Köçek (L*), the original Čoček. Turkish male bellydance

*a Living dance is a 1st Generation dance that is still performed in the country of origin (or immigrant communities) as part of a social event like a wedding where others can participate (not for an audience) by people who learned the dance informally (from friends and relatives by observation and imitation, not in a classroom situation). For more information, click here and here.

Čoček, and its equivalent in other Balkan languages, is a term with MANY meanings, including a music style, a solo dance, several choral dances, and others. The word stems from the Turkish köçek. According to Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6%C3%A7ek “The Turkish word is derived from the Persian word kuchak, meaning “little”, “small”, or “young”, which itself is the Persian pronunciation of the Turkish word küçük, “little”.[2] In the Crimean Tatar language, the word köçek means “baby camel”.[3

“Köçek with a tambourine, Photograph late 19th century.
From Wikipedia

Wikipedia also says “The köçek (plural köçekler in Turkish) was typically a very handsome young male rakkas, or dancer, who usually cross-dressed in feminine attire, and was employed as an entertainer.[1]…They were recruited from among the ranks of the non-Muslim subject nations of the empire, such as Jews, Romani, Greeks and Albanians[6]. The dances, collectively known as köçek oyunu, blended Arab, Greek, Assyrian and Kurdish elements (Karsilamas dance and Kaşık Havası dance).[7…A köçek would begin training around the age of seven or eight and would be considered accomplished after about six years of study and practice. A dancer’s career would last as long as he was beardless and retained his youthful appearance.[5] …The köçeks were available sexually, often to the highest bidder, in the passive role…Köçeks were much more sought after than the çengi (“belly dancers“), their female counterparts. Some youths were known to have been killed by the çengi, who were extremely jealous of men’s attention toward the boys.[11][14] …As of 1805, there were approximately 600 köçek dancers working in the taverns of the Turkish capital. They were outlawed in 1837 due to fighting among audience members over the dancers.[12] With the suppression of harem culture under Sultan ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz (1861–1876) and Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876–1908), köçek dance and music lost the support of its imperial patrons…

Among the Roma, Köçek dancers are still to be seen in Turkey today.

Dancing starts at 2:43

Recall that the Ottoman Empire flowed seamlessly into Europe (Albania, Macedonia, parts of Greece, Bulgaria) until 1913, and that both Turks and the Roma were an important part of that European presence. After the Turks were expelled, many of the Roma stayed. Add the Roma predelection for solo improvisational dance, and prohibitions against coss-gender touching while dancing, and it’s easy to see how Köçek (Turkey)/ Čoček (N.Macedonia,Serbia)/ Kyuchek (Bulgaria)/ Qyqek (Albania) became one of the Balkan Roma’s most characteristic dances and music styles.

It has enough respectability to be seen on TV, and is also called ÇİFTETELLİ.

More information can be found here https://azizasaid.wordpress.com/2008/08/31/a-question-of-kocek-men-in-skirts/ I’m quoting excerpts from this site: “Today, Köçek dancing is still seen in Turkey, although it has changed form to a more folkloric and less sexualized dance and is now done by adult men, still in skirts, beards and all. Still, once can sometimes see it’s roots in the movement…While some may argue that köçek dances, costume and persona were not necessarily effeminate or trans-gender, there is a strong Turkish cultural idea that suggests it is.  In the 1975 Turkish movie Kocek, the main character Caniko is called “Kocek” by other men, and sometimes confused for a woman.  From one analysis of the film:

Caniko is thus an aggressive and assertive young man. But even he is aware of his ambiguous sex. Whilst staring at his smooth, unblemished face in the mirror he threatens to cut himself (a form of punishment a man inflicts on a woman for disobedience) if he doesn’t obey his desires to look more like a man. As Caniko, the protagonist is restless, frustrated, unhappy. An irrepressible desire he has is to dance. In the streets he dances; in the tavern he dances; on tables he dances. Whilst watching a belly dancer with his male friends he is disturbed. Here Caniko is the spectator, not the spectacle. He usurps the female dancer and becomes the spectacle by starting to dance in front of his friends. By attracting the male gaze he takes on female form. In his discussion of Jacques Lacan and Laura Mulvey, Madan Sarup writes: The male subject is the imagined source of the gaze and the female subject is the imagined recipient of the gaze. Indeed, in our culture, voyeurism is the active or ‘masculine’ form of the scopophilic drive (pleasure in looking at another person as an erotic object), while exhibitionism is the passive or ‘feminine’ form of the same drive(1992: 158).

So Caniko is confused, or rather society sees him as a tangle, both physically and scopophilically. His desire is to be a man who is gazed upon. Yet, society will only allow the woman to be the recipient of the gaze. Even when he isn’t dancing, Caniko connotes what Laura Mulvey calls “to-be-looked-at-ness” (1985: 309). Caniko, whether he likes it or not, has an “erotic impact” on men. It isn’t necessarily that they think he’s a woman and therefore desire him. It is more likely they desire him and thus think of him as a woman.

Turkish culture recognizes the Köçek as effeminate men.  Interestingly, while contemporary Islam views homosexuality with great prohibition, Middle Eastern cultures historically do not.  There is a multi-gender view that has subtle gradations…There are masculine men, effeminate men, men who wish to take on women’s roles, and feminine women, masculine women, and women who wish to take on men’s roles.  The idea of “homosexual” as used in the west (a sort of one-size-fits-all label) doesn’t really apply.  A man who wishes to be desired by other men is not seen as the same as as one who desires other men… they fall in different places on the social and acceptability scale.

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