Halay is a regional category of folk dance styles in central and southeastern Anatolia. The dance is part of the Kurdish and Turkish folk dance traditions.[1][2] The music accompanying the dance is the zurna and davul.[3] It begins slow and speeds up.[3]

Şexbizinî(Kurdish) dance.
The Ohuokhai dance.
Yalli (Kochari, Tenzere), traditional group dances of Nakhchivan
DomainsFolk dance
RegionMiddle East
Inscription history
Inscription2018 (13th session)

Halay is a traditional dance in Middle East it mostly played during wedding on the zurna, supported by a davul, but in the recent years, electronic instruments have started to replace them. Typically, Halay dancers form a circle or a line, while holding each other with the little finger or shoulder to shoulder or even hand to hand with the last and first player holding a piece of cloth.

The Ohuokhai is a simultaneous round dance and song. Dancers form a circle and dance, arm in arm, hand in hand, with the left foot put forward, while making rhythmical, graceful movements with their bodies, legs, feet and arms. A lead singer improvises the lyrics and the other dancers repeat them. This Ohuokhai leader has a special talent not only for singing but also, what is more important, for poetic improvisation. There song leaders compete at the national Yhyakh festival for the best poetic expression, best song and biggest circle.

Due to the restrictions concerning COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey halay dance had been restricted in weddings. Because of the pandemic weddings were required people to hold sticks connecting each other, rather than their hands.[4]

Etymology and namingEdit

The original etymology given in the Kubbealtı Dictionary is that the word is derived from the word "alay", which means "community, crowd".

The word "alay" was transferred to Turkish from Persian. In Persian, it is taken from the Greek  aláyi(on) αλάγιον "independent cavalry unit in the Byzantine army (10th century)".

The Greek word(aláyi) is taken from the Latin "alae". This word(alae) is the plural of the Latin "ala" 1st wing, 2nd the name given to the cavalry units in the Roman army.

The Latin word was recorded at the 2nd century BC and refers to the cavalry units deployed to the right and left of the infantry unit in the centre.The Greek form first appears in the 959 compilation of laws by Constantine VIII Porphyrogennetos.The original meaning of the Turkish word is a cavalry unit in neat ranks, unlike the traditional Turkish raiding order. [5] [6]

In Kurdish, it is known as Govend or Dîlan, in Syriac as Ḥeggāʾ (ܚܓܐ), in Azerbaijani as Yallı, in Armenian as šurǰpar (Շուրջպար), and in Greek as Chaláï (Χαλάϊ).



  1. ^ Sahan, Tülay (2017-08-01). Migration und Suchtverhalten. Ein Halay-Tanz-Forschungsprojekt (in German). Diplomica Verlag. ISBN 978-3-96146-557-6.
  2. ^ Celiker, Anna Grabolle (2015-06-19). Kurdish Life in Contemporary Turkey: Migration, Gender and Ethnic Identity. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85772-597-4.
  3. ^ a b Jan Laurens Hartong (2006). Musical Terms Worldwide: A Companion for the Musical Explorer. Semar Publishers Srl. pp. 132–. ISBN 978-88-7778-090-4.
  4. ^ "Traditional halay dances at weddings to be performed with sticks". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  5. ^ by derivating "h-" to the word "alay" (topluluk, kalabalık)| Kubbealtı Sözlük
  6. ^ [1]