Čoček (L*) SOLO, Kjuček, Qyqek, Köçek – Balkan Bellydance

*a Living dance, 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).

Čoček roots

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 and gradually disappeared.[13]

More information can be found here https://azizasaid.wordpress.com/2008/08/31/a-question-of-kocek-men-in-skirts/ Köçek are still to be seen in some parts of Turkey today. For more on Turkish köçek, click here.

2011. Dancing starts at 2:43. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-fb1WIp2Og&t=201s

Čoček – the music

The meter can be 2/4, 7/8, 9/8, 10/8, but what distinguishes čoček music is the syncopated beat. For more information and examples, click Čoček – the Music.

2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRtF_oBXCUI

Čoček – the solo dance

Solo čoček dancers are either dancing primarily for their own pleasure or for an audience. Those dancing for an audience have exaggerated moves that require training and more effort – what we Westerners often call belly-dancing, and what Ted Petrides (below) calls art dancing. Solo čoček moves are very similar to the Greek tsifteteli, and are probably their direct descendants. To quote Greek dance authority Ted Petrides, from his ©1976 book Greek Dances and How to Do Them, “This dance has a long and diverse history….But all these so-called belly-dances have their origins in the fertility rites of the primitive peoples of the eastern Aegean. Of the various forms of this dance which existed at one time in the ancient world only two basic types have survived: the folk dance and the art dance. The art dance required the services of a professional dancer as it does today, whereas the folk dance was and is danced by the people themselves. Until recently there was a third type which was didactic and was performed before newly engaged or married couples to instruct them in the attitudes and movements appropriate to the art and act of love.

With the gradual development of civilization in the Near East a form of this dance which is no longer extant evolved into a temple dance, the Lydians and Ionians being its leading exponents, Dancing girls and even dancing men dedicated to the worship of some goddess were often part of the temple staff. Religious prostitution was also instituted as an adjunct to the dancing, as for example in the Temple of Aphrodite at Corinth.

[Although there are written and visual references to dances resembling tsifteteli from ancient times, they do not contain enough detail to prove those dances are the same as today’s tsifteteli. DB]

This was the situation when Christianity came into the scene. The new religion condemned all such dances, from those performed by the courtesans at the symposia as being immoral, to those of the temples as being pagan. Even the folk dance didn’t escape unscathed; in some religious circles all dancing was denounced. All this has left its mark on the Greek people who, when questioned as to the origins of this dance, are quick to assert that is is not a Greek dance but a Turkish one.

….The slow tsifteteli folk dance, which is not as popular in central Greece and the Peloponnesos and adjacent islands as it is among the Greeks of the eastern Aegean coast and islands, for it requires greater and more specific undulation of the arms and body than the fast dance. The visual effect is beautiful and powerfully erotic, suggesting at the same time intense concentration, physical grace, and sexual abandon. Generally speaking, the Anatolian Greeks admire a woman who is openly supple and demonstrative in her movements whereas western Greeks feel it is a disgrace for a woman to move in such a manner. This difference in viewpoint is primarily of geographic origin, in that the Anatolian Greeks are closer to that part of the world where one of the established social concepts of dance is that the woman perform for the man with the object of beguiling and pleasing him with her movements. Influenced by the proximity of this sentiment, the Anatolian Greeks have not been as strongly affected as the western Greeks by the relatively austere attitudes of Christianity. And indeed this austerity was reinforced in western Greece by the four centuries of Ottoman occupation.”

This last sentence may seem counter-intuitive – how could occupation by an Islamic power that embraced tsifieteli cause the occupied to reject their native tsifteteli even further? It must be remembered that the Ottomans largely left the administration of the occupied Greeks to the Greek Orthodox church, which was already anti-dance. The absence of other more liberal, secular, native Greek rulers made the Church’s hand stronger. Western Greece also had fewer Turkish settler-neighbours to act as counter-influences.

The major difference between čoček and tsifteteli is not in the body movements, but in the music. Čoček is performed primarily by Romani musicians, where the syncopations are accentuated by drums. Tsifteteli Is played primarily by Greek musicians from the Rembetiko tradition, where drums play a lesser role, and the tempo is slower, more languid.

Title of this compilation: ”the best tsifteteli” shows the Greek “folk” style at its most sinuous and supple. 3.5 million views. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSeQGxIYYkQ

Solo čoček as performance art.

Köçek, the Turkish spelling. 2/4, 2009 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuCquo-nUG4
International Roma Day, 2018. Veliki Preslav, Bulgaria. At 32:40, a couple of professional Kjuček (Bulgarian spelling) dancers entertain what appears to be a bemused, largely white Bulgarian audience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO26viLHqT0
Some čoček dancers are closer to the dance’s roots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlj4uh1PJqs

Solo čoček as folk dance

Most women (and men) dance with more restraint.

Women’s solo 2/4 čoček dance to frame drums and singing in Prishtina, Kosovo, 1994. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irHjV53odZY
2/4 solo Čoček in the diaspora in France, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ypO1OdV7cQ
South Serbia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgWGJmJdix0
Horsing around, in 2/4, 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5iqhQgzk9w
Qyqek, the Albanian spelling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDp-JlW17rs
Kjuček, Bulgarian spelling. Men dance as well! YouTube appears to be from Bulgaria. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF-5HxQAjPk
Turkish (Thracian) Romani dance at wedding celebration, solo dance in 9/8- man and woman pair (shows gendered styling) 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuQW4aLAM7k
Romani dance at wedding celebration, solo form in 9/8, Trakya (Thrace), Turkey, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzOl35TNa1w
Wedding, Turkey 9/8, 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_FOE2KhyZU
Qyqek. Albanians tend to dance čoček solo in a T-4 step pattern: Step; step; step; (pause, lift or touch) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07pUV9VeGcQ
Qyqek, Prishtina, Kosovo, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAa05lEZ9oA
Qyqek, Gjakova, Kosovo. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkMPGyETaeg
A girl’s 9th birthday party in Zlatar, Serbia, 2018. Simple solo čoček. At 57:00 the band switches to čoček in 9/8, but the dancing stays the same. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mPYPAA0Hoo

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