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Whirling dervishes


One Turkish dance that is very well known internationally, also in the Netherlands, is the ceremony of the whirling dervishes. Calaleddin Rumi, also known under the name Mevlâna, was a mystic poet and philosopher who founded the order of the whirling dervishes. Strictly speaking the whirling dervishes do not perform a dance, but a ritual that is part of a religious ceremony, the Semah. The ritual is primarily designed for the transcendental experience it may bring to the person performing the Semah and not for entertaining the audiences watching it. The Semah as a religious practice originates in Konya, the capital of the Selçuk Empire and the burial site of Mevlâna (who died in 1273). Even though the order of the whirling dervishes was dissolved in 1925 as part of the secularization program by Atatürk, the ritual has reappeared in the last decades, presented to tourists as a traditional dance rather than a religious practice. Apart from practicing dervishes that occasionally perform the full ritual in Istanbul and Konya in front of a respectful public and in the proper context, tourist cafes and restaurants in Turkey and abroad hire dancers that perform the whirling completely out of context as a form of entertainment. There are discussions about whether the ritual, part of Turkey’s intangible heritage, should be allowed to be used this way. Every year from 9-17 December the famous Mevlâna Festival is organized in Konya.


Alevitische Vereniging Rotterdam

One day a week there are activities for women. Alevitische Vereniging Rotterdam offers courses in folk dance, Saz, and Semah.



Tevazu is Dutch group of Turkish Sufi-singers, musicians and dervish dancers. The group stages songs, music and dance from the Islamic humanist Sufi-tradition of the dervish order from Konya. The music that accompanies the whirling is made with traditional Sufi-instruments, the ney (reed flute) and drums.



Galip Tiyazro

‘Sir, A dancing desire to your past!’ Is the name of the piece by the Dutch-Turkish group Galip Tiyazro, dancers of the Rotterdam academy, and the musical group HIS.

A man and a woman are accompanied by the shadows of several religions from Anatolia. ‘Sir’ tells the story of those people who commute between religious love and physical love. ‘Sir’ is the story of a woman who has discovered that she has lost her faith in the good by the savage, dangerous, and modern time. It is the story of a dreamer, a fool. ‘Sir’ tells the story of an ancient secret ritual dance, the ‘Semah’, which belongs to Alevitism. Songs (nefes) are sung during the Semah, which are accompanied by one or more ‘saz’ (traditional music instruments). Group HIS has sublimely combined traditional music with European sounds. The show addressed both audiences originating from Turkey and from Holland.

Production and text: Yesim Eyüboglu. Choreography: Ineke top, Yesim Eyüboglu.

Music: Group His. Actors: Vedat Gultekin, Hasan Çakmak, Meryem Dipdere.


Church: Bergkerk

In October 2008 at the Bergkerk in Deventer an authentic Sufi-musical concert by music group Kardelen was performed (directed by Abdullah Sefinckan) with whirling dervishes.


Church: Lutherse Kerk

In April 2010 Aart Bergwerff (pipe organ) en Kadir Sonuk (dance) performed Canto Ostinato at the Lutherse Kerk in the Hague. Canto Ostinato was written by Simeon ten Holt in 1976 and is probably the best known minimal music composition in the world. During more than one hour the music hardly changes, but still manages to draw attention. The whirling dance of the Sufis performed by dancer Kadir Sonuk reinforced and intensified the impression of endlessness. The Bätz organ seems an unlikely choice for the music piece that was originally written for 4 pianos. But titular organist Aart Bergwerff shows and makes people hear how this famous music piece can be played in a lively way on the recently restored pipe organ of the Lutherse Kerk during Koninginnedag (Queens Day, a national holiday in the Netherlands). The pipe organ, like the dervish dance, also has the function to aid the contact between God and mankind when hymns are sung in church. The collaboration between Kadir and Aart Bergwerff already existed; they had performed the Canto Ostinato before. The concert was financially supported by Gemeente Den Haag, Fonds Burgerschap. http://www.haagsorgelkontakt.nl/?page=9&id=186


Stichting Kulsan

In the project ‘Van Soefi tot Flamenco’ in Utrecht by Stichting Kulsan, Turkish musicians have an artistic exchange and collaboration with flamenco-artists. Due to this collaboration, meditative Turkish Sufi music and -dance shifts into temperamental South-Spanish flamenco. DB Consult organizes lectures before the start of each performance. Jeanneke den Boer explains the relation between flamenco and Sufi music and –dance and describes the historical background of both.