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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Scenes From Turkey:

Oriental Dance at
Kusadasi, Turkey

by Shira


This is Part 4 in a series of photo galleries showing pictures of Oriental dance performances I saw while I was in Turkey in July, 2000. This gallery features the dancers who appeared in a performance at the Kervansaray Hotel in Kusadasi on July 18, 2000. Apparently, this hotel normally doesn't produce its show on Tuesday nights, but because we had a large party of 25 they agreed to hold it for us. There were a few tables of other tourists there that night, but we had the one right next to the stage!



First Dancer

First Dancer at Kusadasi

This show was much more rewarding to watch than the ones at Yasar Baba and the Colossea Hotel . It featured three dance acts.

The first dancer's costume was in the rather classic belly dancing style of beaded bra & belt with a coordinating skirt. She was dancing on a raised stage, and our tables were immediately next to it, so the physical layout of the place positioned us to be looking up her skirt.

One of the reasons I took so many photos of this dancer was that I enjoyed her athleticism and her likeable stage persona.

First Dancer at Kusadasi
First Dancer at Kusadasi

One thing I particularly noticed about this dancer's performance was that she did frequent backbends, apparently with ease. She did some from a standing position, and others from a kneeling position.

She did these backbends very quickly — so quickly that it was difficult for me to catch any on film. However, I persevered and managed to get a couple of photos worth sharing!

First Dancer at Kusadasi
First Dancer at Kusadasi As these pictures show, this dancer did just a little more with floor work than some of the other dancers we saw during our stay in Turkey. She possesed the necessary qualifications for appealing floor work: strength, flexibililty, and fluid movement.
First Dancer at Kusadasi
First Dancer in Kusadasi

As these photos show, the style of her skirt was quite skimpy, and as mentioned above, this effect was magnified by the fact that our tables were seated immediately next to the raised stage, putting us in a position to look upward at her from below.

As this side view of her costume shows, her bra / belt set was really quite lovely despite the distraction of seeing so much of her undercarriage.

First Dancer in Kusadasi




The Trio

The second act at the Kervansaray Hotel in Kusadasi was a trio of dancers. Their performance was... interesting. VERY interesting! I found the performance to be very silly, highly entertaining (in a comedic way), and completely unique compared to anything else we saw in Turkey. (In fact, it was completely unique compared to any other "belly dance" performance I have ever seen in my life, but that's because the choreography was decidedly not "belly dancing".) I don't think it was intended to be funny, but I found the combination of odd costumes and prancing choreography to be hilarious.

The one in black appeared to be the "lead" dancer. They did most of their show in a triangle, with the dancer in black positioned in center front, and the other two forming a back row. Note that the costume for the dancer in black is a somewhat different style from what the other two were wearing.

I don't know for certain, but I suspect that these dancers and their choreographer may have been from Russia or Eastern Europe rather being than Turkish locals. My suspicion is based on both their costuming style and their dance style.

The face veils along with the overall costume style resemble those used on the covers of a series of music CD's titled "Mezdeke".

Trio of Dancers at Kusadasi

It was difficult to get a high-quality photo of the front of this dancer's costume, because her costume was black, her hair was black, and the room was darkened. Plus, she was so busy leaping and kicking to the choreography that she didn't stop in any one pose long enough to take a clear picture.

She wore black bell bottoms made of a mesh fabric that is much more revealing than chiffon. Sequins were attached to the mesh at intervals to give it sparkle, and a border of sequins at the bottom brightened it up a bit. Her face veil and sleeves were made of the same fabric, and similarly decorated with sequins. On her feet, she was wearing boots that came just above the ankle. Her beaded belt was the only thing that prevented us from getting a clear view of what my grandmother used to call "the bird's nest", and when the fringe swayed... In the back she wore a half skirt: a rectangular panel of a beautiful sparkly fabric.

Lead Dancer at Kusadasi
Lunges of this type are definitely not part of normal Oriental dance. The perfomers jumped quickly into this pose, then almost immediately sprung back to their feet. I admired their athleticism, while at the same time I was puzzled by the choreographic decision to include this. Dancers at Kusadasi
Dancer from the Trio in Kusadasi

Their headdresses and face veils deserved to be seen in close-up. Feathers! What fun! I kept wondering how they could draw in enough breath through / around those face veils to support the highly aerobic dance they were doing. Oh my!

Unfortunately, the black feather in the headdress of the dancer in black doesn't show very much in the photos I took of her because of the dark background and mood lighting.

