airport featuring James Cagney and Horst Bucholz. It was also played briefly in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted .

Video games

Video games in which the "Sabre Dance" was used include:

In sports

The National Hockey League (NHL)'s Buffalo Sabres have used the piece as a theme song since the team was established in 1970. [72] After a hiatus, the "Sabre Dance" was again made their theme song in 2011. [73] [74]

In 2010–13, the "Sabre Dance" became popular in the city of Donetsk, Ukraine, because it was played in Donbass Arena, the venue of FC Shakhtar Donetsk, whenever the Armenian football player Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored a goal. [75]

The "Sabre Dance" was featured in the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony held in Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, Russia on February 7. [76] [77]

Figure skating

The "Sabre Dance" has been used by numerous figure skaters, including:

1981–82 Natalia Bestemianova Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union free skating
1986 Suzanne Semanick
Scott Gregory
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships [78]
1986–88 Debi Thomas Flag of the United States.svg United States [79]
1994 Scott Hamilton Flag of the United States.svg United States [80]
1993–94 Michelle Kwan Flag of the United States.svg United States short program [81]
1998–99 Johnny Weir Flag of the United States.svg United Statesshort program [82]
1999–00 Evgeni Plushenko Flag of Russia.svg  Russia short program [83]
2001–02 Stanislav Morozov
Aliona Savchenko
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine short program [84]
2001–02 Takahiko Kozuka Flag of Japan.svg  Japan short program [85]
2004–05Stanislav Morozov
Tatiana Volosozhar
Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine free skating [86]
2004–05 Daisuke Takahashi Flag of Japan.svg Japanshort program [87] [88]
2005–06 Takahito Mura Flag of Japan.svg Japanshort program [89]
2006–07 Maximin Coia
Adeline Canac
Flag of France.svg  France free skating [90]
2007–08 Ryuju Hino Flag of Japan.svg Japanshort program
2012–13 Yulia Lipnitskaya Flag of Russia.svg Russiashort program [91] [92]
2013–14exhibition [93]

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    7. In the documentary Khachaturian (2003, directed by Peter Rosen), Tigran Mansurian states: "What an interesting synthesis! He's taken a melody from Gyumri, an Armenian wedding dance tune ... and he's tied in a saxophone counterpoint that seems to come straight from America. The relationship between the two seems so organic, so interesting!" The film is available online here Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine . Mansurian appears at around 33:00.
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    75. Wilson, Jonathan (22 October 2012). "Henrik Mkhitaryan orchestrates Shakhtar Donetsk's great leap forward". The Guardian . Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Aram Khachaturian's Sabre Dance, the Armenian war dance played each time Mkhitaryan scores, may have become the most popular tune at the Donbass Arena this season ...
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