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Extension and distribution of folk dances in today’s Turkey

Halay or Yalli or Dilan (Azerbaijani: Yallı; Armenian: Շուրջպար šurǰpar; Syriac: ܚܓܐḤeggāʾ, Greek: Χαλάϊ Chaláï; Kurdish: Govend or Dîlan‎, Turkish: Halay, Persian: هالای‎‎ "Hālāy",Yakut: Ohuokhai) is a popular dance in the Middle East.


The word of Halay[1] comes from Kurdish words of "Hilayi", "Halayi" which means "to stand", "jump" and "dance".


The Ohuokhai Dance

Halay is traditionally played during wedding on the zurna, supported by a davul, but in the recent years, electronic instruments have started to replace them. Typically, Halay dancers form a circle or a line, while holding each other with the little finger or shoulder to shoulder or even hand to hand with the last and first player holding a piece of cloth. It is a national dance in Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The initial form of which dates back to so many centuries long when it was held around a ceremony bonfire, having the meaning of hot, light and meal. The word “yal” in Azerbaijani means row, line of chain. The Yalli dancers stand in one line or two rows and sometimes in some rows.

The Ohuokhai is a simultaneous round dance and song. Dancers form a circle and dance, arm in arm, hand in hand, with the left foor put forward, while making rhythmical, graceful movements with their bodies, legs, feet and arms. A lead singer improvises the lyrics and the other dancers repeat them. This Ohuokhai leader has a special talent not only for singing but also, what is more important, for poetic improvisation. There song leaders compete at the national Yhyakh festival for the best poetic expression, best song and biggest circle.

See also


  1. Sevan Nişanyan, Sözlerin Soyağacı: Çağdaş Türkçenin Etimolojik Sözlüğü (the family tree of words: an etymological dictionary of contemporary Turkish), Istanbul, 2007

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