When I arrived in Ashah Eshenler, in the Taurus Mountains south of Konya, Turkey, it was Thursday evening, the first official day of my friend Eren’s wedding in the village. In most Turkish villages, a full wedding celebration will last three to four days. Arriving on Thursday night for this one, I was earlier than most of the city relatives, who would reach the village mostly on Saturday, before the culmination of the wedding on Sunday afternoon.
Due to an unfortunate accident where two days’ worth of pictures got deleted from my camera, I’ll have to just describe for you Friday’s main event: the engagement dance, attended by Eren, Erdahl (his best man), myself (his photographer!) and all of the women in the village. Eren and his bride-to-be Ayshegul exchanged gold rings in the dirt in front of the bride’s house, in the midst of a pressing throng of women and their riotous rainbow of headscarves. This was followed by the “spotlight dance:” Eren and Ayshegul faced each other and snapped their fingers, slowly tapping their feet to the beat of a boombox somebody brought out of the house. Eren, who is self-conscious about his dancing, had practiced at home with Erdahl earlier in the day, but I don’t think it helped him much. No one cares how well you dance at things like this, anyway.
So that brings us to Saturday afternoon. Eren’s father Mehmet and a number of relatives improvised benches and strung lighting through the trees surrounding a dirt field in front of the village’s old disused school. Anticipating an all-night event, but wanting to get started early anyway, the village’s men young and old began to take places on the benches, and village boys were out dancing in pairs by 4:30 in the afternoon.
Many regions of Turkey, including Ankara, would feature shoulder-to-shoulder folk dances (halay) at their weddings. But in the Sunni villages around Konya, nothing can replace the spoon dance (kaşık oyunu). Men always dance with men; women dance with women when the men are not present. The dancers dance in pairs, each holding wooden spoons and clicking them like canastas with both hands while bobbing and weaving to instrumental saz music over the speakers.
If you’re wondering, yes, I danced too.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-200, f/9, 1/50 sec.