Zeybek, The By Shay, Anthony
The zeybek is a genre of Turkish folk dance that is closely associated with the Aegean region on the west coast of Anatolian Turkey, although it is found in other regions as well. It can be seen as an early twentieth-century attempt to “modernize” folk dance in Turkey. There are many versions of this dance: Usually, the zeybek is performed by a solo male dancer, though it can also be performed by two or more males. Although less common, there are a few female zeybek dances. There is also a Greek form of the dance, as well as an urban form—the zeibekikos—brought to Greece by Greeks from Izmir (Smyrna).
The Ottoman government sent Selim Sırrı Tarcan, one of the earliest researchers of Turkish folk dances, to Sweden in 1909 to study physical education, and there he was struck by the ways in which Swedish instructors choreographed folk dances in a “refined” way. In 1916, he choreographed the zeybek—which he called Tarcan zeybeği—to appeal to a sophisticated urban Turkish audience. However, the modernization of the zeybek dance was never fully embraced in Turkey because of the nationalistic and ethnic appeal that staged traditional folk dances had for Turkish audiences.