Khaita – An Interview with Adriana Dal Borgo

Khaita Dancing in the Mandala Hall at Khandroling

Khaita Dancing in the Mandala Hall at Khandroling

Promoting Harmony Through Singing and Dancing

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu replies to some questions about Khaita Joyful Dances

Adriana Dal Borgo: “… Maestro, you once said, “Khaita is our own melody”, in the sense that it is linked to our inner … to our secret … sound?”

 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu: “Everything is connected because we live on the material (level). Then from the secret (level) the inner arises and from the inner the outer arises, and all of this is connected. In fact, to bring about harmony in the physical body we also have to get to the material (level).

Khaita … and then?”

Adriana: “It’s more that I’m trying to figure out how to explain …”

ChNN: “We can say it in a simpler way. For example, in the teaching we also consider that the real condition is always emptiness. We can say this. But how does this emptiness manifest its own energy? It manifests through sound. Today even the scientists are talking about it.

“And how does sound manifest? There is inner sound, outer sound and secret sound. Secret sound means that it is connected to the nature of emptiness, since (everything) arises from emptiness, which is the origin.

“To understand this normally we have to have the capacity to be in our real condition, otherwise we can not discover it.

“From there inner sound arises. Inner sound means that even if our energy is linked to our physical body, we discover it through the experience of the energy of our physical body. It is not the sound that we hear with the ear. Outer sound is linked to a pleasant or unpleasant or neutral sound, all the sounds that we usually hear and that are produced by the material (level).

“All of this is very important to harmonize our condition. To harmonize our energy we have to have knowledge of this very principle of our nature, otherwise we cannot harmonize.

“We can say it like this … it’s simple, isn’t it?”

July 3, 2014

An Interview with Adriana Dal Borgo at Dzamling Gar, February 11, 2015

The Mirror: Can you talk a little about the origin of Khaita?

Adriana: In November 2011 at Meriling, in the north of Tenerife, Rinpoche discovered on Youtube a lot of very courageous songs sung and written by young Tibetan artists living in China or Tibet.

One song in particular called ‘Denba’, meaning ‘the truth’ (n. 5.10 in the collection ‘Message of Tibet’), expresses the heart of their message in a very poetic way [the words to ‘Denba’ are published at the end of the interview].

So Rinpoche started to write down some of the songs, copying the words one by one from each video, and listening to many songs to choose those more suitable to his purposes. The small group of us who were present in these fortunate circumstances tried to follow Rinpoche’s singing, but none of us knew Tibetan so we just had to hum!

In order to make the songs more accessible to all of us, Rinpoche decided to transcribe them with the system of drayig so we could follow the words and sing with him, after he had explained the meaning of each. And this is how it all started.

You can imagine the enormous amount of work involved in writing down not only the texts of the songs but also the pauses, indicating with symbols the melody and when some vowels of the words were longer, even the vocalisms, both in Tibetan and in drayig! From that moment on, most of the Master’s daily routine was dedicated to this.

The house was non-stop music, from the very early morning when the Master would wake up and start working, listening and transcribing the songs until late evening when we would sing. During the few hours of sleep, those melodies would continuously resonate in my mind. It was a strong experience.

When Rinpoche left Tenerife in December 2011, 42 songs were ready to be studied and sung. A couple of months later in February 2012, at Tashigar South, Rinpoche presented the first collection of 60 songs, divided into six groups of 10 songs each.

At the same moment dances started to accompany the singing as it came very naturally to me to start to move. At first we did the simplest dances. At least now it looks like this but not at that time when it took some hours for Luda and me to figure out one of the basic steps of all Tibetan dances – right, left, right, and up!

We started with the circle dance ‘So ya re lo’ (1.3.9) then ‘Ala la mo se’, 2.9 from the 1st Vol., and ‘Dendrel Sanbo’ (1.8), the ones that it was possible to learn from the video. Imagine 10-15 people dancing in a relatively big living room, around the big table, between armchairs, paying attention not to break lamps or windows or not to hit each other in our first not so harmonious gestures.

