Hodjapasha Dance Theatre is
a beautifully restored Ottoman hamam (Turkish
bath) in Istanbul's Sirkeci
district (map) now used for performances
of the Mevlevi
(whirling dervish) sema, Turkish
folk dances, and belly
The Center is located just two blocks
south (up the hill) from Sirkeci
Station (tram to the Sirkeci stop).
It's an intriguing space with good
acoustics and lighting, right for the
mood of the performances. (Unfortunately, the ancient building cannot accommodate wheelchairs.)
The Whirling Dervish (Mevlevi) performance at Hodjapasha is held each evening at 19:30 (7:30pm). Tickets cost TL60. Persons 7 years and older may attend.
This is not, strictly speaking, the full sema (religious service). It has been shortened to one hour, but it is an authentic representation, and you certainly experience the gravity and mystery of the sema.
It starts with a short (about 10 minutes) concert of Ottoman classical music. This is a secular performance, and applause is allowed, but applause is not appropriate after this, for the rest of the evening.
The sema is not a show, but a religious observance.
The musicians leave the stage, and soon return dressed in their Mevlevi dervish robes. After them, slowly, solemnly, the dervishes enter. Prayers are chanted by the hafız. The dervishes whirl four times for 10 to 12 minutes each time.
The final whirl ends with just a single instrument playing, then silence as the dervishes continue to whirl. A final prayer, and the slow retreat of the dervishes ends the sema.
Hodjapasha also hosts performances of Turkish folk and belly dance on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 21:00 (9pm). I'm not usually enthusiastic about "nightlife" shows, but I thoroughly enjoyed this high-quality performance.
Traditional Turkish dances...
The one-hour performance costs TL70. Complimentary refreshments
are served during intermission. An
exhibit in the foyer outlines the
10,000-year history of dance in Turkey.
Performances are often sold out in advance.
Hint: Right in this same Hocapaşa neighborhood are
more than a dozen small,
simple restaurants good for any meal of the day, at moderate
prices. Why not pick up your tickets, then have dinner before the performance?
To get to Hodjapasha, take the Bağcılar—Kabataş
Tram from Sultanahmet toward Eminönü or Kabataş to
the second stop (Sirkeci), then walk
south up Ankara Caddesi (away
from the Bosphorus)
to tiny Hocapaşa
Hamamı Sokak on the left
Walk along this street, which turns
right, and the building is on the left.
Hodjapasha Dance Theatre
Ankara Caddesi, Hocapaşa Hamamı
Sokak No. 5-9D (map)