DANCING STARTED TEN THOUSAND YEAR AGO
THE SACRED ENTERTAINMENT OF THE KING
On a Hittitian urn which dates back to 2000 BC and which is in Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara, we see a celebration scene of dancing and games, accompanied by stringed and percussion instruments; it must be the holy wedding ceremony of a king. It is a scene of festivity and some figures are dancing, acompanied by lyre, castanets and strings. Altough it is a formal expression of music, dance and wedding rituals of Hittites, this imagery gives insight to festivity traditions of that era.
MYTHOLOGY AND THE ENTERTAINMENT
In the Hellenistic period, music and dancing were important parts of daily life, just as they are today. Dancing was not only a means of having fun, it was also an important part of religious rituals and official ceremonies of royals. We know today that professional dancers and singers were gainfully employed for these ceremonies.
In Greek mythology, vine harvest and autumn dances and festivities accompanied with music were dedicated to and named after Dionysus, God of Wine. These festival rituals were still held in Roman and Byzantine eras. The statue of the Women with Lyre and figures dancing around her give us an idea of the dances of this period.
THE SECRET ENTERTAINMENTS
Religious oppression of Byzantine Church and its totalitarian rule forced people to retreat from public places and steered them to secluded taverns and bars in harbours and other odd corners for entertainment. Oral records tell us that there was a whole underground entertainment world of women and men who drank, sang and danced. Theodora was the daughter of a circus guard and she was a dancer and courtesan of these bars and taverns until she became the mistress of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. By means of her ambition and sex appeal she married Justinian and became the empress of Byzantine court. She was the most influential and powerful woman in the Byzantine Empire’s history.
DANCE OF ŞAMAN
Before coming to Anatolia, the Turks followed a Shamanist religion and they had a shamanist culture. Shaman was the symbol of belief in Shamanism and he practiced the magical shamanistic dance in order to protect his peoplefrom evil, to treat illnessess and to send away the evil spirits. People believed that through his robes suggesting beasts and wild animals, strange accessories and wild solo dances, the Shaman would become like the evil spirit that he was up against, communicate with it and and scare it away. Even today, some movements of folkloric dances in Anatolia resemble the movements of shamanic dances.
DANCE OF ZENNES, KÖÇEKS and ÇENGIES
Ottoman Empire was an Islamic polity but the celebrations in the palace were very magnificent for these were regarded as ocassions to display the wealth of the state. Most prominent court painter Levni painted a series of miniatures that depicted the festivities comme-morating the circumcision of four sons of Ahmed III. The festival took place in 1720 and lasted for fifteen days and nights. These miniatures show us that since women were not allowed to entertain in public, dancing performances were being done by young men impersonating females. These vigorously dancing men were called köçeks or zennes.
Since the life in Ottoman houses, harems and private areas were very secluded, there are no official records from those times about women’s entertainment customs and dances. What information we have, we have it from the letters, journals, engravings and paintings of foreign visitors and diplomats.
In the palace harem and in the harems of high ranking government officials, gypsies and dancing girls used to entertain the ladies of the house in the women’s quarters, adding color to harem life.
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