Turkish Folk Dance

The Picture in this page are mainly taken from the shows of the Galatasaray Lyceum Folk Dance group at different international folk dance festivals.

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Bridging two continents, Europe and Asia, Turkey has been the home to civilizations with settled villages and city life for nine thousand years. It's rich cultural heritage is dramatized by folk dancing. Folk dances have different characteristics based on region and location and are generally engaged in during weddings, gatherings, festivals, when sending sons off to military service, and during religious and national holidays. Dances demonstrate the different social roles of men and women. Some of the dances are reenactments of daily activities, while others tell stories. The best known folk dances by region are:

Halay: Halay comes from the word "Alay" which means "many people", unity, union, cooperation. It also means continuity of a human group. This folk dance is performed to a large extent in the East, South-East, and Central Anatolia and it is one of the most striking dances. Halay dances are played with a shrill pipe accompanied by a drum. It can be played minimum three people. Dancers can be both male and female. Dancers hold their hands and form a row and then a circle, according to the rhythm of the music, feet combinations are very important. Halays are usually played in the open air, they are not saloon dances. The dancer who is the first dancer in the row is called the "halaybasi", and the last dancer in the row is called the "poccik". They both have a handkerchief in their hands which they swing according to the rhythm of the music.There are four different halay musics according to their various rhythms. They gradually speed up.

Dances with spoons: "bengi", "mengi", "guvende" Spoon- kasik in Turkish- is a very old Turkish word. Dances with spoons used to be played in the Middle Asia to the emperors, and the dancers used 2 plates and 2 spoons. In dances with the spoons , which are wooden spoons , the dancers don't hold on to each other, they dance freely and apart from each other. The dancers hold their spoons in their each hand ,which do change from region to region. They have one spoon in one hand. The dance is done by forming a circle or standing face to face opposite. The spoons also define the rhythm of the music. The music of most of the dances with spoons are not instrumental, they have songs with lyrics. The rhythm of the dances are 2/4, or 4/4. They are animated, active, rhythmic, lively and flowing dances. There are instruments such as spoons, drums, four stringed violin , "baglama" which is a national instrument-that is a 4 stringed smaller form of a guitar. Dances with spoons are played in the Middle Anatolia and in the south parts of the country especially in Konya, Ankara, Nigde, Kirsehir, Afyon, Antalya, Isparta and Anamur.

Bengi dances: Bengi dances are a typical example of the crowded dances. Bengi as a word means "eternal and essential liquid of life". It is dances especially among Balikesir and Bergama. It is played with a shrill pipe , drum ; the dancers form a big circle, it starts with slow movements, and suddenly it becomes faster and faster as the music becomes faster. It was told to be a dance done to celebrate an ending of a war which is won.

Mengi Dances: These dances were especially played by wood-workers and "Abdals"-the members of nomadic tribe in Anatolia. They are played with male and female dancers together , forming rows opposite to each other or forming circles. Mengi as a word means departing and arriving, making a step , and eternal. The instruments are drums, "baglama", shrill pipe. In older times wood workers used to carve three stars on their baglamas, meaning God, his muslim prophet Hz. Muhammed, and Hz. Ali. By this it can be understood that their baglama was a religious symbol to them.

Guvende Dances: Guven as a word means "trust" in Turkish, so the person who stands up to dance calls one of his friends who he trusts, and then the dances were called as "guvende". They are played with minimum 2 dancers. They are played in South Marmara Region and especially in Bursa.

Cepikli: It is a kind of wedding dance. This dance reflects the happiness of a couple who is getting married. Men and women dance together, often dancers are positioned face to face. Men act as leaders to direct the figures, and women show enjoyment of being around her partner. The rhythm of the music is very lively and performers are very energetic.

Bar: Dances Bar as a word means unity, the kind of dance which is done by holding hands, a kind of Shaman drum, and especially it means a kind of dance played in a unity with also holding hands in a row. It was also called as "barca, baru" in older times and it also meant unity then. "Bar" dances are played side by side, shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand. They are noble and aesthetic dances. The first dancer in the row is called "barbasi" , and the last dancer is called "poccik"; and different from the other dances the second dancer has also a name which is "koltuk". They can either be played with songs having lyrics or instrumentally. The dances that female dancers play are soft and have songs in them. However, the bars that male dancers play have drum and shrill pipe played in them. At the beginning of the dances male dancers shout out to tell the name of the region of the bar. The ideal number of dancers is 9 in the bars. The handkerchief that the "barbasi" holds in his hand has an important role to direct the action and the spirit of the dance. There are special parts of the bars which only 2 dancers play. In these dances hands are free, these dances start slow, they gradually speed up and end with kneeling part. The rhythms of the bar dances are 2,5,6,9,10, and12. The coming of the dancers to the stage is called "bar tutusmak"; the position in which the dancers stand still in a shoulder to shoulder position is called "closed bar" ; the music of the dances are called "bar havasi"; the bars that only female dancers play are "dugun dances" meaning wedding dances in English; and finally the style of dances which are played as dancers are not standing close to each other are called "open-bars". The bar dances are played in the East Anatolia and especially in Erzurum, Erzincan and Agri regions.

