Class Notes: Be Dynamic! A Hafla Primer (KWDMS)

Disclaimer: Eastern Dance, as the sources exist today, is left open to broad interpretation based on artwork from the period.  Short of something akin to Playford’s 1651 The English Dance Master, we are left with snapshots in time to interpret a moving, ethereal, and DYNAMIC performance medium.  It is because of this lack of notes on folkloric dances that I strongly assert that eastern dance is not documentable to period more than to say, they had dancers who danced.  We can infer from context when, where, and for whom they likely danced, but we cannot know the dances themselves.

In Period:

Ottoman Art before 1600 


Файл:  Süleymanname ottoman ensemble (1530)



Köçek troupe at a fair” at Sultan Ahmed’s 1720 celebration of his son’s circumcision. Miniature from the Surname-i Vehbi, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul.


Abdulcelil Levni or Abdulcelil Çelebi (died 1732) was an Ottoman court painter and miniaturist.


Enter aThe marriage procession of Dara Shikoh. Unknown1740 AD – 1750 AD. caption


Turkish Miniature Painting. “The Sultans watching dancers and comedians in the Hippodrome” (1703-30)


The class playlist is curated from the song list provided for the KWDMS Saturday evening Hafla.

Additional Opportunities for Learning:

Artemis Mourat is a Turkish and Greek woman who, growing up in Turkey and studying folkloric dance styles extensively, has curated some AMAZING dance workshops and lectures on the history of this dance form.  She relies on period sources, and strong academically based interpretation.  I cannot recommend her more for the ongoing study of this topic.  And she’s local, folks! I have personally attended the following workshops and lectures with her:

TURKISH ROMANY AND ORIENTAL DANCE: The Turkish Romany (Gypsy) people have performed in Turkey for the past 1000 years. They were the most famous street performers during the Ottoman Empire. This is the mother of Turkish Oriental dance. The Turkish Oriental dance is less elegant than its sister dance, the Egyptian Oriental version. But what it lacks in elegance, it makes up for in passion and spontaneity. Its mother is the Turkish Romany dance which was said to “melt a stone.” Its father is the rich and varied court dances of the Ottoman Empire. Its maternal aunts are the lovely Egyptian Oriental dance and the Ghawazee Romani dances from the Turkish occupation of Egypt. It was then modernized on the Europeanized stages of Post Ottoman Turkey. This workshop describes the history and culture of both styles of dance and how one naturally gave birth to the other. You will enjoy historical accounts and with vivid descriptions. This lecture will take you from the Ottoman day to the present. A slide presentation and DVD footage are available for this workshop if you provide the TV, DVD player and/or a lap top that will accommodate a thumb drive and a DVD. This workshop can be done in a 1 1/2 hour to a 4 hour format.

TURKISH ORIENTAL AND TURKISH ROMANY (GYPSY): In this workshop, we compare and contrast the Turkish Oriental and the Turkish Romany (Gypsy) dance forms. I teach the same combinations in both the Oriental styles and in the Romany styles. Students will get a clear understanding of how Turkish Romany dance is the mother of Turkish Oriental dance and how and why the two differ and merge. DVD footage of both styles can be presented. I can return to places where I have taught this subject before with all new dance material. This workshop can be done in a condensed one-hour version or up to 4-day intensives on this subject.

TURKISH ÇENGI WORKSHOP: The famous female public entertainers of the Ottoman Empire were known as “Çengi” dancers (pronounced “Chen gee”). In this one day workshop, I teach about the history of Çengi dancing, and the costuming of the Çengi dancers plus a complete choreography (based on old descriptions and antique representations of the dancers). The workshop includes instruction on how to play Turkish Wooden spoons (Kaşıklar).




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