Al-Tanoura – El-Tanoura – Tanoura – Tannoura (The Sufi Dance) or the Whirling dance – التنورة
During one of my visit to Egypt a group of photographer (Suez Photographer club) invited me to a wonderful day in the old part of Cairo. The day ended by one of the most breathtaking experience when we went to the Tanoura dance show in Wikala of Al-Ghouri near Al-Azhar
When we walked in to the large room, the live music and the audience was already filled the space. One of the manager was waiting inside to take us to the first row which was blocked for the group. This is created unlivable opportunity for me and the rest of the group to take very close unblocked photo during the show.
Tanoura is rituals dance performed by Sufi or dervishes as a meditation, Tannoura dance is a type of culture dance start during the 12th century by Jalal El deen Al Rumi (Persian poet) one of the most famous sufi who live at Konya, Turkey. This type of dance became more famous in Egypt when the Turkish arrived to Egypt during the 16th Century.
Later on the Egyptian sufi was able to demonstrate its own identity in this type of rituals dance when they added their own music and changes to the uniform to become a part of the rituals meditation and cultural dance preformed almost everywhere as part of intertainment.
The dancer usually wear a colorful long circular skirt which fly open during the whirling dance.
Sufism is a Spiritual faith of Islam or tariqah, requiring dedication and discipline as the individual seeks to purify themselves only for God, The dance is part of ceremony called ” Zikr” of which the purpose is to glorify God (Allah).
Tanoura dancing is usually done in groups, with one man in the middle whirling, while the other practitioners dance around him in a circle
In the Tanoura the Sufi spins around in intense personal commitment with the divine in order to surrendering to God. Spinning through with arms are crossed to represents the number one pointing to only one God.
Through the years, the Sufis faced repression because of their beliefs. Most of the Islamic culture considered their way of life and religious approaches as inadequate, for example, music or dance being performed during religious ceremonies is considered to provoke the prayer.
As the sufi whirling around for meditations as a part of their religious dedicated to the remembrance of God and never intended as a performer, they are offended if you call them dancer. On the opposite site the dancer do the same as a part of their performance on the stage to please their audience? So, both act is the same for different outcome. The big different that the Whirling Dervishes usually plain and simple but the dancer try great variety of possibilities to make it spectacular show. Just like the one we attended at Wikala of Al-Ghouri where is each dancers try to unique in his movement be adding different techniques such as: jumping, skipping, hopping on one or both legs this combined with his own uniform color to create a competition between different dancers even if they dance together in the sometime. I remember some of them include a LED light in their skirt so when the stage light dim they looked extremely beautiful in the dark.
Some of the dancer wear more than one skirt, while they whirling they move one or more of them in different position or sometimes they through it up in the air or spin it on one hand. With the high speed of the spin combined with the color of the skirt and the position of each skirt, they create such wonderful panoramic effect every time they move in different movements.