Belly Dancing - The Dance of the Orient - The Dance of the Turks
Open resources - unidentified artist and owner
An artistic figure in Belly dancing
Central Asia, where they lived as nomadic tribesmen, has been the historic homeland of the Turks since around 2000 BC. In the beginning, dance was a celebration of religious ceremony, joyous events or the end of war, an expression of solidarity and happiness. Mixed groups of men and women would move their feet from side to side in animated rhythmic harmony around an open fire.
Though Seljuks remained sovereign in Iran for a long time, upon the formation of the Great Seljuk state, Turks began their migration to the Arabian states. In these new lands, they could discover and explore the rich culture of the East, and were first exposed to the style of dance of the orient. Making a lasting impression upon the Turks, this style of dance enjoyed great popularity to the point of becoming one of the primary forms of entertainment in the day-to-day palace life of the Seljuks. .
Raqs Sharqi, as they were known in Arabian and Moroccan culture, were female oriental dancers who performed belly dance, movements originating in the feet and rising up to encompass the entire body, with a clear focus upon the pelvic and abdominal areas. Raqs Sharqi dancing, typically performed solo, is unique in its repertoire of improvised movement which flows in harmony with the rhythm of the accompanying music. It is a powerful expression of mature femininity in all of its power and fertility. Cengi is the Turkish name for a popular primitive harp which was the instrument of choice of the Raqs Sharqi in Arabian and Moroccan cultures, where the name denotes a woman who sings while playing the harp, prior to performing her dance. To the Turks, a woman who played the cenq before dancing was known as a çenqi, or public dancing girl.
Upon the Turkish conversion to Islam in 1040, women were restricted to dancing only in harems, a section of the palace reserved exclusively for women, as entertainment and palace quotidian. As a result, belly dance was constrained to an expression strictly between women. Rarely were the rakkase, a name derived from Arabic for the female dancers, seen in public performance. The music and dance itself were brought to public attention, outside of the palaces, by the rakkas, male steer dancers attired in women’s clothing. These rakkas, known as kocek, were called upon to perform as part of the attractions for guests at the festivals surrounding the Seljuk State horse races, alongside oil wrestling competitions and cengi, or public dancing girls.
By the time the Ottoman Empire replaced the Seljuk State, cengi, kocek and rakkase had become embedded in the Turkish culture.
The cenqi and kocek, under the Ottoman Empire, were permitted by the municipality to form official troupes. Headed by a kolbasi, or troupe leader, these kols consisted of an assistant kolbaşı, twelve çenqi dancers and a band of musicians, known as siraci, made up of a violinist, a çifte nara or rakkase player and two on tambourines. The entire troupe was housed in a meshane, School of Music, and anyone who desired to become a cengi and kocek were invited to live in the house, under the guiding tutelage of the Kolbaşı. All negotiating of performances at weddings, pavilions or other special events was conducted strictly between the organizers and the kolbaşı.
Becoming known as the Dans-oz, after the French Revolution, female dancers continued to perform the newly crowned “oriental dance” in Egypt. To this day, as in the past, Turks embrace the dance as they find it imparts life upon the culture.