Gilded Serpent presents...

Turkish “Roman Gypsy Dans”

Author Gul in performance

Melting Any Heart!

by Gul 

The 9/8 rhythm of the Turkish Rom music is considered to be unusual and unique. Those who dance it are proud of the way they can move their body and translate their steps and movements to the complex rhythm, even in the countries where this dance is almost routine.  In order to "catch" the music and its nuances, you either have to wait or speed up your steps. Once you cross that hurdle, the dance becomes very simple: the style of the hand is free, and you can combine your own movement ideas–just as all Gypsy dancers do–as long as you match the tempo!

This dance of the Gypsies is about becoming a life-like character. It contains a wide range of moods and feelings for the dancer to express: The gray quality of everyday tasks turns into colorful dance that does not distinguish between the relative value of one color over another.

This form of dance speaks to one on the level of the heart, and that ‘s why so many love to dance it, even if they are not from the Rom culture. One does not have to be beautiful to dance it either, nor does it require one to be ultra feminine. Instead, it requires other capabilities, such as being true to the way you are in life and expressing that quality within the dance.

Here are some ways one might count the rhythm:

  1. 1- 2, 1- 2, 1- 2, 1-2-3 (the hard way) or
  2.  1-2-3, 4  5 (the easy way)

The Gypsy dance serves as a messenger of the Rom people for others to view their living conditions through the dance: their beliefs, work, or their personal characters, and all of these things add up to power within the dance. For the Gypsy people, the dance also compensates for the difficult lifestyle they must live. The colorful costumes of the dancers divert one’s attention away from the poverty they often endure. Women decorate their hair or scatter it over their shoulders. They dance in dresses and full skirts, and sometimes, even more than one skirt!

Brightly colored scarves and shawls, some enhanced with golden threads, all help these dancers and viewers to forget about their difficult daily lifestyle.

One can easily distinguish between the particular people who are dancing by observing each movement, gesture, and rhythm inherent in it. The dancers almost “speak” through their moves; they live it without imitation or simulation because it’s in their nature.

Rom dance

The Gestures

Gestures that dancers typically use are from the daily life of the Rom: washing laundry, wiping sweat, anticipation ("Who is coming?"), admiring the jewelry that adorns the hand, playing the violin, or inflating the wheels of a bicycle. A lot of movements are done with fingers clenched as if they were punching the air. In many cases the dancers’ faces express power, daring, and arrogance.

For some movements, the hands take a rhythmical part, making a snapping sound which accomplished by friction and power of the dancers’ fingers.

Dance Movements

As in other folkloric dance forms, the steps comprise the major part of the dance, including tapping, stamping, twisting, or using chasing steps, sometimes rising up on the toes–usually  during the third part of the rhythmic phrase.

Generally, abdominal and hip movements are done as follows:
The stomach area moves in and out, usually repeating 5 times along with the musical indications, and so are twists and hip circles. Shimming the shoulders is used also–from time to time. However, there is no isolation between the torso and the dancers hands as there is in Oriental dance.


The original Gypsy people dressed simply. For folk-dance, the woman has a flower-print skirt, but for the stage show we dancers often use a full, wide skirt with yards (meters) of fabric.  The Gypsy, of course, can’t afford such clothing.  A piece of fabric is tied around the hips, but the knot is in the front near the abdomen to emphasize the undulations of the belly (belly moving in and out).

History and  Background


The Gypsy tribe from Northern India was called "Rom" (which means human being). The Rom people are opposed to the name “Gypsy” and, more than that, they consider it a derogatory and offensive term.

In ancient times, almost 1000 years ago, the Rom people immigrated from India to Persia. Between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, they arrived and stayed in Europe.  Called “travelers” in Europe, their occupations are usually trades that give them freedom of movement, such as traveling show performer, blacksmith, tinsmith, fortune teller, or trader.

As a result of their temporary lifestyle, the Rom tended to collect dance movements from the various places through which they had passed. Inevitably, they added their own dance movements, such as sliding the head from side to side in isolation as it is done in Indian dance.

Today, there is a large community of Gypsy people living in Turkey. Their dance has become one of the national dances of Turkey, and the Turkish people refer to it as "Roman Dans"

Gul teaching the Turkish style “Roman Gypsy” dance

A choreographed Rom Gypsy dance by Gul

Gul Dancing with spoons

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  1. Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin

    Feb 27, 2018 - 02:02:17

    In your article you specifically mention that the native Roma communities find the term “gypsy” derogatory. This indeed is very true. Despite this written statement you continue to refer to the Roma people as “Gypsy” throughout your article. Why is that?

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