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Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes from Turkey Perform at the Fisher Center on October 23

An Intoxicating Evening of Mystical Poetry, Music, and Whirling Dance
Performed by the Mevlevi Sufis

Mark Primoff
The Whirling Dervishes from Turkey perform the Sema ritual. See them at the Fisher Center Thursday, October 23.

 ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts presents “Rumi and the Amazing Whirling Dervishes from Turkey,” performed by the Mevlevi Sufis. The performance takes place on Thursday, October 23,at 7:30 p.m. in the Sosnoff Theater. Tickets are $15 and $25 and can be purchased by calling the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900, or visiting the website at

The program opens with a dramatic reading from the works of one of the world’s great poets, Jelaluddin Rumi. A 13th-century mystical poet born in what is now Afghanistan, Rumi has consistently been a best-selling poet in America. The poetry of Rumi will be read in Farsi and in English with musical accompaniment by four Mevlevi Sufi musicians on classical Turkish instruments.

The highlight of the evening is the Sema, an 800-year-old sacred whirling ceremony recognized by UNESCO as “one of the world’s great cultural and spiritual heritages.” The Sema is performed by 16 Mevlevi singer-musicians and whirling dervishes known as semazen. Wearing long white skirts and tall black headresses, the semazen perform the whirling dance which symbolizes Rumi’s cycle of human spiritual development.

Rumi also encouraged the creation of a learning community of Sufis, called Mevlevi. Dr. Celaleddin Celebi, previous head of the Mevlevis, wrote:

The Sema ritual began with the inspiration of Rumi and was influenced by Turkish customs and culture. It is now recognized that ... all beings are comprised of revolving electrons, protons, and neutrons in atoms. ... By revolving in harmony with all things in nature, with the smallest cells and the largest stars in the firmament, the whirling dervish testifies to the existence and the majesty of the Creator. ... Everything is worshiping God.

This performance is sponsored by the Middle Eastern Studies Program, Arabic Studies Program, Classical Studies Program, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Religion Program at Bard College. It has been arranged with the support of the mayor and the city of Konya, Turkey and the International Mevlana Foundation.


About 750 years ago, the students of Rumi adopted the name Mevlevi Sufis. “Mevlevi” stems from “Mevlana” (“our master, our teacher”), an affectionate and respectful nickname used to refer to Rumi. In recent times, the Mevlevi Sufis have often been called “the whirling dervishes.” The ensemble of Mevlevi musicians and whirling dervishes from Turkey are also known as the Istanbul Music and Sema Group, a group founded by Sheikh Nadir Karnibuyukler Efendi, after gaining permission from Faruk Hemdem Celebi, current head of the Mevlevi Sufis and direct 22nd-generation descendent of Rumi. The Istanbul Music and Sema Group aims to introduce Rumi and the Sema Whirling Ceremony to a wider audience, as well as to ensure the continuation of Mevlevi culture. They have performed at leading concert halls around the world. The group’s recordings include The Music of Whirling Dervishes, produced by R. H. Talu.

Efendi, leader of the Istanbul Music and Sema Group, was raised and educated in Konya, Turkey. He began his career as a whirling dervish at the age of 10. He received his first Sema lessons from Master Selman Tuzun Dede of Bahariye Mevlevi Lodge, recognized throughout the world as one of the most important artists in this field.

Tickets: $15, $25

Ticket Information: Phone the Fisher Center Box Office at 845-758-7900, or visit

Producer: Rumi Performances LLC. email: 212-532-8567

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This event was last updated on 10-27-2008