This group of enthusiastic, sometimes surprised but definitely devoted Khaita pioneers spent many hours around the Master, basically right after lunch until late evening, and so it became the main daily activity.

Singing and then dancing together was a great way to practice and overcome limitations and expectations.

Mirror: What is the meaning and how do you see the value of Khaita?

Adriana: Last year, at the beginning of 2014, Rinpoche and Rosa were looking for a name to give to all the dances that up to that moment we were calling ‘Tibetan modern dances’. The point was to find a short expression that could open to new horizons, recognize the value of everything Rinpoche was doing and take into consideration that all this starts from Tibet and the Tibetan language, but, at the same time, show that our aim – promoting harmony within the individual and between people and their environment through dance – goes beyond protecting and supporting a single culture. This is why, for example, in Khaita’s performances or videos, we don’t use traditional Tibetan costumes very much but rather costumes that we make ourselves, in general colorful with ornaments such as belts or bracelets with different colored ribbons, using our creativity and capacities.

So the name ‘Khaita’ manifested and also the symbol: the infinite knot, golden and shining, on the planet earth. Khaita means ‘Harmony or Melody of the Space or of the Sky’ although usually we say ‘Harmony in Space’. The key words ‘harmony’ or ‘melody’ is easy to understand in a general sense. Then, as practitioners, it assumes a deeper meaning. [See Rinpoche’s words at the beginning of the interview]

When we have this knowledge, when we harmonize our condition, then it resonates outside, without borders between inside and outside.

This symbol of Khaita means that the uninterrupted, infinite flow of energy, without obstacles, the flow of love like melody pervades and manifests in all our hearts and throughout the earth through songs and dances. We can read and explain this in many ways and aspects.

Mirror:  We understand that Rinpoche is making some changes to the way he has organized the Tibetan songs. Originally there was a collection of 108, but now he is preparing a group of 180. Could you tell us about this?

Adriana: At the beginning there was this first collection of 108 songs and a second collection of 72 songs. The first collection has already been translated and published in the book “Message from Tibet’.

Then Rinpoche started to make another collection of 180 with most of the songs, but not all, from the first two volumes, and some new songs. This new collection is called ‘Mekhor’ and is a term connected with astrology. It includes three groups, each called ‘Metreng’ and each with 60 songs, so there will be ‘Metreng 1’, ‘Metreng 2’ and ‘Metreng 3’. This will be a new collection. We are still learning to sing most of the new songs and don’t have any translations of them yet so it will be some time until the new collections are published.

Mirror: How does Rinpoche decide on a song, is there certain criteria?

Adriana: Rinpoche follows three principles when choosing a song:

– the meaning of the words, which should be profound and interesting (in the preface of the book ‘Message from Tibet’ he explains the main topics of the lyrics;

-the melody;

– the singer, his/her dedication, where he/she come from, how he presents himself and represents the song, so the third criteria is mainly about the singer.

Mirror: Can you tell us how the choreography for the dances is done? Does Rinpoche choose the songs? What if someone wants to try to choreograph something?

Adriana: The process of choreographing the dances is very interesting.

Continuing the story and going back to 2012, in some videos the dances were not complete, we could see only partial movements so the next ‘step’ was to build a complete choreography from those sequences. At Tashigar South, Rinpoche asked us to work on dances such as ‘Nas Qenbo’ (1.3.5), ‘Naco Bod-la Ga’ (1.3.6) and a few others. I tried to understand the principle of the movements and create a reasonable and pleasant sequence. For me it was a completely new activity but I quickly started to enjoy giving shape to a song and developing it.

In some other dances, Rinpoche himself guided me in creating the choreography, indicating precisely which movements corresponded to the different parts of a song. ‘Pu Yana’ (1.6.3) is one of these dances, in which the Master found a very interesting movement, lasting just a few seconds in the video that reminded him of a precise movement of Vajra Dance.

