Photo of Shira



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

Scenes From Turkey:
The "Real" Turkish "Belly" Dance

by Shira


Back in the 1890's, an American event promoter named Sol Bloom coined the term "belly dancing" for a dance form that is known as "Oriental dance" in the Middle East where it comes from. It's called Oryantal dans in Turkish and raqs sharqi in Arabic, both of which mean "dance of the East" or "Oriental dance". Traditionally, neither language used the word "belly" (or any other body part) to refer to it. In recent years, the Turkish people have started to refer to Oriental dance by the term göbek dansı (the translation into Turkish of the words "belly dance") because of the influence from foreigners.

Click on any of the photos below to see it in more detail. All photos by Shira.

But there is a folk dance that the Turkish people call göbek dansı, and it doesn't look a thing like Oriental dance! Or, they might call it gobelin kuklasi dansı, which means "belly puppet dance" or asuk masuk.

So when the Turkish people use the term "belly dance" in their own language, what kind of dance are they thinking of? It might be Oryantal dans, but then again, it might be something completely different.

This article contains photos from a tourist show in Turkey performed on July 12, 2000 at a nightclub called Gar Gazinosu in Istanbul.

Göbek Dansı

Göbek dansı is a duet, with one dancer dressed as a man, and the other as a woman. The accompanying music is a fast Turkish-style chiftetelli rhythm. The dancers romp playfully around the stage, taking turns chasing each other.

It comes from southern Turkey, from the Silifke region.

The dance tells of a couple who love each other but have obstacles preventing them from getting together.

Göbek Dansı

Both dancers are portrayed by young men. The faces of the characters are painted on their abdomens. Alternatively, performers may paint the designs on a skin-colored T-shirt which can easily be put on and removed. This makes logistics easier to manage in a full show with several costume changes.

The headdresses, which come to just below the dancers' armpits, hide the dancers' heads and arms. The arms reach above the head, with the hands clasping opposite elbows.

Click on the photo to see more detail.

Göbek Dansı

The "neck" of the character's costume rides below the dancers' hips, with the "arms" attached to it so that they flop about as the dancer frisks around the stage.

It was difficult to snap good pictures, because the dancers were in constant motion as they danced about the stage to the lively music.

Göbek Dansı

At one point during the dance, the two characters wound up "face" to "face". The two dancers then performed energetic abdominal rolls, to portray the notion of the characters kissing.

For the finale, the two dancers made their way to a stage-side table, and each selected an audience member to "kiss" by rolling their abdomens close up and personal next to audience members' faces.


Göbek Dansı
At the end of the show, as the two dancers prepared to make their exits, they removed their "headdresses" to reveal themselves. They then peeled off the tight-fitting flesh-colored shirts which had had the characters' faces painted on them, giving us a view of their muscular bare chests before they disappeared behind the curtain. Göbek Dansı



Related Articles

These photo galleries show photos taken in Turkey in July, 2000.






Copyright Notice

This entire web site is copyrighted. All rights reserved.

All articles, images, forms, scripts, directories, and product reviews on this web site are the property of Shira unless a different author/artist is identified. Material from this web site may not be posted on any other web site unless permission is first obtained from Shira.

Academic papers for school purposes may use information from this site only if the paper properly identifies the original article on using appropriate citations (footnotes, end notes, etc.) and bibliography. Consult your instructor for instructions on how to do this.

If you wish to translate articles from into a language other than English, Shira will be happy to post your translation here on along with a note identifying you as the translator. This could include your photo and biography if you want it to. Contact Shira for more information. You may not post translations of Shira's articles on anybody else's web site, not even your own.

If you are a teacher, performer, or student of Middle Eastern dance, you may link directly to any page on this web site from either your blog or your own web site without first obtaining Shira's permission. Click here for link buttons and other information on how to link.



Explore more belly dance info:

Top >
Belly Dancing >
Index to Middle Eastern Culture Section


Share this page!

On Facebook


 Top > Belly Dancing > Index to Middle Eastern Culture Section

| Contact Shira | Links | Search this Site |