Member of the Trio That Performed in Kusadasi
Member of the Trio at Kusadasi

The choreography used by this trio incorporated large amounts of prancing and high kicks, neither of which is traditional for belly dance. It was a unique artistic product, to say the least.

I couldn't decide whether to be jealous of their flexibility, or to be inspired to put some of these crazy kicks into my comedy choreography, or to wonder what in the heck made the choreographer think that it was a good idea to put a whole bunch of high kicks into a belly dance choreography.

Maybe the reason for the face veils is to prevent the dancers from revealing through facial expression their distaste for the ridiculous choreography.

Dancer in the Trio at Kusadasi
Dancers at Kusadasi

As shown in the photo to the left, the skirts for the two supporting dancers were esentially ankle-length loincloths that revealed much whenever they spun — which they did frequently!

The slits in the skirts were adjusted to give frequent views of their l-o-n-g bare legs.

Dancer at Kusadasi
Dancer at Kusadasi

At times, the dancers seemed almost regal, with their towering feather headdresses, such as the one shown in the photo to the left.

The skirts were made out of a fabric that responded well to movement, as can be seen in the photo to the right.

Dancer at Kusadasi
Dance Trio at Kusadasi

At the end of the performance, the threesome finally danced close enough to each other for me to snap a few pictures of them all together.

The picture with the lifted legs is tempting me to create a comedy choreography with a similar pose at the end!

Trio at Kusadasi

In summary, although the choreography really didn't resemble Oriyantal dansi (Oriental dance / belly dance), it was entertaining to watch, and made for an interesting change of pace sandwiched in between two more "typical" performances for the evening. It was high-spirited and playful, and downright silly. The dancers were beautiful women, and possessed the strength and flexibility needed to perform the athletic choreography. I enjoyed the performance on the level of "good theater", even though there was very little "Oriental dance" in it. But the next time a member of the general public tells me, "I saw a belly dance show when I was in Turkey..." I'll remember this performance and prepare myself to dispel possible misconceptions!



The Final Dancer

This dancer was on the early edge of the lycra costume fashion. In 2000, when these photos were taken, lycra costumes were not yet a common sight in our dance form. The style was flattering on her, and she served as an example of how even a relatively simple design without beadwork or sequin motifs can look elegant and professional with the right fit and tailoring.

In comparing this dancer with the one in the white costume with silver spots at Yasar Baba (who also had a somewhat plainly-styled costume with no fringe and minimal decoration), I found it interesting to note that the one on this page seemed to exude elegant simplicity while the other dancer just came across as not putting much care into what she looked like.

After reflecting on why I thought one looked elegant while the other looked more like a student than a professional dancer, I think it was because:

  • The dancer in Kusadasi took care with her grooming. Her hair style was cute, and her makeup was flattering. This was not true of the dancer at Yasar Baba.
  • The draping effect in the front of the Kusadasi dancer's skirt provided an elegant line. In contrast, the dancer at Yasar Baba had just a plainly cut skirt wrapped around her hips, sort of like a sausage casing.
  • The fabric of the Kusadasi dancer's costume, as shown on this page, shimmered beautifully with every move she made. The Yasar Baba dancer's costume was a plain lycra white fabric with silver-colored spots that didn't sparkle very much.
  • The Kusadasi dancer carried herself well. She had elegant posture, and moved gracefully. The Yasar Baba dancer had slumped shoulders, and her movement lacked the quality of the Kusadasi dancer.

I think these observations are lessons that we can all benefit from considering.

Final Dancer at Kusadasi
Kusadasi Dancer

This skirt rode waist-high in the back, and then dipped to a drape below the navel in the center front. The style in the back was rather plain — no draping effect there.

The V-shaped effect in the front was flattering to her figure.

Kusadasi Dancer

At the end of her performance, this dancer recruited about 3-4 audience members (including me) to dance with her on stage. She started playing follow-the-leader with us, using various dance moves. Since most of her "guinea pigs" were from our party (and most of us were Oriental dance artists), we kept pace with her quite well.

Finally, she had us all kneel facing the audience, and then she went into a backbend, with her knees (and therefore her crotch) facing toward the audience. Even though I can easily do those backbends, and I often perform them in public with a sword on my head, I'm always careful to not aim my crotch directly at audience members. Especially when (as I did at the show that night) I'm wearing a straight skirt. No, no, no. Uh uh. So that's when I let her think she'd finally hit upon something I couldn't do. In retrospect, I wish I would have turned my back to the audience and done it that way. Oh well!

Final Dancer at Kusadasi



Related Articles

These photo galleries contain photographs taken by Shira in July, 2000.

Oriental Dance

Other Images





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