Halay is the national dance of Turkey and a regional category of folk dance styles in central, southern, eastern, and southeastern regions of the country. It is mainly performed by Turks, Arabs, and Kurds in Turkey. Halay and similar dances are parts of multiple ancient folk dance traditions and cultures throughout the Middle East and regions in proximity.[1][2]

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

These dances are mostly found in weddings and generally accompanied by zurna and davul,[3] 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 in many ways, such as finger to finger, shoulder to shoulder, or hand to hand. The last and the first player may hold a piece of cloth. It usually begins slow and speeds up.[3]

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]


The linguistic origin of the term Halay is not fully known. There are multiple theories. 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]

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

Examples of halayEdit

  • Elazığ dik halay (danced by Turks and Kurds)
  • Akdağmadeni halay (danced by Turks and Greeks)
  • Tamzara (danced by Armenians and Turks)
  • Kochari (danced by Armenians, Kurds, and Turks)
  • Üç Ayak [7][8] (danced by Turks)
  • Kaba [8](danced by Turks)
  • Afshar [8](danced by Turks)
  • Halabi [8](danced by Turks, Kurds, and Arabs)
  • Dunnik (danced by Kurds)

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Alay1 Kelime Kökeni, Kelimesinin Anlamı - Etimoloji".
  7. ^ Gottlieb, Robert (26 July 1998). "Astaire to Zopy-Zopy". New York Times. Retrieved 6 November 2013. I find it difficult to imagine someone without a predisposition to read about such matters as Azerbaijani folk dance (One type of yally has various forms known as kochari, uchayag, tello, and galadangalaya; another type is a dance mixed with games called gazy-gazy, zopy-zopy, and chopu-chopu) browsing profitably through Oxford's many hundreds of pages of such information.
  8. ^ a b c d Şener, Dr.Gültekin (11 March 2019). "GAZİANTEP HALK DANSI EZGİLERİNDE MÜZİKAL ANALİZ". Motif Akademi Halk Bilimi Dergisi. 12 (25): 91–104. doi:10.12981/mahder.520814. S2CID 189162362. Retrieved 4 October 2021.