Dancing has been part of human civilisation for thousands of years. Around the world, in every culture, there’s always dancing; whether that be for group bonding, to attract the opposite sex or simply to have a good time (although where exactly the Macarena fits into this is a mystery).
In this series, we’ll be looking at dances that have emerged for other reasons – to recount combat tales, for religious expression or as an excuse for cross-dressing. Please join us as we twerk our way around some of the world’s more unusual dances:

Sufi whirling | Turkey

Sufi whirling
For most dancers, the closest they get to meditation is sitting quietly in the chillout room of a nightclub, while some wide-eyed raver explains to them how we’re, like, all the same, really. For the Mevlevi order of Sufi dervishes, however, dancing itself is considered to be a form of physical meditation.

Sufi whirling is part of a formal ceremony called the Sema, where the dervishes – who’re a bit like monks who’ve taken a vow of poverty – attempt to get closer to God. By spinning round and round, these whirling dervishes hope to reach a trance-like state of religious ecstasy (which, presumably, they’ll be able to distinguish from dizziness).
Sufi whirling
Once, on the teacup ride at Thorpe Park, I whirled round and round into a trance-like state, but I had just eaten a lot of candyfloss.

Although not originally intended as entertainment, the whirling dervishes perform in front of audiences and have become a big tourist attraction. Surely it could only be a good thing if some of these tourists took the idea of the dance home with them – and it would certainly make Strictly Come Dancing more interesting if one of the newsreaders spun themselves into religious ecstasy live on air.

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