From Amphitheaters to dancing Dervishes, the act and enjoyment of performing arts dates back to ancient times in Turkey. Having just returned off an enlightening visit across this country, from Izmir’s ancient city ruins of Ephesus to antique theaters in coastal Bodrum to Istanbul’s own artistic attractions, there is a great deal to see and learn here.
From the musical stylings of Elton John, Sting, Ray Charles, Pavarotti and Bryan Adams, the Grand Theater of Ephesus to this day continues to house great performers and attract a one of a kind performance experience as its acoustics and outdoor seating is unlike any other.
With its capacity of 25,000 spectators, it was the second largest theater, only placed behind the Coliseum in Rome within the Roman Empire. Built into the side of Mount Panayir, it measures 300 metres by 150 metres and is a u-shaped, stone-carved theater of a rather indescribable impressiveness.
The theater was initially used to stage concerts and plays, later on adapted for political and religious reasons. It is said to be the place Christians believe the apostle Paul gave his last sermon, mentioned in the Bible in the book of Acts.
Today many tourists and visitors arrive. Some are on a pilgrimage, as the house in which Jesus’ mother Mary died is on a nearby mountain in addition to other religious expedition sites. Some come out of pure fascination and interest. Others, to sing and here their voice echo off the stone and throughout the auditorium. Easy is it to hear one person who is standing on the stage while another has run up the steps and speaks from the top. A whisper can even be picked up.
Making your way across Turkey, these ancient theaters have a tendency to pop up even roadside; as a theater was a vital part of civilization, it was a key component to any city, however big or small, old or new.
Arriving in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, witnessing the dancing or “whirling” dervishes is also atop many visitor’s lists. Known as “sema” demonstrations, the whirling ceremony is an exquisite visual form of spirituality and remembrance to God. Representing love, drama and faith, this movement is rather mesmerizing, as the dynamic, accompanying music and pace crescendos, creating a soaring feeling while you watch the “whirl.”
The dervish’s impact on the visual arts formed within the 14th to the 20th century and evolved within Ottoman high culture. The meeting places of the dervishes furthermore because academic sites of the arts, music and dance as it was integrated so well into the ritual.
Close your eyes and imagine the acoustical impact of the outdoor amphitheaters; envision the whirling of the dervishes. Take yourself there and perhaps one day visit these masterpiece destinations in real life, these keys to the arts, specifically performing arts dating back to ancient times in Turkey.
– love from J