In others dances, such as ‘Draxis’ (1.11.8), and ‘Draxis Nima’ (1.8.3), Rinpoche suggested some of the basic movements, but most of the dances of the first period, the first two years, were created together with the Master. This is also why I think it’s important to learn all their details well, especially the mudras, in order to keep as much as possible the first original movements without losing our Master’s precious indications.

Back to history, the competition “Merigar Under the Stars”, beginning in September 2013, also came about from Rinpoche and Rosa’s suggestion and the whole Dzogchen Community seriously started to dance! The first round of the competition was successful thanks to the moving efforts, dedication and collaboration (even though at the beginning many people asked why we were doing this) of people coming from all the countries belonging to Merigar East and West and Kunsangar North and South. There was so much love in all this! And so much potentiality!

Immediately after, for the first time Rinpoche asked us to create from zero a choreography for a song, ‘Ema Lha Gyallo’. (1.1.5), that didn’t have a dance yet. Tsering and Topgyal on one side and Svetlana Vainine and Tzvetan Aleksandrov (who collaborated a lot as part of the Merigar West team in the competition), on the other, created two nice dances.

After this, a long series of dances were choreographed. Rinpoche expressly asks for some of these. For other dances, for me it works like this: when I find a song that I like in particular for the rhythm and that gives me inspiration, I start to move following the melody and finding shapes. I enjoy the process of creating because it opens a space inside, too.

A general principle we follow when creating a new dance is to translate some of the images of the songs into movements and mudras. This is what Rinpoche has asked from the beginning. The ‘how’, depends on the individual person. When one of us (when I say ‘us’ I mean the group of dancers who follow the process and participate actively, not only dancing but also supporting all work that is behind it) decides to create a new dance, we inform each other, to avoid more versions of same song being created, as happened the first time.

Of course every dance, before being presented publicly, must receive Rinpoche’s approval. The Master often suggests or slightly modifies some movements. And of course if someone wishes to work on a song, they are very welcome to do so! They should simply follow the previous principles.

Mirror: How many dances are complete?

Adriana: Up to now there are more or less 95 dances. At one point Rinpoche said that we would have 180 songs and 90 dances but we have already surpassed those numbers. We’re very active!

Mirror: How do Tsering and Topgyal’s dances differ from yours and how are they similar?

Adriana: You should ask the dancers this question because they can see from outside as my perspective is relative.

The dances evolve continuously and I see big differences between the beginning of our work and what we do now. But as I said, it’s not only Tsering and Topgyal or myself, we have choreography coming from many of the dancers: some Russian practitioners have created quite a few beautiful ones, as have the Polish and the Dzamling Gar team, while other dances come from the USA. There is space for our creativity and it’s so interesting and rich to see different talents and styles manifesting. I encourage others to open to this possibility.

For me this is a crucial point: we’re all practitioners, or aspiring to be, and we’re not running a competition to see who does the best dance!

We all participate in the process of manifesting Khaita Joyful Dances because Khaita represents exactly this, the harmonious flow of energy on the globe. We’re all part of it, we collaborate to make it possible and keep it alive, overcoming all possible borders, separations, limitations.

This is what we’re singing about, for hours every day!

Mirror: In the future will there be instructors or at least proficient people who can come and teach at local places?

Adriana: Yes, it will happen. There are already some expert dancers who hold short courses or sessions to share what they know. Probably soon there will be more dancers who can lead courses not only inside the Dzogchen Community but also openly, to an external public. We’re preparing a basic structure for it.

Mirror: How do you see the future of Khaita and its development? How does Khaita benefit the Dzogchen Community?

Adriana: The full name that we use, Khaita Joyful Dances, includes all the meaning and benefits of this activity. The keyword ‘Joyful’ must be understood as an internal and deep state, different from the happiness related to positive circumstances.

