CERTIFICATION 3 -Karsilama Rhythm & Turkish Dance Part 2

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 &  Turkish Dance - Part 2 of 2 

by Aszmara & Najia

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.


"Najia asked me to write a little something about my Turkish dance style. My first response has to be that I do not consider myself a Turkish style dancer. I am a dancer who loves dancing to Turkish music. Also, I am a greedy music dance hog! Turkish, Arabic, Fusion, Folkloric, Classical... I love and dance to ALL music. Whenever I would work with musicians in clubs or on tours, I would listen closely to whatever they played and when there was something a little different, I would find out what it was and request it in my next show. Most times, it was a Turkish piece.

That being said, Turkish music has most interesting rhythms, and as a dance hog, I want to feel what it does to my dance body. A basic of cabaret shows was a Kashlima (9/8) ending which we would fly with our skirts for an exciting finale. Most bands would play so fast that you could only zil a basic tik tik tik tik-tik-tik... I worked hard so my zil playing could not only keep up with them but to play around with the rhythms. That woke the musicians up to the fact that I understood the rhythms intuitively and that they could trust me to try different songs and rhythms.

Dancing to Turkish music has a particular freedom of expression that is a little more open than Arabic but no less deep. Classic Arabic dance music has a smooth flow with a glide like feel that has small explosions of accents scattered a little bit here, a little bit there. There is a deep passion that mostly keeps movements internal and close to the body's center.

Turkish music has explosions everywhere! The base rhythm is the first depth to plumb, the wild improvisations the next layer to explore. Especially, when the players are Rom, there is just a tiny bit of tune with improvisations galore. Dancing to improvisations is a special challenge as suddenly you have to connect with the instrument that is leading with no idea where they will lead you! You are completely in the moment on a tightrope.

Turkish rhythms make me feel as though I can bound from the earth. Aksak (literal translation 'limp') time signatures, 5/8, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8 are connected to the earth and bounce you to the sky. There's a lifting from the earth that most classic Arabic rhythms do not have (ayub is one that does!) and the sense of expansion/contraction of movements comes from this. Some people see it as being wild; I call it being free in the moment. The rhythms, the instruments, the passion of the combined forces that creates music in the body makes my dance heart sing...

I dance because words are not enough. Music vibrates through my being and it must escape, therefor, I dance. Philosophical and historical questions about where our dance form originates, the anthropological reasons for dance in society, the regional differences; I let the scholars answer those questions and intently listen to their views. I work their studies into what I create and add their knowledge to my references. All adds to the vibration of each dance. To my dance."

I have been blessed to learn Turkish style from other amazing bellydance teachers such as Artemis MouratEva CernickAnahid Sofian who was Eva's teacher, as well as the use of working a 20 yard gypsy skirt from Dalia Carella. I was able to go on a Turkish study tour with Morocco which spanned two continents where I saw so many shows I cannot even count them. All in all I had a ball learning many aspects of this amazing style.

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