Katie called me up yesterday, and asked me if I wanted to go see some Whirling Dervishes. I had no idea what this was all about, but didn't have anything cluttering up my Wednesday night, so why not?
The majority of the concert was musical, on traditional instruments. The group had three singers (chanters), one man playing a device which looked like a lap-harp (qanoun), one playing an oud (a guitar-like instrument), one on a wooden flute, one playing a tambourine-like hand drum, and four dervishes (the dervishes also variously chanted and played hand drums).
The whirling part was relatively small, time-wise, but was impressive. They whirled in groups (first two, then the other two, then three, then four) for about five minutes a pop. All the dervishes wear a long robe that's belted around the waist, that makes them shuffle as they walk as it drags along the floor. When they start to whirl, the robe bellows out. During the whole time they were whirling, none of them moved from the spot they started -- with all four of them whirling and the robes billowing out, they covered almost the entire stage. I also noticed that they don't use the ballerina trick of focusing on a single spot and rotating your head; their heads were always aligned with their bodies.
The parts I found most impressive were the instrumental solos -- the flute player had an somewhat haunting unaccompanied piece, and the oud player did a solo that would have made Satriani proud.