Gesture in poetry, movement and music: approaching the total artwork through Sufism in Say I am You and Deniz Küstü

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In this article I speak about my experience of the connective thread of the gesture, and how metaphors of gesture across disciplines underpin relationships between music, poetry and dance. I explore the notion that, if there is a unifying force in the creation of Art and uncovering of Consciousness, it lies in some kind of Ur-gesture – a gesture that exists before translation into a certain medium – behind the forms a craftsman of music, dance or words of obligation ‘reduces it’ to. Further, I compare Rumi’s ideas on sema to those behind Whitehouse’s notion of Authentic Movement, and justify my approach to the staging of Rumi and sema in the opera Say I am You: as though the Mevlevi sema formal ritual had never been codified. Finally, I explore ideas surrounding Ur-gesture in interview with the foremost modern dance choreographer in Turkey today, Zeynep Tanbay, while probing her process of choreographing Deniz Küstü, my second opera.

Article in Journal of Dance Movement and Spiritualities, Vol 3 Number 3, ed. Amanda Williamson. Special issue: Global Journeys of Sufi Whirling - Sufism and Arts Practice, ed. Hannah McClure, Dunja Njaradi. Bristol: Intellect Journals, 2017, pp. 217-241. 9000 words.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-241
Number of pages25
JournalDance, Movement and Spiritualities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 648810).


  • Ur-gesture
  • movement
  • opera


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