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Tarim dancers Dilmurat, left, Rena and Abdurusul perform a light, amusing dance known as “Happy Life,” in which two young men compete for the affections of a pretty girl. Photo by Brian Basham/Tribune

Uyghur for fun

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Uyghur for fun
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Though they live within the borders of western China, the 20 members of the song and dance troupe Tarim — visiting the lakes area this week for a six-day artist residency at the Historic Holmes Theatre — do not identify themselves as Chinese.


As their tour manager, Tursun Kadeer, informed children and staff at the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Elementary School during a Monday morning assembly, the members of Tarim are Uyghurs.

The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority in China — a group that, culturally speaking, identifies more closely with their Central Asian neighbors in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

“We speak Turkish,” Kadeer explained to the students in Ogema.

And as they demonstrated in their subsequent performance, the traditional music and dance forms that Tarim uses are distinctly Turkic in nature as well.

Despite the fact that few of them spoke anything more than rudimentary English, the performers seemed to have little trouble interacting with the students, coming forward several times to allow them to view their unique instruments and costumes more closely.

They also spent more than 10 minutes after the show patiently answering questions from the eager students, who also tried out some of the instruments and attempted to learn one of the Uyghur dances during the group’s visit.

“There are 18 performers in the group, and they brought 16 different musical instruments,” Kadeer said after the show, noting that all the instruments were unique to the Uyghur culture.       

Tarim’s visit to Ogema Monday was one of several planned throughout the region this week. After a visit to Circle of Life Academy in White Earth on Monday afternoon, the group performed for audiences at SJE Rhombus and the Detroit Lakes Library on Tuesday, before heading over to Lake Park-Audubon today (Wednesday) for another school performance.

Also on Monday, the group visited the headquarters of the White Earth Tribal Council.

As Kadeer explained, the performers were eager to learn more about Native American culture and history, as in many ways it mirrors their own.

Thursday will be the performers’ free day to spend exploring the Detroit Lakes community and surrounding areas, then on Friday, they will perform for students from around the region at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

Tarim’s visit will culminate with a public performance at the theater on Saturday, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Show tickets are $15 for adults and $7.50 for students, and can be purchased online at, by calling 218-844-7469 or visiting the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 806 Summit Ave in Detroit Lakes.

This week marks the fourth and final Arts Midwest World Fest visit to the Detroit Lakes community.

A program of the Twin Cities-based arts organization, Arts Midwest, the 2011-13 World Fest cycle is generously supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, 3M Foundation and MetLife Foundation.

Additional support for Tarim’s visit was provided by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China, and local support for the World Fest program has been provided by SJE Rhombus.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 15 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454