Damat Halayı – A Turkish Dance? Updated!

Many thanks to John Uhlemann, Alex Markovic, Yves Moreau, and Joe Graziosi for their valuable contributions to the update of this post.

Damat Halayı translates as Groom Dance, and indeed it is a popular dance at Turkish weddings.  It is also popular in general – as a party dance, and a children’s dance taught in schools.  Most Turks think of it as a dance from Trakya (European Turkey); some Trakyans say it comes from Bulgaria, though I can find no similar dance in Bulgaria.  How it became so popular is a bit of a mystery, for it doesn’t seem to contain the kind of music or moves one associates with Turkey, especially the clapping.

Damat Halayı for children

Damat Halayı bears a strong resemblance to the Greek/Macedonian song/dance Rusulena/Kastorianosvery similar melody, similar dance structure. See:https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/rusulena-%cf%81%ce%bf%cf%85%cf%83%ce%bf%cf%8d%ce%bb%ce%b5%ce%bd%ce%b1-kastorianos-greece/

COMMENT by John Uhlemann

John Uhlemann wrote: “Damat Halayı (no dot over the i) has a tune identical to that of a Greek dance taught by Joe Graziosi at Balkan Camp a few years ago (even closer than the examples you gave). The dance itself is not that far from some other Turkish dances I have seen. Thracian and other non-central Anatolian dances can be quite varied. There is on YouTube one contributor who put up videos of a street dance in which Turkish men did many dances we think of as Slavic Macedonian, but with Turkish names (sometimes the same, sometimes in translation, e.g. “Crnogorka” becomes “Karadağ”). I am asking around about the bachelor’s dance.” John then posted this query on the eefc listserve https://eefc.org/stay-in-touch/join-the-listserv/ “A question was asked in another forum about a Turkish dance, Damat Halayı.  When I heard the melody I recognized it as something Joe Graziosi taught at Balkan Camp, but could not place it.  Here is an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpf2loM_WsM . 
Can anyone help me out?-John”

John got replies from Yves Moreau, Alex Markovic, and Joe Graziosi. Their very helpful information follows:

Alex Markovic wrote on the eefc list serve: “Many Muslims from northern Greece moved/fled to Turkish Thrace in the early 20th century as part of various population exchanges, including many professional musicians, so a lot of this repertoire took root in NW Turkey. Sonia Seeman writes that some of the best-known musicians of the area, such as the late Selim Sesler, can often point to family roots in the Drama or Serres regions (Selim’s own ancestors were zurna players).”

Also on the eefc list serve, Yves Moreau wrote: Damat Halayı is a very popular dance throughout Turkey with various lyrics and using pretty much the same basic steps…The melody used in Turkey is always the same but sometimes with lyrics in both Turkish and Macedonian. I really think that the dance/song is originally Macedonian and may have been introduced in Turkey through the Macedonian Turkish populations that immigrated from Macedonia..  The Macedonian name of the song and dance is called various things:  «Idam ne Idam»,«Oj ela mi libe le», «Oj Ela mi Fetidže», «Stani Mori Momiče», etc. There are similar versions of the same song but in 7/8 meter. John Filcich from California taught the dance Idam ne Idam to recreational folk dancers in the 1950’s and 1960’s at Stockton Folk Dance Camp and even released a vinyl recording of the tune which was from an original 78 rpm
featuring Macedonian clarinetist Kime Nanchoff who had immigrated from Macedonia and settled in Ohio.
I myself taught Idam ne Idam in 7/8. Below are two of many clips of this melody produced in Turkey. One of which is sung in Macedonian and the other in Turkish.

Macedonian version. Contributed by Yves Moreau
Turkish version. Conributed by Yves Moreau

Yves Moreau concluded “The dance is very much the type of urban folk dance that was popular in the Balkans in the 1920’s and 1930’s, which was influenced by West European forms, with claps, stamps and other actions. In Greek Macedonia, I’ve come across the dance Kastorianos which is similar. In Serbia and Macedonia, little «cousins» include Pleskavac, Palamakia, Tropanka, etc.

