CERTIFICATION 3 -Karsilama Rhythm & Turkish Dance Part 1

Najia in her first Turkish Costume from her trip to Istanbul


In teaching rhythms in the "Rhythms & Dances of the M.E." Certification course this year I find that  first it is important to be able to hear and identify it, play it and understand the cultural context as much as possible before dancing to an audience.






Karsilama Rhythm & Intro to Turkish Dance in Vintage American Cabaret

Part 1 of 2 

by Najia

 My students were absolutely shocked! "Najia who are you?" they exclaimed as I demonstrated dancing to Turkish music with some new and specific moves suited for the lightning fast, ultra passionate 9/8 rhythm. It was a 180 degree turn from my sultry, sensual Egyptian bellydance technique that I base my class teachings on. I was now playing the part of the gypsy on fire! To be a great bellydancer in America you need to know ALL your cultures. In Part 3 of Certification we cover all the most used rhythms and how to play zills (finger cymbals) and how to bellydance to moves specifically suited to each rhythm as well as the cultural context and history behind the rhythms.


Tonight we were learning Karsilama Rhythm . Although there are many variations, the most basic way I learned was : Doum/ tek a tek/ tek a tek/ tek a/ tek tek tek 


Since I am right handed I play Karsilama R RLR RLR RL RRR but you end with RLR since many dancers find that more natural.


Or you can simply count : 1 123 123 12 111 or even 1 123 123 12 123


Or clapping out 123 (moderate speed) 123 (fast speed) repeat..etc.


 Every teacher has a different way to spell out the rhythm but hearing it is unmistakable. Here is a sample of the most popular Turkish song for American bellydancers called "Rampi Rampi" sometimes spelled "Rompi Rompi"


As far as some dance moves we learned the Karislama step whose footwork looks like the basic Egyptian Saidi but the feeling and initial step and thrust of the hip shows it is from a a land over 1,000 miles away. We also had a heel bounce also similar to Saidi heel drops but the energy is in the stomach core for Turkish rather than the low center in the legs for Egyptian .The arms are totally different and more direct and outward than the narrow Orientale columns used as the base for Egyptian Oriental. My students wee so fascinated with the Turkish counting gestures and possible meanings still steeped in mystery. I taught many foreign moves including and introduction to Romany roots of Turkish dance that night but the main point I wanted to get across was that the flavor or (energy in the move) as well a movements must go with the music and respect the chosen culture.


Another thing to consider is the actual climate. It's hot in Egypt which lends itself to a low center of gravity in dance. It's much colder in Istanbul, similar to weather here in Philadelphia. There is a higher center of gravity that cold weather forces on you.Try this body awareness experiment next time you go from your warm house in the winter to a cold winter day outside. Notice how your rib cage pulls up and your core becomes very tight and ready to dance Turkish style. Now notice what happens in the summer when you get out of an air conditioned office and go out into a sweltering 95 degree day.Your whole body melts down into low center instantly ready to dance like an Egyptian .


When I started bellydancing decades ago, Turkish style was still very popular in the American Cabaret scene. I was fortunate to study with many awesome teachers. My most influential teacher in my early years was Aszmara. Although Aszmara has her own unique style which is not exclusively Turkish, you can still see the underlying influences as well as her gypsy passion and playfulness. In part 2 of our Introduction to Turkish dance you will hear my friend and mentor Aszmara.


RESOURCE Videos:


One of the most highly respected teachers of Turkish dance all over the world is Artemis Mourat

Here is an introductory lesson  and a fabulous performance.

Another highly respected teacher is Eva Cernick. My friend Miramar loved her dance tour of Turkey.Here she performs the Romany gypsy style but you will find many fabulous performances of here in the internet.


Dalia Carella is mostly known for fusing a variety of styles but demonstrates pure Romany gypsy in this show.


Didem is one of the top dancers in Turkey now and demonstrates a blend of Turkish Orientale and Romany.


I love what my dear dance sister Alexia did in her Turkish show. She credits Artemis and Dalia as her greatest influences and a big part of her Turkish appreciation comes from her fabulously earthy teacher Aszmara.



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