If we look at the root of the word ‘joy’, ‘gioia’ in Italian, ‘gozo’ in Spanish and ‘gaudio’ in Latin, it comes from a Sanskrit term yuj (from which the word ‘yoga’ comes) and is generally translated as ‘union of the individual soul with the universal spirit’.

KJD is the way we are training to integrate our three aspects or existences in the state of presence to find this state of ‘Joy’. We’re very fortunate that we have the possibility to apply this at the Gars in the presence of our Master for a few hours every day.

I believe it’s a precious and powerful tool, an important method that is not at all traditional, even ‘out of context’. The Maestro stresses very much the importance of this activity and to me it’s important we all try to overcome our limitations and judgments, open our minds a bit and try to follow him without resistance. We can discover a lot.

One day, while entering the Gonpa for the usual appointment at 5pm., the Master said: “We live to be in the melody, not in paranoia like many people are”.

Mirror: How do you see Khaita being used in the “world” for the benefit of people and society?

Adriana: When we sing, many songs talk about overcoming separation between, for example, different groups of Tibetans, or between different schools of Buddhism, as well as prejudices and conflicts between human beings. We sing about bringing peace to the world, respecting and protecting our earth, sending wishes of prosperity to all sentient beings, and protecting native languages. These topics are not limited to Tibetan culture but represent the heart of each culture and values that belong to all humanity.

We sing and repeat the songs many times like a mantra. When we apply these principles in our daily life, so that our intention becomes concrete and can influence a bit the world outside us, we work in the direction of evolution.

Khaita Joyful Dances have great potential and it seems to me that they are one of the ways that the Dzogchen Community can open and offer our knowledge and potentialities to the ‘outer’ public. However, when we explain KJD we don’t need to talk about spirituality, sacred Teaching coming from a distant country, or about meditation. Sometimes these words might scare people or create resistance or prejudices. We can address people of all ages in a simple and direct way, sharing our experience and dancing together the taste of ‘Joy’, like a small seed from which a beautiful flower can blossom.

Mirror: Please tell us about the origins of the Dzamling Gar song.

Adriana: We could talk a lot about Dzamling Gar song, however, it is important to say that at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, on the occasion of the birth of Dzamling Gar, the words and the melody of the song came into his mind when he was very relaxed, in a moment of joy. We can find a translation of the song on the Dzamling Gar website.

What I’d like to stress is that it is a complete Teaching that includes, according to Rinpoche’s explanation, the three aspects of Base, Path and Fruit, which correspond to the three parts of the Song.

About the dance, at the beginning we were with Dr. Phuntsog when we created the first part of the choreography. We danced the whole dance like this repeating the first part three times. But after a few months, Rinpoche said that we should change it. He had a vision or something in the day and had some suggestion about how to do the movement. First he wrote it down and then he explained to me how to do the second and third part of the song so that each movement corresponded to the Song. It was very interesting.

 Mirror: Thank you very much.

‘Denba’, ‘the truth’ (n. 5.10 in the collection ‘Message of Tibet’)

“Mountain snow made of drops of nectar milked from the sky,
Limpid, clean rivers flowing in our minds,
The pure language of our fathers planted in our lineage:
These three are the real melody of the waters from the snow.

The Brahmaputra river binds our compassion,
Mount Everest holds our affection,
The Vajra knot of our commitment:
These three are the real melody of the waters from the snow.

Writings of joy and sadness on the face of the mountains,
Months and years of happiness and sufferings delivered to the rivers,
Our karma of pleasures and sorrows sung to tunes:
These three are the pure melody of the waters from the snow.

I am you and you are also me,
We are all one family,
We have the strength of being united and have a goal:
These three are the true melody of the waters from the snow.

I am you and you are also me,
We are all one family,
We have the strength of being united and have a goal:
These three are the true melody of the waters from the snow.



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