Uploaded on Mar 31, 2010
Classical Music Composer: Aram Khachaturian
"The Sabre Dance" (Armenian: Սուսերով Պար) is a movement in the final act of the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian's (Ара́м Ильи́ч Хачатуря́н, Aram Il'ič Xačaturjan) ballet Gayane (Гаянэ), completed in 1942. It evokes a whirling war dance in an Armenian dance, where the dancers display their skill with sabres. Its middle section incorporates an Armenian folk song from Gyumri. Due to its exceptionally exciting rhythm, "The Sabre Dance" established a place for itself in common concert practice, leading also to various adaptations in popular music. Its recognizable ostinato and popular melodies have made "Sabre Dance" a popular concert band piece.
The orchestral version is written in G major. It starts out with a recognizable motif ostinato with the timpani and strings that can be heard throughout much of the piece. The upper woodwinds and keyboard percussion take an exciting dance melody, later accompanied by the low brass. Then the strings come in with a folk song melody. The first melody is then briefly recapitulated. Descending chromatic eighth notes bring the piece down to straight eighth notes on the note G in the low strings. The piece ends on ascending quarter notes.
Classical music in popular culture
"The Sabre Dance" has been covered by performers such as jazz musician Woody Herman, vocal trio The Andrews Sisters, rock and roll musician Dave Edmunds with the band Love Sculpture, heavy metal guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, German progressive thrash metal band Mekong Delta, British heavy metal band Skyclad, progressive rock group Ekseption, Tony Levin, Vanessa Mae, the string quartet Bond, and British punk rock bands The Boys, UK Subs and Toy Dolls. The Disco Biscuits sometimes cover "Sabre Dance" at their live shows, often mixing in elements of rock and trance.
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.
Film * Pianist Oscar Levant plays a piano transcription of the piece in the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). * The piece reinforces James Cagney's energetic performance in the final act of the 1961 comedy One, Two, Three as he plays a troubled executive making snap decisions to save his career. * The Coen Brothers' 1994 film The Hudsucker Proxy also makes use of the music, in a scene in which a newly-invented hula hoop is picked up and used by a young boy for the first time. The piece was arranged and integrated into the wider score by Carter Burwell, who also made use of Khachaturian's other well-known piece, the adagio from Spartacus, as the movie's main theme. * In The Blues Brothers 2000, when the main heroes encounter Russians in the grave and run, "Sabre Dance" can be heard for several seconds. * In the feature film Kung Fu Hustle, the song plays in the background as Sing (Stephen Chow) infiltrates a mental institution to spring an assassin known as the Beast. * In the 2006 Woody Allen film Scoop, the piece was used to great effect.
Television * The tune is frequently featured on the TV series The Simpsons, usually to emphasize the fast pace of some situation (for example, in the episode "Bye Bye Nerdie") or during an activity containing sort of acrobatic skills (as in "Tennis the Menace"). * "Sabre Dance" is also the music played while Late Night with Conan O'Brien's recurring character the Masturbating Bear masturbates on stage. * The MSNBC TV program Countdown with Keith Olbermann featured the music from 2003 until 2007 during Oddball, a nightly news feature of bizarre stories, often referring to the tune as "this strange music". * The piece can be heard in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Slimy Dancing". * In the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory episode "The Work Song Nanocluster," Howard and Raj "sing" it while Leonard has his turn evading a laser field during "Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Chess." It is reprised later by Sheldon and Howard as Raj tries to manage the same laser field during "Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Lunch." * In the American sitcom Two and a Half Men episode "I remember, the coatroom, I just don't remember you", Charlie plays this song on piano while Jake and Rose are doing circus stunts. * In the Family Guy episode "Peterotica", Peter distracts Lois by whistling the tune and riding a unicycle.
Sports * The National Hockey League team Buffalo Sabres use the piece as a theme song.