Marvel at the mystique of whirling dervishes as they gracefully dance the ceremonial ‘sema’ Mevlevi at the emblematic Hodjapasha Dance Theater in Istanbul. Enjoy a cultural evening in Istanbul during this age-old performance of choreographed spiritual dancing accompanied by traditional music and Persian chanting. Before the show, set the mood with Turkish delight and a drink at the bar. Then, admire the dervishes as they elegantly twist and turn in their white flowing gowns.
1.5-hour whirling dervish performance in Istanbul
Enjoy a drink and some Turkish delight as the show starts
Watch the UNESCO-listed ceremonial dance inside the Hodjapasha Dance Theater
Be captivated as the semazens dance and chant their way around the stage
Listen to traditional Persian and Turkish music from a live orchestra
Arrive in the neighborhood of Sirkeci and step into the Hodjapasha Dance Theater for your Istanbul Whirling Dervish Show. Enjoy the architecture of this 15th century building, originally used for Turkish baths and now home to ceremonial performances and traditional Turkish dance. Head to the bar and indulge in a few pieces of Turkish delight and a drink (own expense) before taking your seat in the main hall for your 1-hour show. Kick-off the show with 15 minutes of wonderful traditional Turkish music. Then, witness a company of semazens (or whirling dervishes) perform the Mevleviye sema dance. Watch as this 800 year-old ritualistic dance is performed over 45 minutes. Observe these expressive Dervish’s whirl and glide along and see why this dance is included on UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage List. Feel the passion of the dance as each Dervish spins in a choreographed motion like a white top to Persian and classical Turkish music. Hear the kettledrum, flute, and cymbal conducted by the theater’s musicians and enjoy ancient Persian prayers and poetic songs. Once the performance concludes, feel free to remain at the venue to relax with a drink or a snack at your own expense.
I was concerned that this would feel a bit gimmicky but it was nothing like that at all. The show is done in a very respectful way- no photos, filming or clapping allowed. The premise of the performance is to share the Sufi tradition with the world and protect this very spiritual ritual from disappearing. It was a really wonderful experience and the pre-performance exhibition is really informative. I definitely recommend seeing this in one of your evenings in Istanbul. However, if you have children with you then give it a miss, they will be bored. Instead, do take them to see the Rhythm of the Dance show, also at Hodjapasha, which is brilliant.
It's important to appreciate the spiritual aspect of this. I went with different expectations. It seemed disrespectful of the sacredness of this event and to be part of an audience to be entertained. That being said, the location was ideal for such the cultural experience it was.