Let’s explore what makes the Turkish style of belly dance unique and exciting. Historically, Turkish belly dancing has existed since the 7th century. What we call Oriental Dance officially began in the 1920s throughout the Middle East. At that time in Turkey, women were liberated in many aspects of everyday life. Dancers in particular enjoyed a freedom they never had before, finding more opportunity to aggressively display their feminine beauty and emphasize sexual appeal both in the sensuality of their movements and by wearing costumes that emphasized the figure.
Turkish dance routines moved from fast to slow to fast again. Dancers entered to a happy upbeat song, playing zils and wearing a veil that was tantalizingly draped over their costumes. The second song usually was to the slow chiftetelli rhythm, incorporating veilwork and/or floorwork which pushed the limits of flexibility into more gymnastic poses. The routine included at least one song to the kashlimar rhythm which is a fast, complicated 9/8 that keeps the dancer bounding with energy and liveliness. The demands on speed and agility can explain why Turkish dance routines are shorter than Egyptian-style routines, and also why Turkish dancers tend to be younger than dancers in Egypt and Lebanon. It was the Turkish dancers who first moved off the stage and into the audience to collect tips and to coax audience members to participate and dance along.
I found an out-of-print book entitled “The Belly Dancer in You” written by retired Turkish dancer Ozel Turkbas. Ozel encourages the dancer to maintain her self-respect and treats the dance as something beautiful and spiritual. Ozel claims that Turkish dancers were responsible for introducing the belly moves to belly dance. She admits that the dance has been exploited by those who “could show—for a good price—women dancing in a manner forbidden to the God-fearing.” This exploitation occurs everywhere in the Middle East, including Turkey, where striptease and belly dance were often intermingled. Ozel admitted that sometimes the only way to become famous was for the dancer to pose practically nude or to be involved in some sort of public scandal.
There was time when Turkish style costume were considered scandalously more sexual than the Egyptian style costume. However, the contemporary costume worn in Cairo today unfortunately consists of a skimpy outfit that reveals far too much skin, a skirt that is shear or of ultra mini length, and a bra that over emphasizes already ample breasts. Sadly, any artistry in the performance is overshadowed by the sexuality of how the movements look when performed in such costuming.
Who are the famous and infamous Turkish belly dancers that were respected, revered and viewed as artists?
As in all Middle Eastern areas today, Turkish belly dancers struggle against the morals of a Moslem country. Following the many artists of the past hundred years, only the loveliest, most agile, and most gifted dancers can successfully follow their lead. Has the magic of Turkish style belly dance bewitched you yet?
Do you love to learn about the history of Middle Eastern dance? Do you dream of making more of your love of belly dance? Then please explore www. SakkaraDance .com and let me know if you want to set up a time to talk about how this program can be tailored to your specific needs!
JASMIN JAHAL, Author
I've been dancing since I was 3 and a professional belly dancer for over 40 years. I've learned so much from personal belly dance experience and want to share with you advice, tips, suggestions and more. Anytime you have any questions and need sage advice, please reach out and let me hear from you!