Kastoria (Kostur), circled in red

Also on the eefc list serve, Joe Graziosi wrote: “The tune is from the region of Kastoria (Kostur) and is known in general throughout the area where Greece, Albania and the R of Macedonia meet. The song is danced by both Greeks and Slavs native to the region of Kastoria and was part of the small number of dances taught in the past in Greek public schools and generally called Kastorianos. The dance and song were brought to the States by early Macedonian and Bulgaro-Macedonian immigrants to the mid-west and I believe was known among them as Idam Ne Idam.  (Marvin Moehler should have more detailed knowledge about this).  Among Greek Kastorians themselves the song and dance are often called Rousoulena.” 

Rousoulenafrom Kastoria town” – Joe Graziosi
Rousoulena “with different steps from Ermakia, Kozani” – Joe Graziosi
“John Pappas teaches Idam Ne Idam. John, a well known folk dancer in Ohio, is a Macedonian, born in the village of Cherishnitsa now called Polykerasos in the Kastoria region of Greece. When he talks about ‘another dance with that name’ he is referring to dances popular among International Folk Dance circles.” – Joe Gaziosi

Joe Graziosi again; “How the song and dance got to Turkey and much later became a huge hit I can’t say with certainty. Most likely it was brought there with Muslim and Turkish refugees from Macedonia with the Exchange of Populations in c1924 between Greece and Turkey.  There was at least one Slav Macedonian speaking village in the Kastoria region whose inhabitants moved to Turkey.  (Met some of their descendants at a carpet store in Kayseri, Cappadocia in the early 90s).  10 plus years ago at a wedding in Edirne, Trakya during Yves Moreau’s 60th birthday tour the dance was performed and the people sitting opposite me, Turks of Albanian origin from the R of Macedonia, claimed it as originally theirs.”

Conclusion:

Damat Halyı is definitely a Turkish dance, though its origins are probably not from Anatolian Turkey. More likely the dance is related to a dance or dances popular in Kostur/Kastoria, a region of what was then the Ottoman Empire in Europe, now known by Greeks as Kastorianos or Rusoulena. In 1912 the Ottoman Empire in Europe (territory that is now Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, northern Greece and Pirin, Bulgaria) was defeated by a coalition of Albanians, Greeks, Serbs, Montenegrans, and Bulgarians. The victors expelled (often violently) anyone they considered ‘Turks’. Another expulsion was the result of a Greco-Turkish war in 1919-1922. Expelled ‘Turks’ included ethnic Turks, but also Albanians, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Bosnian Slavs, Roma, Greeks – anyone who had sometime in the past converted to Islam, or who sided with the status quo (Ottomans,Turks) in the wars, or spoke Turkish as a primary language. (Some did not convert, but spoke Turkish for economic advantage). These ‘European Turks’ may have lived there for centuries, were very accustomed to European ways, even considered themselves Europeans, and did not want to go to Turkey. Many settled in Trakya, (European Turkey) but others went to Anatolia proper. They were welcomed by the newly formed Republic of Turkey whose leader Mustafa Kemal (known as Atatürk) was born in Europe, was determined to make Turkey a European country, and saw the incoming refugees as a balance to conservative Turks resisting change.

Ancient origins?

Another question remains – where did the residents of Kostur/Kastoria get their dance? Clapping dances are a feature of many European folk dances. See Pljescavac https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/1st-generation-dances/pljeskavac-clap-kolo-banatean-american/. Also;

Patch Tanz – Yiddish
Klappdans – Scandanavia
Dreikusman – Holland
Finger Polka – Lithuania
La Vinca – Italy
Bal de Truc – Italy

Going much further back in time, here’s a very similar choreography, though to a different tune. Schiarazula Marazula is a medieval Italian melody. Although no one knows exactly what was danced to this tune, hobbyists of dances of the era often settle on choreographies similar to this:

Often the dance is referred to as the Maltese Bransle

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