AEGEAN (Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3 , Pic 4, Pic 5 )
Zeybek: The male dancers are called "Efe" in this dance. Efe is the name of the soldiers in the elder times of Uzbekistan, which was a county of Ottoman Emperor. Then the Uzbeks moved down to the Aegean Region and settled there. The name of their local dance is called "Zeybek". Zeybek means 'brother' or 'friend'. Dances Zeybek has become the local dance of West Anatolia Region then. Men and women rarely perform this dance together. Individually or singly within groups, the men begin slowly strutting about to tight strains of music. Usually slow and boastful figures suggest men's strength as well as pride in being heroes. Most of the Zeybek dances start with a part called "strolling around". Until the end of the first part of the music, dancers stroll around in the stage and get used to the stage in a way. And then abruptly, with the music, they start dancing with also shouting out. This shouting out is called "nara" in Turkish and it is important because it is a signal that the main part of the dancing is starting. However, this shouting out part is only for male dancers, female dancers start playing just as the same but they don't shout out. Zeybek dances are played slow but splendid , with one or three dancers. They can be played as a group also, and there are the figures of sitting, turning around are the most common figures of the dance. Most of the Zeybek dances' music is the Turkish national folk songs and their rhythms are 9/2, 9/4 and 9/8. Zeybek dances can be played with male and female dancers together. However, there are parts that only male or female dancers dance. These dances can be played with pairs or with a crowded group with wooden spoons in the hands of the dancers. They use these spoons as a percussion according to the rhythm of the music. The rhythm of the music can either be slow or quick. The musical instruments are usually shrill pipe accompanied by a drum, lute with three double-strings or two-three strings and earthenware kettle drum. Zeybek dances are played from West Black Sea Region down to South Mediterranean part of Turkey and all the West Aegean coast and east coast of Sea of Marmara.

BLACK SEA (Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3)
Siksara: From a distance it appears like a line of people joining hands with their arms raised. The dance suggests the action of fishermen as well as the movements of the fish and the sea of this ancient fishing district. It is generally danced by a chain of either men or women who form a line or semi-circle. The music is faster and the figures are quicker.

Horon: Dances Horon as a word means different things: it means black from colors. It was the name of the dance that was played in very old ages in religious ceremonies. It also means the bunch of reaped crops after harvest. Especially, it is the name of the dance played with small three-stringed violin called "kemence" and shrill pipe in the Black Sea region of Turkey. It can also be called as "horum, horun or horan" in some parts of the country. Black Sea region is famous with its mountains, the fresh air, corn bread and anchovy fish. The Horon Dances represent the vibrations of the anchovy. The lyrics of the folk songs are rather witty. The same person usually both sings and plays the musical instruments. The dances are played by making a circle, semi-circle or making a row. The first dancer of the row is called "cavus" which means the sergeant in English. Horon dances' rhythms are 5,7,9. The most significant figures of these dances are trembling the shoulders, bending or bowing to front, throwing front the legs, and kneeling down. Horon dances are played in all the coast of the Black Sea region .

Keklik: Keklik means 'bird' in Turkish. Each dancer demonstrates Keklik's relationship with nature as well as with hunters. The music changes between slow and fast rhythms.

THRACIA (Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4)
Karşılama Dances: Greeting -"karsilama"- in old Turkish meant to be facing each other, to show a particular negative or positive reaction to an event, and to invite a guest into the house. The dance starts in a slow rhythm but it gradually become faster and faster. The instruments are drums, shrill pipe, tambourine with cymbals, lute, and earthenware kettle-drum. There are two shrill pipes and two drums are played; one of the shrill pipes play the melody and the other one accompanies to the melody. The steps and figures of the male dancers are attractive. In the whole of the dances , there is a stylistic view. The male and female dancers play their figures separately from each other. The names of the dances are either is called with the region they belong to or with the person who plays the dance perfectly. Turning around, kneeling and applausing are the most common figures of the dances. The cloth that the male dancers put on their heads are hand-made embroideries. The figures are accompanied with holding hands, shoulder to shoulder and facing each other. The role of the handkerchief in the hand of each female dancer is important. Greeting dances can be seen in the whole of the country. But they are mostly played in Marmara and Black Sea Region. In Marmara-in Edirne, Kirklareli, Tekirdag, Canakkale, Izmit, Adapazari,Bursa, Bilecik and Bolu; and in Black Sea Region , in Giresun, Ordu.

Hora Dances: Hora dances are played in the border lines of Marmara Region. Most common figures are played hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder ; they are played all together. The melody of the dances are lyric, and the lyrics of the songs have brevity and heroic themes in them.


Links and References
Galatasaray Lisesi Folklor Klübü
İstanbul Folklor Eğitim Derneği

Değişik Yöreler (Different Regions)