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Hodjapasha Culture Center


In Ottoman court, talented young odalisques were trained and raised as dancers. Instructors from outside harem walls would teach them the oriental dances performed by çengis, Andalusian dances and Western styles of dancing. Thus, there was a group of odalisques in the harem who served as professional musicians and dancers. During his private leisure hours called halvet, these girls would dance for the sultan and win his heart.

Çengi troupes would go to the festivities for a certain fee and would exhilarate the guests with their music and oriental dancing. 
These agile bodied, dark skinned handsome youths dressed in erotic costumes of shiny red, green, blue and yellow silks would dance their provocative oriental dances with finger cymbals in their hands, mesmerizing everyone. So much so that the ladies who invited them and their guests would enthusiastically accompany their songs and dances. Just as they are today, çengis were identified with entertainment in Ottoman times, as we can see from the paintings done by Westerners who liked this interesting tradition.

The cultural exchange between Europe and the Ottoman Empire started in the 19th century and frequent communication between the two had a modernizing impact on entertainment traditions of the latter.  Construction of modern theatres, music halls, night clubs and circuses for revues, dance troupes and performers from Europe helped the institutionalisation of entertainment tradition.
At the beginning of the 1900’s, casinos and music halls were in neighbourhoods such as Tepebaşı and Beyoğlu, where non-muslim populations lived. Beyoğlu, which was called Pera back then, was the center of magical nightlife. Muslims would come here in order to make a night of it, at the expense of becoming sinners

We may see male figures dancing like a woman or balerina, and dressed
the same way on the stage of seneral shadow plays (such as Karagöz ve
Hacivat), which is a Traditional Turkish Performing Art, initiated in Bursa in the 15th century.

When opera and theatre troupes from Italy began staging Western type of shows, Armenian theater and opera troupes also took to the stage in music halls and started presenting first plays in Turkish. At the beginning of these shows and during the intermissions, European and non-Muslim beauties would sing energetic, humorous, erotic songs called kantos to keep the audience’s interest alive. The actress would prance around, bounce, vibrate her shoulders, shake her hips, spin around, swing her head and belly dance while singing, sweeping the audience off their feet. Kanto singers were popular until 1960’s and after that it turned into a nostalgia show only performed during Ramadan festivities.

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Copyright: Nt360 Sanal Tur
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 6324x3162
Taken: 13/04/2010
Uploaded: 19/04/2010
Updated: 04/03/2015


Tags: folk; dance; istanbul; guide; dervish; turkish night; turkish dance; sirkeci; kubbe; belly dance; türkiye
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Istanbul (historically Byzantium and later Constantinople; see the other names of Istanbul) is the largest city of Turkey and the third largest city in the world. The city covers 27 districts of the Istanbul province.It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. In its long history, Istanbul served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). The city was chosen as joint European Capital of Culture for 2010. The historic areas of Istanbul were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.