I booked a whirling dervish performance through my hotel in Beyoğlu – or so I thought…. Communication isn’t always easy in Istanbul since few people speak English. The person I usually ask for help wasn’t available, so I talked to a Turkish concierge who misunderstood me. Instead of the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony, he booked me for a cultural show of traditional Turkish folk dances. The surprise turned out to be an incredibly entertaining Saturday evening!
The talented dancers performed expressive harem, traditional, and belly dances from diverse cultures and regions in Turkey:
- Ottoman Palace Dance
- Zeybek Dance Aegean Turkey
- Roman Gypsy Dances Thracian Turkey
- Solo Shaman Dance
- Halay Dances Eastern Turkey
- Belly Dances – Solo and Group
- Solo Azerbaijani Dance
- Dances from the Balkan Region
- Horon Dances Black Sea (Anatolia) Region
The music, choreography, and costumes were extraordinarily! I had a front seat, and the strength and talent of the young dancers was impressive. The principal belly dancer performed several flawless solos, and the fire dance was spectacular!
Amateur photography – no flash – was allowed. I plan to start using video but need practice. Parts of the dance performance would have made incredible video. This Turkish website has video versions of most dances performed last night.
Hodjapasha is in Istanbul’s Fatih District where dances are staged in a transformed 15th-century Hamam. The performance area has a circular glass dance floor and a musician’s stage. Spectators sit around the circular floor surrounded by dramatic lighting and decorations that turn the intimate space into a mystical place!
I saw a sema performance several years ago in Istanbul and wanted to attend another. Sema, a Turkish custom inspired by Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, is a religious ceremony. The entirely different dance performances last night opened a whole new chapter of Turkish culture and tradition for me – understanding these extremely diverse regions and their cultural influences on the country!