The Whirling Dervishes, known for their wide skirts and passionate, flowing dances devoted to the Sufi poet, Rumi, are coming back to San Antonio.

The performance with live Sufi music will delight a local audience on Sunday Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Whitley Theological Center of Oblate School of Theology.

Editor’s Note: Due to inclement weather in Turkey, the Saturday performance has been rescheduled to Sunday. 

Reviving a tradition born in the Middle East in the 13th century, the dancers will demonstrate their worship of Sufism (tasawwuf), an ancient religion stressing universal love, peace, acceptance of various spiritual paths, and a mystical union with the divine.

The earliest dervishes began following Mawlawna Jalaluddin-i Rumi – a poet, scholar, spiritual master, and Islamic mystic from Afghanistan – on an ascetic path steeped in poverty and austerity to reach the truth: God. The practical aspect of Sufism is “being a dervish,” and the dance involves continuous twirling with one hand pointed upward reaching for the divine and the other aimed toward the ground.

The turns of the dance signify revolution as a fundamental condition of life not only with humans, but other beings.

YouTube video

The event is co-sponsored by the Continuing Education Department of the Oblate School of Theology and the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, the latter of which has eight branches in Texas and also in neighboring states.

“The Whirling Dervishes is a spiritual dance – if you look at the dress, it all has meaning,” said Mehmet Oguz, regional director of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest in San Antonio. “The dancers are the people who follow Rumi’s spiritual way – they follow and accept his school. Nowadays, a bunch of different schools follow Rumi.

“They try to find common ground and mutual understanding,” he said.

The following is an excerpt from one of Rumi’s poems:

Come, come, whoever you may be. Come again, even though you may be a pagan or fire worshipper. Our hearth is not the threshold of despair. Come again, even if you have violated your vows a thousand times. Come again.

Formerly known as the Institute of Interfaith Dialog, the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest grew out of a need to address how citizens of the world live in peace and harmony.

Turkish-Americans and friends established it as a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization in 2002, and it is represented locally by Turkish citizens who now live and work in San Antonio.

The Institute supports an advisory board composed of Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other people of differing religions, making it a great opportunity for international citizens of the city to find common ground and conversation with others.

The Whirling Dervishes are one of many academic and grassroots programs featured throughout the year, including Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinners, International Trips, Dinners of Abrahamic Traditions, Peace and Dialogue Awards, Friday nights and reading clubs, and more.

Many participants of the Institute’s activities are inspired by the life and vision of the Turkish Muslim scholar and peace advocate, Fethullah Gulen.

As the event co-sponsor, the Oblate School of Theology, in turn, recognizes the many ethnic groups of the Southwest and U.S., and its programs use the Hispanic cultural environment of San Antonio to learn from and prepare students to minister among people of diverse cultural backgrounds.

The Whirling Dervishes will be accompanied by an emcee who will read several of Rumi’s poems, and a group of musicians will play Turkish and Sufi music.

They will dance from 7-9 p.m. at the Oblate School, located at 285 Oblate Dr., San Antonio, TX, 78216. Tickets are $20 with a $1.99 fee and are available here.

*Featured/top image: Whirling dervishes perform a spiritual dance. Image courtesy of www.whirling

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Katherine Nickas was born in San Antonio near Fort Sam Houston but grew up in southern Indiana. In 2007, she began working for Indiana AgriNews where she covered topics ranging from corn and soybean production...