Folk dancing is a Cypriot tradition and is played on special days in North Cyprus.
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photo by: Ersin Taser
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North Cyprus Folk Dancing

Children Folk Dancing
Children Folk Dancing
photo by: Ersin Taser
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Whenever there is a celebration in North Cyprus, you can be sure that it’ll be the men who get up and dance first! From weddings to harvests, or even in the coffee houses, Turkish Cypriot men love to literally dance for joy, performing steps that are steeped in history and tradition. Turkish Cypriot women tend to restrict their dancing to weddings – believing quality, not quantity, no doubt!

Folk Dances of Northern Cyprus

One of the main Northern Cyprus folk dances where men and women perform together is the “kartchilamas”. This is actually a series of dances, whose exact content varies for area to area, performed by a pair of dancers facing each other. Other traditional North Cyprus dances include the “syrtos”, (or “kalamatianos”).  The syrtos is though to be the oldest dance on Cyprus, which involves the dancers moving in a circle while holding each other’s wrists. There are twelve basic steps involved, and the lead dancer varies the tempo to keep his fellow dancers really on their toes! The “zeipekkikos” dance in Northern Cyprus is just for the men, the oldest version of which incorporates Thracian sword fighting in the middle!

Folk dancing costumes of Northern Cyprus

Folk Dancing Costume
Folk Dancing Costume
photo by: Ersin Taser
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The colourful costumes worn by folk dancers in North Cyprus reflect the origins of the dances in mainland Turkey, and particularly the Anatolia region. These Northern Cyprus dances also have their roots in special occasions, such as the harvest dance or the bridal dance.

The women wear colourful headdresses, and sometimes a fez tinkling with gold coins and overlaid with an embroidered scarf. North Cyprus folk dancing dresses are either white with embroidered designs, or coloured, and usually are knee length, and the Üçetek is worn over this, a long overdress with highly embroidered sleeves and neckline. With bright yellow shoes and a shiny cloth belt, the women really brighten up the dance with their costumes! The men wear a white shirt with black knee-length trousers, and a wide red cloth belt. Combined with their blue waistcoats and red fez hats, their dashing North Cyprus folk dancing costume is completed by a pocket watch and handkerchief!

Folk dancing music

The folk dances of Northern Cyprus are usually accompanied by musicians, playing traditional instruments. Their instruments include the zurna, a traditional reed instrument with a distinctive and evocative Middle Eastern sound. Two types of drums are played, the smaller "darbuka", which is played with both hands, and the larger "‘davul", which is beaten with a stick. A violin is also usually played, and other instruments can be added, such as an accordion, or mandolin.

HASDAR, the North Cyprus Folk Arts Foundation

The group responsible for rescuing many traditional Cypriot dances from being forgotten is HASDER, who toured villages in North Cyprus to record and preserve their unique dances. Now, the organisation teaches the dances to dedicated folk groups all over North Cyprus, who perform their dances at both national and international level. It’s quite a sight to see the younger generation of Northern Cyprus folk dancers getting to grips with the sickle dance, when the big sickles they are holding are almost half their height!

Where to see North Cyprus folk dancing

Northern Cyprus folk dancing displays are staged throughout the year, especially on festival days. Chances are, your North Cyprus hotel will hold a folk evening during your stay, or you can attend one of the folk dancing competitions held in North Cyprus every year. You can find out other folk dancing events and details from the Folk Arts Foundation in North Nicosia, and they might even invite you to join a class or watch a training session!

Further Information

See our Arts & Culture links in our Cyprus44 Directory for relevant websites.